HomePorts And ShippingWhat is the Difference between Bulk and Break Bulk Cargo

What is the Difference between Bulk and Break Bulk Cargo

Bulk and Break Bulk cargo are two different cargo types which are commonly used incorrectly. These two types differ in terms of cargo, nature, size, capacity, handling mechanism, trade, terminals, equipment use, and required infrastructure.

Both bulk and breakbulk cargo come under the non-containerized or conventional cargo category. These non containerized cargo come in different types and different sizes.

The ships have hatches for cargo loading purposes.

Cargo Hatches_ Daily Logistic What is the Difference between Bulk and Break Bulk Cargo
Cargo Hatches/ Cargo Holes for Dry Bulk cargo loading

Bulk Cargo

Bulk cargo has two types. One is Dry Bulk and the other one is Liquid Bulk.

Dry Bulk Cargo

The term Dry Bulk refers to cargo like Coal, Gypsum, Slag, Clinker, and edible food like sugar and grain. These cargoes are loaded directly to the hatches or the holes available on ships. These cargoes are not packed and loaded in bulk form to ships in large scale transportation. There are different sizes of bulk carriers to carry bulk cargo. Bulk carriers are also known as bulkers and their capacity is mainly measured by the deadweight/ DWT.

Depending on the size, bulk carriers have few cargo holds to store goods in bulk form. These bulkers carry a homogeneous cargo, hatches are filled with the cargo of one or few customers. Some customers charter the ship to transport cargo in bulk rather than sharing vessel space with other cargo owners.

Bulk and BB Cargo_ What is the Difference between Bulk and Break Bulk Cargo
Dry Bulk Loaded Vessel- Same cargo in every Hatch

Short term bulker hires are known as spot basis or long term charters through a contract of affreightment.

Both geared and gearless bulk vessels are used to transport cargo.

Liquid Bulk Cargo

Transporting liquid bulk requires specialized vessels equipped with tanks onboard. These ships are known as tankers or tanker ships. Liquid bulk can be further subcategorized based on the cargo carrying onboard. There could be edible liquid like cooking oil, wine or crude oil, LNG, LPG, or chemicals carrying as liquid bulk.  High safety measures should be followed on board as well as when handling while carrying hazardous liquid bulk.

Break Bulk Cargo

As the name reflects, breakbulk is the breaking bulk. Further explaining, breakbulk contains a few bulk cargo types. This means cargo includes palletized, bagged, strapped, bundled, drummed, and crated cargo and general cargo like steel, wood, and vehicles.

Break bulk cargo are carried in break bulk vessels. They are also known as General cargo vessels or Multi-purpose vessels. Break bulk cargo are loaded in hatches/ on deck and under deck.

Generally, cargo in a break bulk vessel belongs to a few consignees. Break bulk cargo shipping has started in the 19th century and it is the 1st cargo moving technique via sea.

Bulk and BB Cargo_Daily Logistic_ What is the Difference between Bulk and Break Bulk Cargo

After Malcolm McLean invented the first shipping container, many cargo types were transferred from break bulk to containers to minimize theft and fast handling.  Thus break bulk shipping is vital to carry cargo which does not fit into containers like machinery, project equipment, generators, and small boats.

Yet, break bulk shipping could be expensive as each individual package should handle separately.  Also, a larger space needs to stack these cargoes as all the packages are not the same size and have difficulties in stacking. And loading and unloading break bulk cargo requires a lot of time as each item should be processed individually.

Handling break bulk requires skilled planners and stevedores at ports as these cargoes are not standard sized.

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