What is Break Bulk Cargo in Shipping?


What is Break Bulk Cargo in Shipping?

Ideally, containers are the best way to ship your goods. It’s one of the most common methods to move large quantities of cargo from one country to another, across borders and oceans. 

But what about the not-so-ideal situations?

It’s entirely possible that the cargo doesn’t perfectly fit into the containers. It can be too big for an airplane, for an ISO intermodal container, or even too expensive. In that case, freight service providers practice a method called break bulk cargo. 

Break bulk cargo is a cargo shipping method used to successfully transport goods that don’t fit in standard-size shipping containers or cargo bins. 

They are instead transported in bags, boxes, barrels, and other handling equipment. Some examples of break bulk cargo include oil and gas equipment, windmills, turbine blades, large engines, construction equipment, cranes, etc. 

If you’re shipping large cargo, break bulk is the only option since it’s practical and convenient to move goods that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. 

Types of Break Bulk Cargo

Break bulk cargo can be divided into three types and each type will have different shipping costs and packaging requirements. 

Project Cargo

Such cargo includes extra-large and high-value items. They include commodities that are heavy-duty and complex that are deconstructed before loading. 

Naturally, project cargo items require special care and attention since they are shipped within certain time frames and budgets. Some industries that leverage project cargo break bulk shipping are:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Power plants
  • Renewable energy
  • Aerospace
  • Military and defence

Heavy-lift Cargo 

As you can guess from the name, heavy-lift cargo includes items that are immensely heavy to transport. The items can include anything and everything and they don’t follow the parameters of a certain size and require special planning to transport and load into shipments. 

The goods qualify as heavy-lift cargo if they weigh over 100 tons and measure over 100 meters in height/width. Heavy lift cargo can include turbines, boilers, satellites, towers, etc. 

Out-of-gauge Cargo

Any type of good that doesn’t fit into a standard six-sided container falls into the category of out-of-gauge goods. Some examples of this include aircraft parts, vehicles, machinery, and mining equipment. 

How is it Different from Bulk Cargo?

Although bulk cargo and break bulk cargo may seem similar since they’ve been used interchangeably in business operations, they’re slightly different. They require different vessels and corresponding infrastructure. 

Bulk cargo refers to large quantities of product loaded individually, loosely, and directly into the transport vessel without packaging. It includes cargoes such as iron ore, grain, coal, and alumni that are directly loaded into the ship. 

On the other hand, break bulk cargo refers to individually packaged items in boxes, drums, and crates. They’re loaded onto ships without being stored in a large container. 

The ship vessels that carry break bulk cargo are known as break bulk, multi-purpose, or general cargo vessels. They come in a variety of sizes to accommodate the goods such as single-decker, tween-decker, etc.

Break Bulk Shipping

Bulk Shipping/Container Shipping

Includes goods or freight that can’t be packed into a shipping container. 

Includes cargo that can be packed into a standard shipping container. 

The goods are rolled on board or loaded using vessel lifting equipment.

Loaded using cranes.

Goods and cargo are placed directly on board and unloaded at the port. 

Goods need to be loaded and unloaded from shipping containers 

Suitable for heavy goods but not suitable for temperature-sensitive and food items. 

Can be used for transporting edible items and temperature-sensitive goods. 


The Types of Packaging Included in Break Bulk Shipping

Successfully transporting break bulk cargo means identifying the best packaging needs for your goods to ensure their protection during transit. Some of the top types of packaging that are included in break bulk shipping include:

Bagged Cargo 

Bagged cargo includes commodities packed in bags such as flour, salt, cement, fertilizer, etc. The bags are made of materials that are compatible with the commodity and provide protection against contamination such as paper, plastic, polypropylene, or open mesh plastic fibre.

Wooden Cases and Crates

Wooden cargo boxes have been used in international shipping for a while. Their greatest asset is formidable wall strength that shields products and is a pricier option. 

The wooden crates come with an open-type wooden container that will suffice for commodities that require minimal packing. The skeleton crates are typically used for carrying machines and pieces of equipment. 

Fibreboard Boxes and Cartons

Cartons are considered the most economical method of break bulk cargo shipping. They’re cheap and also provide enough protection from transportation hazards. Boxes and cartons are loaded and unloaded using pallets. The whole pile is securely strapped to prevent damage and pilferage. 

Drums and Barrels

These are commonly used for transporting liquid goods like oil, whisky, molasses, and chemicals. Shippers also use them to transport granular or powdered items. These goods are handled through rope slings, trays, or nets. 

Benefits of Break Bulk Cargo

Convenience in Moving Large-sized Goods

The logistics industry deals with all types of goods. Naturally, freight companies need to figure out how to transit oversized goods and fit them into a container or a bin. 

Break bulk cargo ships are equipped with high-capacity deck cranes and additional equipment that are needed to move and dissemble heavy goods. Break bulk cargo also facilitates rolling the cargo on and off the vessel. 

Shipments can be Accommodated at Smaller Ports 

Break bulk cargo is deliverable to small ports too, which means it can be delivered to almost all parts of the world. It’s because it requires little to no destruction and reconstruction. The sea freight carrying break bulk cargo is equipped with unloading cranes. 

The ports' break bulk cargo travel doesn’t require heavy infrastructure since the cargo is independent of port equipment. 

Saves Time

You naturally save ample time if your goods don’t need dismantling. You can simply roll or lift your cargo onto the ship as is and secure it safely. Since the item is in one piece, packed, you’ll also need only one bill of lading number. 

The PACK & SEND Advantage 

PACK & SEND can accurately determine your break bulk shipping requirements and provide you with the right options. You can contact us to know more about our experience in transporting different types of goods and learn how you can leverage our services to do the same. 

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