If you’re wondering what breakbulk is, well this guide provides all information you need about this freight term.
From the basic definition, facts you should know to preparations when handling bulk cargo – you will definitely find all information you have been looking for right here.
Let’s dive fight in.
- What is Break Bulk?
- What is the Origin of Break Bulk?
- What are the Different Types of Break Bulk Cargo?
- How is Break Bulk Cargo Transported?
- What is Break Bulk Fee?
- What is Break Bulk Shipping?
- Why Should You Ship Break Bulk?
- What is Break Bulk Freight Rates?
- What is the Difference Between Bulk and Break Bulk?
- What are the Advantages of Break Bulk?
- How do you Calculate Break Bulk?
- What is a Break Bulk Warehouse?
- What is the Difference Between Break Bulk Vs Container?
- What is Break Bulk Cargo Handling Procedure?
- How do you Load/Unload Break Bulk Cargo?
- What are the Precautions for Loading Break Bulk?
- Which Commodities Can you Ship Break Bulk?
- What are the Challenges of Shipping Break Bulk?
- Is Break Bulk Shipping the Same as LCL Shipping?
- What are the Different Types of Break Bulk ships?
- What are the Different Flavors of Break Bulk Ships?
- Which Factors Are Currently Affecting the Break Bulk Market?
- What is Broken Stowage?
- What is the Difference Between Break Bulk and Broken Stowage?
- What is GRT NRT and DWT in Break Bulk Shipping?
- What is Break-of-Bulk Point?
- What are the Disadvantages of Break Bulk?
- How has the Break Bulk Market Changed Over the Years?
- What is Break Bulk Bill of Lading?
- Why Should You Choose BanSar China for Break Bulk Services?
What is Break Bulk?
Breakbulk is also known as general cargo are goods that are not containerized during transportation by ocean freight and are loaded individually.
The shipping vessels used for transporting breakbulk are known as general cargo ships.
The lack of containerization can be attributed to excessive weight or extremely large size that cannot fit into a container.
Breakbulk cargos are transported in bags, boxes, drum, crates, barrels, etc.
In some case, it is because they cannot fill the container hence the individual loading.
What is the Origin of Break Bulk?
Breakbulk originates from the phrase ‘breaking bulk’ which means unloading of goods from ships.
Before the second world war, folks used to trade items such as jewellery, foods, materials, etc. across the globe by ship.
They would load the goods into the shipping vessels individually in sacks, drums, boxes, etc.
This was a cumbersome process involving loading, packing, unloading, sorting and repacking of several goods.
It would take so long loading and offloading the ships at the terminals making the transit times even longer.
The general cargo ship would transport all types of goods for one or various clients at the same time.
The cargo ships sizes were estimated from the capacity, time and cost of cargo handling per vessel.
As a result, it was hard to determine the general cargo ship capacity and translating it into the economy.
Breakbulk was also not without challenges such as damaged goods, loss and theft during the shipping process.
Post second world war II brought about specialized merchant vessels for certain types of goods such as bales of wools, woods, etc.
This resulted into the bundling of goods into manageable sizes, known as ‘man load’.
Man-loads were in units of 30, 50 and 80 kilograms (kg) that were easy for the labourers to carry.
As time passed by, a shift from man-load was observed to unit loads known as ‘containers.’
Containerization was brought about in late 1960s with the evolution of technology and the increase in goods to be shipped.
This led to a sharp decline in breakbulk shipping due to its efficiency and minimal loss and damage of cargos.
Breakbulk shipping is still present but in a specialized form for goods that cannot be transported in a shipping container.
What are the Different Types of Break Bulk Cargo?
Some of the most common examples include:
· Baled Goods
Baled goods such as clothing are stashed with padding in between them which is about 50 mm thick.
They can easily absorb oil and catch fire thus are kept away from new paintwork.
Only bales with intact bands and clean are accepted on board.
· Bagged or Sacked Cargo
These include coffee, sugar, rice, fertilizer etc. and are packed in sacks.
They are double padded and stowed away from the ship’s sides, pillars and bulkheads to avoid damage.
