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Break bulk cargo shipping


Break bulk cargo shipping

What Is Break Bulk Cargo?

Break bulk cargo refers to goods that are transported individually rather than in containers. This type of cargo includes items that are oversized, heavy, or have irregular shapes that make them unsuitable for standard shipping containers. Break bulk cargo requires individual loading, stowing, and unloading, often involving the use of specialized equipment such as cranes. The term "break bulk" derives from the maritime industry practice of "breaking bulk," which means initiating the extraction of cargo from a ship or beginning the unloading process from the ship's hold. Break bulk cargo is not packaged in shipping containers but is transported in smaller units, such as bags or boxes, which need to be loaded and unloaded individually. Break bulk cargo can include a wide range of goods, such as machinery, vehicles, steel, timber, project cargo, and other non-containerized products. Due to its nature, break bulk cargo is often handled differently than containerized or bulk cargo, requiring more manual labor and attention to secure the items properly during transportation.

Types of break bulk ships

There are two main types of break bulk vessels: Roll on/Roll off (RoRo) and Lift on/Lift off (LoLo). These terms stand for both a vessel type and a loading method.

RoRo vessels: These vessels have decks so that goods are rolled on and off the ship. This type of vessel is perfect for wheeled machinery, vehicles and boats.

LoLo vessels: These vessels have on-deck cranes for loading and unloading cargo. These cranes are able to lift extremely heavy loads.

Break bulk category

Loading and unloading method

General break bulk cargo

Bundled in unit loads and hoisted using nets, slings and crates, or stacked on trays, pallets or skids.

Heavy lift break bulk cargo

Transported on a heavy-lift vessel. Loaded using cranes, ramps, submersion technology, and/or tug boats.

Project cargo

Loaded in pieces (disassembled) using cranes, or rolled using ramps (if parts have wheels).

Out-of-gauge cargo

Loaded using cranes or rolled using ramps (especially for vehicles or wheeled machinery).

Liner Clause (F.L.T) : 

FO=Free Out

The shipowner is not responsible for unloading the cargo

LO=Liner Out

The shipowner is responsible for unloading the cargo

FIO= Free In& Out

The shipowner is not responsible for loading and unloading, and the loading and unloading costs are borne by the charterer. The ship owner is only responsible for receiving and delivering the cargo in the cabin. Suitable for bulk bulk cargo such as cement, fertilizer, ore, etc.

FILO=Free In Liner Out

The shipowner is only responsible for discharging the cargo and the charterer is responsible for loading the cargo at the port of loading. Suitable for the transportation of steel and other groceries.

LIFO= Liner In Free Out 

The shipowner is only responsible for loading, and the charterer is responsible for unloading costs. Less commonly used.

FLT=Full Liner Terms=BT=Berth Terms(LT=BT)

The ship owner is responsible for loading and unloading known as full liner clause

F.I.O.S.T=Free In & Out, Stowed, Trimmed

The shipowner is not responsible for all costs of loading and unloading, including hiring stevedores and related costs, which are borne by the charterer. Suitable for transporting large goods, such as machinery and equipment, large materials, etc.

Ships for Carrying Break Bulk Cargo

Break Bulk, Multi-Purpose, or General Cargo Vessels are the names of the ships transporting these break bulk loads. They come in a range of sizes, ranging from 2000 DWT to 40,000 DWT, and various types, including Single Decker, Tween Decker, and Box Holds. Cargo can be loaded below, on, or between decks (tween deck).

In a multi-purpose or break bulk vessel:

· The cargo may belong to different clients.

· There’s no need for a terminal or specific berth.

· It can operate from any available berth.

Break Bulk Ships are available in two types:

· Gearless: These ships can only dock at terminals that have the necessary cargo handling equipment because they lack their own cranes and/or other cargo handling equipment.

· Geared: These ships can dock at any acceptable berth at the port for cargo operations since they are equipped with their own cranes and/or other cargo handling machinery.

Bulk carriers offer several advantages for transporting goods:

Efficiency: Bulk carriers are designed to carry large quantities of dry or liquid bulk cargo across oceans, allowing for efficient transportation. Their large capacity reduces the number of trips required compared to smaller vessels, resulting in cost and time savings.

