What is Break Bulk Ships: Oldest Type of Cargo Vessels Still in Operation at Sea

Break Bulk Ships: Several other types of cargo-transporting vessels are still in operation at sea, but break bulk carriers are possibly the oldest. As their name suggests, these sorts of ships were used to transport bulk cargo without placing the goods in shipping containers. This is in contrast to the modern-day forms of cargo vessels.

Even though these vessels were extremely popular up until the late 1960s, the tastes of operators shifted as a result of innovations in the field of cargo vessels and container vessels.

What does it mean to ship in broken bulk?

The term “break bulk shipping” refers to the process of transporting items that are too large to fit into either regular or special shipping containers. Shipments are either loaded in their current state or packed into bags, pallets, drums, or cartons.

Cranes are used to load break bulk cargo, and it may also be rolled or moved onto the ship. The items must be loaded separately and not in any form of shipping container for them to be designated as break bulk.

When referring to the process of unloading a section of a ship’s bulk or beginning the process of unloading, the term “breaking bulk” is used. When all of the goods was transported in separate units and dock workers were responsible for manually loading and unloading the cargo, this brings back memories of the good old days of shipping. Break bulk shipping is still an essential component of the shipping sector in the modern day.

The following types of goods are typically transported in break bulk: minerals, cereals, ores, oils, and gasses. Not the weight or volume of the individual units is reflected on the bill of lading; rather, it is the entire volume or weight of the shipment. In addition, large gear, building materials, and construction vehicles are included in the category of break bulk.

Even though there are not enough containers available, it is nevertheless possible to successfully move a wide variety of items across seas by stowing them inside of a break bulk ship. There is a good chance that this is the most significant characteristic of this kind of cargo ship. Even though standardized containers are not employed, there are additionally various storage media that are utilized if they are necessary.

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Among the methods of cargo storage in this category are pallets, which are movable platforms for storing goods. In the process of unloading the cargo from the vessel, pallets are unloaded with the assistance of cranes. Besides pallets, casks, and barrels, robust boxes and drums are also commonly used to store cargo after it has been transported in bulk carriers.

There is no pallet, cask, or tough box for securing the cargo since it is being put directly in the vessel.

A break bulk freighter’s greatest disadvantage is its lack of complete and total certainty of the quantity and quality of the cargo it is transporting, especially when compared to a shipping container vessel.

Cargo stacked directly has a very high chance of being stolen or filched if not properly stored.

In a similar vein, there is a possibility that the cargo may not be suitable for use or consumption due to the weather and climate conditions that are there.

Loading and unloading the cargo are also quite challenging, especially when compared to container ship operations. In the case of the latter vessels, the loading and unloading activities can be completed in a shorter amount of time. Since the cargo is simply stacked inside the vessel, it is necessary to clean the entire vessel after each discharge. This is done in order to make room for the subsequent shipment of cargo once it has been stored.

In the absence of comprehensive cleaning, there would be an unwanted mixing of the cargo, which could lead to problems of a quality nature for the cargo that is being stored.

Ships of this type perform exceptionally well in docks and ports that are not equipped with the most recent technological advancements. Alternately, break bulk ships can also be utilized as intermediary carriers for the purpose of transporting freight between larger vessels and ports that have entryways that are shallower.

The break bulk cargo ships continue to play an important role in the maritime industry on a daily basis. Although there is a possibility that their utilization has decreased, there is a concern regarding their degree of redundancy in the general nautical scheme of things. Because of this, there is a widespread belief that the future of these vessels is extremely secure, and there is no possibility that they will be rendered obsolete in the immediate future.

Examples and classifications of break bulk Ships

classifications of break bulk Ships
(Credit: Marine insight)

We can classify goods into one of three categories, depending on whether they are huge, oversized, or heavy.

Project cargo

The cargo for the project consists of items that are extremely enormous, heavy-duty, expensive, and complicated. This particular type of cargo is typically disassembled before loading process. Project cargo requires specific timeframes and budgets, and additional care and attention.

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Please consider it in this manner. The construction of an airplane is currently underway; however, the wing components must be imported from another nation. As the time it takes for those components to arrive increases, the amount of time it takes to construct the airplane and bring it into service also increases. Because time is money, project cargo is typically time-sensitive.

Another form of cargo that is considered to be the most difficult to transport is project freight. The result is that there must be very detailed shipment preparations, and mistakes can be costly.

These sectors are responsible for the shipment of project cargo:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Power plants
  • Renewable energy
  • Aerospace
  • Military and defense
  • Engineering
  • Oil and gas

Heavy lift cargo

The term “heavy lift cargo” refers to cargo that is exceedingly difficult to move and load. This kind of cargo cannot be disassembled before loading, so it must be loaded in one piece. Heavy lift freight typically weighs more than 100 tons or 90718,5 kilograms and measures more than 100 meters.

Heavy lift products are typically not of normal sizes or shapes, and therefore require specific planning before to being transported and loaded from one location to another.

Included in the heavy lift cargo are:

  • Generators
  • Turbines
  • Reactors
  • Boilers
  • Satellites
  • Towers

Out of gauge cargo

The term “out-of-gauge cargo” refers to any cargo that is not appropriate for a typical container with six sides, such as a shipping container that is forty feet in length. This category includes everything that is more than 12.05 meters long, 2.33 meters wide, or 2.59 meters high. To reiterate, the shipment of this kind of goods calls for meticulous planning and clear communication.

Out of gauge cargo includes:

  • Machinery
  • Vehicles
  • Specialized artworks
  • Mining equipment
  • Aircraft parts

So, what exactly does the term “general” or “standard” cargo mean? Goods in this category include grain, paper, textiles, electronics, food items, liquids and gases, and automobiles. Standard or special shipping containers are all acceptable methods of transport.

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