They are covered with water proof paper to keep them from getting damaged by water.
· Corrugated Boxes
Corrugated boxes come in different types and designs and are used to package various types of dry goods e.g., fruits, etc.
They are stacked on top of each other but with a cushioning in between them and away from moisture.
Some are placed in pallets as a unit during shipments and are attached to slings to facilitate loading and unloading.
· Barrels or Casks
Barrels are cylindrical containers with a bulging middle made from wood and bound by metal hoops.
They are commonly used to store and transport alcoholic beverages such as wine, whisky, beer, etc. such are referred as casks.
When shipping barrels, they are stowed on their sides on a good layer of cushioning bed.
Quoins-wedges are placed on top of the beds to prevent rolling over.
They are towards the front and end of the ship and not across from side to side of the ship.
The second tier is loaded ‘bilge and cant line’ which is the hollow part between the lower barrels.
· Steel Girders and Structural Steel
Steel girders are steel materials majorly used for construction.
They cannot be containerized due to their long length thus are transported break bulk.
They are stowed fore and aft in ship to prevent piercing the sides of the ship.
Drums made from steel or plastics are used mostly to transport and store liquid or powdered goods.
They are stowed upright with the dunnage between the tiers.
· Paper Reels and Rolls
These are loaded on their sides and care is taken to prevent damaging them.
Automobiles are wheeled cargoes such as motor vehicles, trucks, etc. which cannot fit into a container.
They can be wheeled into the ship or lifted by cranes during the loading and unloading process.
When using the lifting method, the automobiles are drained off the fuel such as petroleum and gasoline.
This is contrary to roll-on and roll-off (ro-ro) procedure where the automobile is driven on board and off the ship.
Automobiles are secured by lashing when stowed in cargo ship to prevent movement that could lead to damage.
· Wooden Shipping Containers
These are crates or wooden boxes which are placed within the holds or tween decks with double and single cushioning respectively.
· Project Cargo
These are goods mostly equipment meant for a specific task such as construction usually large, heavy and of high value.
This type of breakbulk cargo can be disassembled when shipping and assembled after delivery.
Such equipment include; turbines, mining equipment, building and construction equipment, brewery tanks, heavy machinery, etc.
· Heavy Lift Cargo
Heavy lift cargo are typically goods that weigh over 100 tons and are oversized in nature.
They include items such as turbines, cranes, blades, generators, locomotives, etc.
types of marine cargo
How is Break Bulk Cargo Transported?
Break bulk cargo is transported individually in sacks, bags, crates, barrels, or drums.
They can also be palletized or secured by skids when in units while on board.
break bulk cargo ship
What is Break Bulk Fee?
This is the cost of unpacking, sorting and stacking cargo that is charged at the break bulk depot.
It is calculated based on the time taken to handle one cargo.
What is Break Bulk Shipping?
Break bulk shipping is the movement of cargoes without loading them into shipping containers and in their loose form.
This method involves direct loading of goods into the shipping vessels in their individual units such as boxes, bags, drums, etc.
It is ideal for shipping irregular, oversized and very heavy goods such as windmills, mining drills, etc.
Why Should You Ship Break Bulk?
Shipping break bulk cargo can be done when the goods cannot be containerized.
Such goods are always out-of-gauge (OOG), very large and heavy.
They include plant machinery, vehicles, logs of woods, naval ships, etc.
To transport goods to large vessels that cannot dock in shallow water entryways.
Some ports and terminals are not modernized therefore, breakbulk shipping is the only to access such ports.
When shipping small quantities for trial market, breakbulk is preferred as opposed to containerization.
What is Break Bulk Freight Rates?
Breakbulk cargoes shipping costs is derived from the volume or weight of goods expressed in ‘freight tons’ whichever is greater.
The volume is in cubic meters (CBM) whereas the weight is measured in metric tons (Mt).
What is the Difference Between Bulk and Break Bulk?
Bulk is dry goods that is transported unpacked in a loose form such as granules, particles, etc. and in large quantities.
