DRY & BREAK BULK

From grains to coal and from sugar to cocoa, dry bulk cargoes cover a range of produce and raw materials that have two features in common: they are unpacked and are homogeneous. These two properties make it easier for dry bulk cargoes to be dropped or poured into the hold of a bulk carrier.

Without the estimated 285m dwt of dry bulk shipping transported by sea annually, life today would be altered dramatically. Just having breakfast would be a very different event, with the ingredients of bread and cereal coming from dry bulks, as well as coffee and the sugar to sweeten it. Even the metal elements of your toaster and kettle come by sea and the coal to generate the electricity supply to power both appliances is likewise shipped in. Other dry bulk cargoes include iron ore, alumina fertilisers, scrap, sulphur and cement, as well as a large number of agricultural products for the human and animal food industry, such as rice and corn.

As the name suggests, dry bulk cargoes need to be kept dry, any moisture that finds its way into the cargo could ruin the entire load, at considerable cost to the ship owner. It may also be surprising to learn that many dry bulk cargoes are classified as ‘Dangerous Goods’ requiring special attention during loading, transportation and discharge, as they could shift during shipment, causing ship instability.

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In shipping, break bulk cargo or general cargo are goods that must be loaded individually, and not in intermodal containers nor in bulk as with oil or grain. Ships that carry this sort of cargo are called general cargo ships. The term break bulk derives from the phrase breaking bulk—the extraction of a portion of the cargo of a ship or the beginning of the unloading process from the ship’s holds. These goods may not be in shipping containers. Break bulk cargo is transported in bags, boxes, crates, drums, or barrels. Unit loads of items secured to a pallet or skid are also used.

A break-in-bulk point is a place where goods are transferred from one mode of transport to another, for example the docks where goods transfer from ship to truck.

Break bulk was the most common form of cargo for most of the history of shipping. Since the late 1960s the volume of break bulk cargo has declined dramatically worldwide as containerization has grown. Moving cargo on and off ship in containers is much more efficient, allowing ships to spend less time in port. Break bulk cargo also suffered from greater theft and damage.

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