Is it Bulk cargo or Breakbulk cargo?

Is it Bulk cargo or Breakbulk cargo?

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Among many different inquiries from our customers and website visitors, we have noticed a tendency to confuse bulk (BULK) and BREAKBULK cargo services. As we love to solve all shipping issues, whether it's a real logistics problem or just a theoretical hurdle, here we're going to help you with this one too.

Let’s start with just a little history, to give you the right perspective. For most of shipping history, breakbulk was the most popular type of cargo. It could be a larger item that needs to be handled individually, or smaller items packed in bags, boxes, barrels, or other containers. They could all be different shapes and sizes. Usually, goods were transported to the port, where they were stored in the warehouses waiting for the vessel. Then, after being transferred to the ship, the dock workers had to arrange the storage of the cargo in the hold. The process was therefore very complex and gradual, and the world of commerce needed more efficient solutions.

Container transport

This is where the story about container shipping begins. The idea of the container as a universal box or container for transporting cargo developed slowly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, only in 1956, Malcolm McLean, an American transport entrepreneur, developed the modern intermodal transport container. More than a decade later, international standards were set for the size of containers, significantly reducing the expenses of international trade, increasing their speed and thus contributing to globalization in general. This is the short story of how we got here, into the twenty-first century, when almost 90% of goods are transported in a container.

However, what about the other 10%? Cargo that is too large to fit in a container? Fortunately, although the world has been relying on containers for the past few decades and that unification led to many processes being automated, there are still people who have not forgotten how to move cargo in the traditional way.

Today these skills are a priority, as the complex knowledge of tying, holding and moving oversized cargo was extruded by the unified, easy-to-use container boxes.


Therefore, this is what Brealbulk means: a load that does not fit in a container due to its large size or weight and must be loaded individually. However, it can be loaded into an open container and can be moved from the top with a crane or a container of the Flat-rack type and loaded from the top or side. The term break-bulk comes from the fractionation of the load, extracting the part of the load. It can be an oversized machine, construction or mining equipment, manufacturing materials and more. While the movement of products in containers is considered the most economical transportation option, in case of oversized equipment, the decomposition rates are even lower than the costs of disassembly, packaging, shipping, unpacking and assembly of the machine.

Bulk (or Bulk)

In addition to container shipping, we should mention another change in the transportation industry, which contributed to the decline in the shipment of breakbulk-type cargoes. Along with tankers and bulk carriers, the need to transport goods such as liquids or grain in barrels and sacks has decreased. New vessels can load large amounts of loose unpacked cargo under deck, and efficiency has been increased thanks to much faster forms of loading by pouring or dropping cargo directly into the hold with special equipment. Therefore, bulk cargo is completely different from breakbulk cargo, which is often confused. Examples of bulk cargo can be any liquid or granular merchandise, transported in loose unpackaged mass, such as grains, coal, iron ore, wood chips, cement, or chemicals. However, smaller quantities of such cargo can be packed and palletized, although at present they will still be considered as bulk cargo.