Break bulk is cargo that is transported packed in units of the pallet, bags, drums, etc. and also non-units for steel.
Bulk is poured directly on the shipping vessels and includes coal, sand, grains while break bulks are in units.
Besides, bulk is homogenous in nature whereas breakbulk can be a single or a combination of goods.
Bulk is charged on the capacity of the shipping vessel whereas breakbulk is charged on volume or weight.
Furthermore, bulk cargo is loaded and offloaded in specific ports i.e., coal terminals in South Africa, whereas break bulks use any port.
Also, bulk goods are transported by vessels knows as bulkers or bulk carriers whereas break bulks use general cargo.
Bulkers have single-decker with several cargo holds while breakbulk cargo have single-decker, tween decker and box hold.
Both bulk and breakbulk can be cargo for one or many customers at the same time.
difference between bulk and break
What are the Advantages of Break Bulk?
- Heavy industrial and power generation businesses can easily move their bulky equipment using breakbulk shipping e.g., windmills, drills, plant generators.
They will do this without disassembling and assembling the equipment later.
- Smaller vessels are used thus they can easily access less developed ports that cannot accommodate larger and technologically advanced container ships.
- You can have your goods transported without mixing with other commodities to their final destination.
This is common with hazardous goods and materials.
- Break bulk shipping does not require several paperwork hence it is easier to handle.
One bill of lading is enough to handle the shipment compared to a container which needs paperwork per container.
How do you Calculate Break Bulk?
To calculate the volume of the breakbulk cargo the greatest length is multiplied by the width and height of the shipment.
Alternatively, the shipment is weighed and the dimension with higher revenue is used.
The volume is measured in cubic meters and the weight in metric ton with 1 cubic meter = 1 metric ton.
A bag of sugar which weighs 7metric ton has the following dimensions: length of 3m, 2.5m width and 1.7m height.
To get the volume; multiply 3m x 2.5m x 1.7m to get 12.75 cubic meters.
The shipper charges USD 300 per freight ton.
Therefore, the bag would cost USD 300 X 7Mt = USD 2,100 or 12.75 CBM X USD 300= USD 3,825. The latter would be quoted since it fetches more revenue.
What is a Break Bulk Warehouse?
A break-bulk warehouse is a storage facility located at the dock for holding goods before loading into the ship.
Goods to be transported as breakbulk are brought to the warehouse before the breakbulk ship arrives.
Upon arrival, the goods are then taken out of the warehouse and loaded unto the ship using manpower or cranes.
What is the Difference Between Break Bulk Vs Container?
Breakbulk are goods loaded in their individual units or pallets whereas container cargoes are packed in shipping containers during shipping.
The containers can either be 20 feet or 40 feet in size with different dimensions and designs.
Break bulk shipment use one bill of lading while container cargo requires different bills of lading for each container.
Break bulk cost is calculated on weight or volume whichever is higher whereas for container cargos depend on the shipping method.
Break bulk does not need developed ports to dock while container cargo requires modernized ports and while deep waterways for docking.
Break bulk method requires more time to load and unload as well as several human labor.
Container on the other hand is more efficient since it uses cranes to load and unload and is much faster.
Break bulk does not need disassemble of goods when shipping, this is mandatory for containers for extra-large cargo.
Break bulk is prone to damage, theft and quality compromise whereas container ensure safety and guarantees quantity and quality upon arrival.
Break bulk cannot be used for perishable goods that require specialized temperatures while on transit.
This is possible with containers since they are available in various specialized designs such as refrigerated containers and also reefers.
Both can use geared or gearless ships for transportation of goods.
difference between breakbulk and container shipping
What is Break Bulk Cargo Handling Procedure?
The breakbulk goods handling process involves the below:
Cargo to be transported is brought to the breakbulk warehouse and stored waiting for the shipping vessel.
From the warehouse, the goods are moved to quay after they have been sorted and arranged according to type of goods.
The goods are loaded unto the general cargo from the quay by longshoremen or cranes for small and bulky goods respectively.