Cost-effectiveness: Bulk shipping often provides a cost-effective solution for transporting large quantities of goods. By leveraging the economies of scale, bulk carriers can transport a significant volume of cargo at a lower per-unit cost compared to other transportation methods.

Flexibility: Bulk carriers are versatile and can transport a wide range of commodities, including dry bulk cargoes such as grains, coal, ore, steel coils, and cement, as well as liquid bulk commodities like fuels, lubricants, and chemicals. This flexibility allows for the transport of various types of goods using a single vessel.

Specialized equipment: Bulk carriers are equipped with handling and storage systems specifically designed for bulk cargo. This includes features like conveyor systems, loading and unloading equipment, and cargo holds with dedicated compartments for different types of bulk cargo. These specialized features ensure efficient loading, stowage, and discharge of bulk cargo.

Reduced packaging requirements: Bulk carriers eliminate the need for individual packaging of goods, as the cargo is transported in bulk form. This reduces packaging costs and the environmental impact associated with packaging waste.


Bulk carriers play a crucial role in global trade, enabling the efficient and cost-effective transportation of large quantities of commodities. Their size, capacity, and specialized features make them well-suited for handling bulk cargo.


Bulk carriers offer several disadvantages for transporting goods:

Vulnerability to weather conditions: Bulk carriers are highly susceptible to weather conditions, especially in rough seas where large waves can cause cargo to shift and destabilize the ship. This can result in damage to the cargo or, in extreme cases, the ship capsizing or sinking. This can result in damage to the cargo or, in extreme cases, the ship capsizing or sinking.

Limited Cargo Flexibility: Bulk carriers are designed to transport specific types of bulk cargo, such as grain, coal, oil and minerals. This limits their ability to transport other types of cargo.

Handling Challenges: Handling of bulk cargo is more challenging and time-consuming than containerized or packaged cargo, especially when using port facilities with limited equipment. In addition, certain types of bulk cargo may require specialized handling equipment, which will increase transportation costs. In addition, certain types of bulk cargo may require specialized handling equipment, which will increase transportation costs.

Environmental Impact: Bulk carriers can have negative impacts on the environment due to their size, cargo volume and emissions. The large volumes of cargo being transported can have an impact on marine ecosystems, and emissions from ships.

Break Bulk Cargo Loading and Unloading

  1. Preparing the Vessel: Before receiving a break bulk load, the ship’s holds or storage spaces must be washed, cleaned, and dried.

  2. Securing the Vessel: This can be done by mooring the vessel to a pier or anchoring it in a safe location. Once the vessel is secured, the next step is to prepare the cargo for loading. This involves ensuring that the cargo is properly packaged and labeled.

  3. Loading the Cargo onto the Vessel: This can be done using a crane or other lifting device. The cargo must be placed in the correct location on the vessel so that it is secure and will not shift during transit.

  4. Securing the Cargo: This can be done by tying it down or using straps. Once the cargo is secure, the vessel can be prepared for departure.

  5. Unloading the cargo from the Vessel: This can be done using a crane or other lifting device. The cargo must be placed in the correct location on the pier or receiving area to be properly unloaded.

  6. Inspecting the Cargo for Damage: If there is any damage, it must be reported to make proper repairs. Once the cargo is inspected, it can be delivered to the final destination.

  7. Preparing for the Next Load: After unloading is finished, a ship’s stowage space must be thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed, and dried before it is prepared to accept the next load.

Wrap Up

While break bulk cargo shipping has many advantages, it is important to remember that it also has some disadvantages. One of the biggest disadvantages is that its loading and unloading can be very time-consuming. This means that you will need to have a lot of manpower on hand to get the job done.

In addition, you will need to have the right type of ship to transport the cargo. Break bulk cargo ships are typically much larger than container ships, so you must ensure that you have enough space to accommodate them. Finally, you will need to be very careful with the packaging of break bulk cargo. This is because the cargo is often very heavy and can easily be damaged.

If you have any question about break bulk ship please feel free to consult Viputrans  Lora Yang E-mail: sales02@viputrans.com




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