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Difference between Liner Shipping and Tramp Shipping

Let’s dig into what are Liner shipping and tramp shipping, their differences, and similarities.

The world merchant shipping fleet has more than 50,000 vessels. These 50,000 include RORO Ships, Tanker Ships (LPG/ LNG/ Chemical tankers, etc.), Cruise ShipsContainer ships, and many more. All commercial vessels operate under two main service types namely Liner and Tramp.

Whether you are a shipper or consignee, if you are to arrange ocean transport for your cargo you must know the difference between liner and tramps to achieve cost benefits. The service you select will depend on the cargo volume you have for transporting.

If the volume is high, it is advisable and profitable to use tramp services rather than a liner service. The reason is in liner service you are paying for each weight measurement you are shipping and in Tramp you are paying for the whole ship or a part of the ship.

Let’s discover what is liner shipping and what is tramp shipping first. Then we can identify the similarities and differences.

We hope this will help your business when selecting the right service for transporting cargo.

Liner Shipping

The term Liner shipping uses to describe the cargo operations of vessels run on a schedule.  These ships have fixed passages and port rotations for cargo loading and unloading. Hence we can say liner services are the shipping services that operate on schedules.

Liner shipping uses for container shipping and sometimes for bulk and RORO ships operate on schedule. Thus popular in container shipping. More than 60% of the cargo transported via sea is carrying in liner services.

The name “Liner Shipping” has been extracted from the phrase “Line Voyages” or also says “Line Traffic”. This means the ships are already in line for calling ports and their sailing dates to each port, and berthing times are pre-determined and fixed. Shipping lines publish these schedules well in advance for customers to be ready with their cargo and to plan their supply chains accordingly.

Difference between Liner Shipping and Tramp Shipping
The World Biggest Container Ship on Liner Shipping_ Ever Ace

Sometimes back, conference agreements were popular in liner shipping to maintain a stable freight rate on each trade route. Other than the freight rates, other related charges, practices, and methods of handling cargo were also defined in the conference agreement.

The conference agreement is a mechanism where shipping lines operating in each trade route together decide and fix the freight rate. Hence there won’t be sudden changes to the freight rates. This was a great mechanism to improve the quality of service provided by each line as there was no competition among lines regarding the freight rate. And to increase the volumes they had to provide a high-quality service. However, it does not speak on the service agreements with customers, space pooling, or space chartering by the mainline.

The concept of “Global Alliance” is well known in liner shipping.  Here two or a few shipping lines get together and form an alliance for vessel sharing or slot sharing. Some of the popular alliances in container shipping are 2M (Maersk line and MSC), ONE ( One stands for Ocean Network Express. It is a joint organization by CMA CGM, Cosco Shipping, OOCL, and Evergreen Line), and THE Alliance ( Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, and Yang Ming).

Other than conference agreements and global alliances, shipping lines provide independent services too. This means they provide shipping service to their customer base using their own or charted vessels without partnership with other lines.

Further Consortia Service is another concept under liner shipping.

What is Blank Sailing?

Blank sailing is a concept that comes under liner shipping.  There are cases where the ship omits calling some ports which are scheduled during her voyage due to various reasons. Omitting a port call that has been planned already define as “blank sailing”.

Below are a few reasons for blank sailings:

  • Unable to load more cargo due to the lack of space on board or due to vessel stability concerns.
  • The vessel is behind the schedule and requires to reach the destination on time.
  • To meet the time slot allocated for crossing the Panama cannel or Suez channel.
  • Bad weather.
  • Less cargo available for loading or unloading at a specific port while having a tight sailing schedule

Tramp Shipping

Tramp shipping is also known as tramp service or tramper. Unlike liner shipping, tramps do not have fixed schedules or pre-defined calling ports. Tramp ships call any port with short notice depending on the cargo availability. Further, all the shipping services do not fall under the liner shipping count in tramp shipping.

In most cases, the services that fall under tramp shipping services except container shipping. Most of the RORO shipping, Bulk, and Break Bulk shipping comes under trampers. Trams shipping is used to cater the special shipping requirements like transporting project cargo and general cargo like billet steels, and timber as well.

Bulk Cargo Ship on Tramp Shipping

For example, A shipper charter a vessel to transport raw materials required for cement production from Indiana to Africa. Or a ship carrying cargo from South Korea to Dubai loads some cargo from India to Good Hope on the way. Once the cargo to Dubai is unloaded vessel comes back to Good hope for discharging the other cargo parcel.

Tramp shipping is also important same as liner shipping towards the stability of the shipping industry.

There are container vessels that provide tramp services.

Even the Liner shipping and tramp shipping has differences, but they have some similarities as well. Let’s check them out!

Similarities in Liner Shipping and Tramp Shipping

  • Have specialized vessel types/ sizes designated for different cargo types or for the trade lane ship operates
  • Requires to follow formalities of the seaports for reserving the berthing (Ex: providing notice of arrival as per the port guidelines:72 Hrs/ 24 Hrs. pre-notice)
  • Both liner and tramp issue a Bill of lading for the cargo onboard

Differences in Liner Shipping and Tramp Shipping

  • Liner shipping runs on schedules while Trams are not
  • Liners have pre-printed BL formats or use BIMCO ConLineBill. Tramps use BIMCO ConGenBill depending on the cargo type
  • Liner services carry a cargo of a large number of shippers while Tramps carry a cargo of one or few shippers at a time.
  • Generally, the freight rates of liners are fixed and in Tramsp rate has to be negotiated for every shipment.

Hope you are clear on the difference between liner shipping and tramp shipping.

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