Once all the individual goods are on board, they are stowed separately and properly secured before the ship leaves.
Upon arrival at the terminal port, the longshoremen and heavy cranes offload the cargoes and store them at the warehouse.
The goods are later sorted before they can be transported to their final destination.
How do you Load/Unload Break Bulk Cargo?
Loading and unloading breakbulk cargo requires several stevedores as well as gears such as cranes to achieve it.
Before the goods are unloaded, the ship’s hold is cleared of any previous cargos, cleaned and repaired where necessary.
The goods to be shipped are transported to the breakbulk depot where they are sorted and stored ready for loading.
When the ship arrives, the goods are moved to the quay and then loaded individually into the ship.
Stevedores carry the man loads into the ship’s holds while the ship’s gears or dockside cranes lift heavy goods.
Roll-on and roll-off equipment are used where lifting is not done to load and unload respectively.
They are then stowed in their respective position and areas, with dunnage in between them and secured.
Upon arrival at the terminal port, the goods are unloaded at the quay the same way they were loaded.
Those that were loaded using batches of sacks using cargo nets are discharged using the same slings.
From the quay, goods are taken to the warehouse for storage before the customer collects and others to the break-of-bulk point.
What are the Precautions for Loading Break Bulk?
Several factors have to be considered before loading break bulk goods into the vessels for shipping.
- Ensure the previous cargoes have all been unloaded and the ship holds thoroughly cleaned.
- The ship’s holds should be checked for any damages and repaired beforehand. This will avoid unnecessary accidents or damage of goods.
- All the crew on board should stay away from the loading area to avoid injuries due to rolling goods.
- When shipping bulk cargo, caution should be exercised to prevent them from coming into contact with the deck’s moving parts.
- Areas such as cargo lighting, fire detectors and flood piping systems should be properly covered before loading.
- Accommodation ventilation areas should be well covered.
- Other areas to inspect and service include; Bilge well and strainer plates which help in drainage. Bilge wells and line, sounding pipes, etc. should be strengthened if loose.
Which Commodities Can you Ship Break Bulk?
- Sacks of coffee, sugar, rice, fertilizers, grains, etc.
- Motor vehicles, submarines, small boats and ships.
- Power plant equipment, mining drill, road construction equipment
- Cement, coal, iron ore, grains, etc.
- Paper rolls, wood, plywood, logs, etc.
- Barrels of wine, whiskey, beer, etc.
What are the Challenges of Shipping Break Bulk?
Break bulk shipping is more expensive because the bulky and oversized goods take up more freight space than stacked containerized goods.
The cargoes are bundled on the ship hold where they can be easily damaged, stolen or even injure someone.
The process of loading and unloading of the individual goods is cumbersome and need more time to finish.
This leads to longer port turnaround time.
Uncovered break bulk is likely to be exposed to unfavorable weather and climatic conditions that may render it unfit for consumption.
The carrier vessels must be cleaned after every use to prevent unwanted mixing that may compromise on goods quality.
Is Break Bulk Shipping the Same as LCL Shipping?
Yes, it is.
Break bulk occupies a certain space on the shipping deck as the LCL occupies a certain space in a shipping container.
Both have their freight cost derived from their weight or volume whichever will give higher revenue.
LCL vs breakbulk
What are the Different Types of Break Bulk ships?
There are various types of ships that are used to transport breakbulk goods such as:
· General Cargo Ships
These are also known as ‘multi-purpose cargo ship’ and are used for shipping breakbulk commodities.
They come in various sizes with either single decks, tween decks or box holds as cargo compartments.
· Bulk Carriers or Bulkers
Bulkers are vessels used for shipping loose cargoes such as dry bulk or liquid bulk in liquid, dry or gaseous form.
Dry bulk includes coal, iron ore, grains and sand while liquid bulk includes petroleum liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil, chemicals.
Liquid carriers are known as ‘tankers’ and can only be used for specific liquid bulk.
· Container Ships
These are available in two forms; small and large oversized heavy cargo.
The small cargo easily fit into the container thus are no longer breakbulk but container cargo.
The heavy lifts are loaded on special equipment such as flats and lifted on board the ships using gantry cranes.
· Heavy Lift and Project Carrier
These are special vessels used in the shipment of heavy equipment such as power plants, mining drills, factory equipment, etc.
They are commonly used in project cargo transportation and such cargos are loaded and unloaded by lift-on-lift-off (Lo-Lo) or Ro-Ro methods.
· Forest Product Carrier
These vessels are used in the transportation of wood and paper products both in their finished, semi-finished and raw forms.
The vessels can be open or enclosed depending on the needs of the client and cargo.
· Refrigerator Ships
A good example of a specialized ship vessel is the reefers which is used for banana storage and shipment.
Such shipping vessels are capable of controlling the atmospheric conditions in them hence are ideal for perishable foodstuff.
· Roll On/Roll-Off Vessels
Roll-on roll-off ships are majorly used for shipping wheeled cargo such as motor vehicles, trucks, trailers, etc.
The cargo to be transported is loaded by driving it into the vessel or lifted upon the ship using roll-on equipment.
Such vessels do not need dockside cargo handling equipment thus have a faster turnaround time.
What are the Different Flavors of Break Bulk Ships?
Break bulk ships are available in two different flavors:
Geared general cargo vessels are vessels that are equipped with their own cargo handling equipment such as deck cranes and derricks.
Geared vessels can therefore dock in any port.
Unlike geared vessels, these ones do not have their own cargo handling equipment thus use dockside cranes and forklifts.
Gearless vessels can only use berths that have cargo handling equipment.
Which Factors Are Currently Affecting the Break Bulk Market?
Some of the main factors include:
· Long Port Turn-around Time
Breakbulk carriers need a long time to load and unload at the port for every ship that docks.
This is not economical as much time is taken by one ship at the port.
Containerization has greatly reduced the time taken in loading and unloading goods at the port.
This has seen an increase in revenue as more ships are able to dock and leave the port within a short time.
· Security of Goods
With breakbulk, goods are vulnerable to damage, loss and theft as their security is very minimal.
With the emergence of containerization, goods can be sealed at the departure port and opened by the owner at the destination port.
Besides, all goods in container cargo must be insured against theft, fire, loss or damage during transit.
· Undeveloped Ports
Breakbulk do not require modern ports for their operations hence they can dock even in undeveloped ports around the world.
Whereas this has given them an accessibility advantage, there are some goods that cannot be shipped to undeveloped ports.
This has seen a shift to containerization in order to access modern ports with advanced technology.
What is Broken Stowage?
Broken stowage is unoccupied space in the cargo compartment due to the varying shape or size of cargo or ship.
The irregular shape of the cargo does not allow for compacting or uniform stow of goods.
It can be caused by motor vehicles on decks or even frames in cargo holds such as stanchion.
This is expressed as a percentage figure of the total cargo compartment.
This lost space represents lost revenue therefore, it should be avoided by all means.
Broken stowage also allows cargo movement when the ship is in motion and can cause damage or accidents.
Smaller goods that can fit the broken stowage can be used to fill up the lost spaces and shipped as well.
They are charged much lower compared to when they occupy freight spaces, they include timber, wires, etc.
What is the Difference Between Break Bulk and Broken Stowage?
Break bulk are goods loaded into a ship in loose form and not in containers for shipping.
Broken stowage is the lost spaces within the cargo compartment or in containers due to irregular shapes.
Break bulk is calculated by its weight or volume and expressed in ‘freight tons’.
Broken stowage is calculated as a percentage of the total compartment space and the figure expressed as a percentage.
What is GRT NRT and DWT in Break Bulk Shipping?
· Gross Register Tonnage (GRT)
Gross register tonnage is the cubic capacity in a ship that is available for goods, stores, fuel, passengers and crew.
This volume of space is underneath the deck and in the enclosed space above the deck.
The gross register tonnage represents the size of a ship in volume measured in Moorsom tons.
· Net Register Tonnage (NRT)
Net register tonnage is the volume capacity of cargo that a ship can carry.
It is derived from GRT and expressed in ‘register tons.’
NRT definition was adopted from the Oslo convection but has since been replaced by a new universal definition from London convention.
The new definition of NRT is calculated independent of the gross register tonnage.
· Deadweight (DWT)
This is the weight of goods on board, the crew, fuel, water, etc. that can be safely carried by a vessel.
If the total weight carrier ship exceeds the DWT, the ship can easily sink or damage.
Deadweight is expressed in long tons; 1 long ton is equivalent to 1,016 kg.
What is Break-of-Bulk Point?
This is the point where the goods are transferred from one form of transport to another.
For instance, a container can be loaded from a ship, into a train then into a lorry for final destination.
This is because some forms of transport cannot be used in certain areas due to safety and cost implications.
What are the Disadvantages of Break Bulk?
The following are the disadvantages of break bulk:
· Not Cost-Effective
Occupies large space as compared to containers since more goods fit in a container for, they are stacked on each other.
· Labor Intensive
The loading and unloading of breakbulk cargo requires many employees as compared to containerized goods.
· Security and Safety Problems
Breakbulk goods are always bundled or strapped while being transported. This can lead to breakage, damage or stealing of the goods.
· Not Suitable for Perishable Goods
There are some perishable goods such as foodstuff and electronics that need to transport in a controlled temperature and safe condition.
How has the Break Bulk Market Changed Over the Years?
Break bulk shipping has been used for many decades in the shipping industry.
However, the introduction of containers in the late 1960’s drastically reduced the market share of break bulk shipping.
The containers provided a safer and convenient way of shipping goods.
It is estimated that 90% of all goods the world over are transported by sea with 70% being shipped in containers.
The maritime trade volume was 11 billion tons in the year 2019.
The projected growth rate between the years 2019-2024 is pegged at 3.4% due to the steady increase in global trade.
The breakbulk market has changed significantly over the last 15 years due to technological development in emerging countries.
Additionally, the multipurpose vessels (MMP) have been replaced with land and floating cranes that are less costly to maintain.
The Ro-Ro vessels have also taken a large share of the breakbulk market.
Going into the future, these trends provide a dwindling market for breakbulk shipping.
What is Break Bulk Bill of Lading?
Bill of lading is a legal document confirming that an agreement has been reached between the shipper and carrier of goods.
The transportation company issues the breakbulk bill of lading to the shipping firm.
It indicates the conditions of shipping the goods to their final destination and the carrier used for transportation.
The breakbulk bill of lading are normally used for land, ocean and air transport.
There are two types of breakbulk bill of lading namely non-negotiable and negotiable.
The non-negotiable bill of lading fixes the specific name of the receiver of goods.
Whereas in a negotiable bill of landing, the goods can be received by any person with original copy of bill.
Why Should You Choose BanSar China for Break Bulk Services?
You should choose to ship with BanSar China for the following reasons:
BanSar China has partnered with different shipping companies that offer them a discounted price.
This cuts down on the cost of transporting goods.
They offer longtime free warehousing services to their customers.
BanSar has vast experience in container loading and safe handling of goods.
· Container Loading Supervision
They supervise on behalf of the customer while the supplier is loading the goods.
Once loading of goods is over, they send the videos and photos to the clients.
· Readily Available
They offer 24/7 online support to the customers who are searching for shipping solutions.
They have a highly responsive online customer care team that responds to raised questions promptly.
Additionally, BanSar China offers free quotation shipping for its customers all over the world.
· Professional Custom Clearance Services
BanSar China has a highly efficient professional team that ensures smooth custom clearance.
They are continuously up to date with the Chinese export policies and comply with them to avoid delays of shipping goods.
The firm’s employees present all the required product details to the custom officers for accurate paperwork.
If you’re looking for a freight forwarder in China who will help you handle all your bulk cargo needs, BanSar is here to help.
Whether you need customs clearance service, cargo loading supervisions or booking spaces in bulk carriers, BanSar will facilitate everything.
Contact us now for all your freight forwarding needs from China.