Break Bulk and Dry Bulk Cargo

Type of cargo shipped by sea freight

Sea transport was the main vehicle of international commerce for centuries and is still a popular mode of transportation due to factors such as high load capacity, low cost, and reliability in bad weather.

Sea freight transport is also a preferred solution for shipments across long distances.

Container Cargo

Containerized cargo means general goods, commodities or wares that are shipped in non-disposable, reusable, commercial-sized shipping containers that are customarily used on sea- and ocean-going vessels for the convenient shipment of such goods, commodities or wares.

Goods are usually shipped in containers with metal walls to protect them against extreme temperatures, moisture and bad weather conditions. Containers transported by sea also fit on train wagons, barges, and trucks.

Liquid bulk

Hazardous goods that fall in the category of liquid bulk include fuel oil, petrol and crude oil.

They are shipped on big tankers and transported to refineries and other facilities. Barge-towing trains and tankers are used to ship petroleum products while chemical and food industry products are often transported by chemical tankers.

The vessels are subject to regular monitoring and vetting inspections to ensure that they meet safety requirements. Logistics service providers that ship liquid bulk specializes in supply management, quality control, labelling and packaging.

Partnering with freight ship companies, IFA members also specialize in rapid and intermodal transport and have access to storage facilities that meet environmental, industrial, firefighting, and fire prevention standards.


If you need to haul liquids or gases, you’ll probably use a tanker ship. Businesses in the oil industry often use these ships to transport liquid safely and securely.

These boats tend to vary in size and some of the larger tankers are almost a quarter mile long! To carry liquids and gases internationally, you need to use a secure tanker.

Dry bulk

Dry bulk cargo refers to any cargo or goods shipped in a loose quantity, that is stored within the cargo holds without packaging. Common examples of such goods include foodstuff and machinery parts. Also, goods transported through dry bulk carriers include ores and minerals. These are generally shipped in a loose condition in the holds. Dry bulk can be divided into two sub-categories – minor and major bulk products.

The first category includes items such as fertilizers, minerals and cement while the second category includes products such as iron ore and coal. Some dangerous goods are also shipped by bulk carriers and require special measures during discharge, transportation and loading.

Break bulk

Individual or break-bulk cargo refers to cargo that requires individual loading and includes goods such as art, household furniture, farm machinery and vehicle parts.

General cargo ships are used to transport break bulk cargo and items are loaded in barrels, drums, crates and boxes. Weather-resistant and military types of corrugated fiberboard are also used to ship break bulk cargo.

Roll-on or roll-off

This category includes rolling stock such as project cargo, heavy machinery, machines and vehicles. Ports that handle roll-on/roll-off cargo offer a number of specialized services such as second-stage manufacturing, spraying, dewaxing, washing, repair, and installation of air-conditioning, hooks, bumps, and other components.

Pre-delivery inspections are also conducted in vehicle processing centres. Additional services include stock management, fiscal representation, distribution and storage of cargo.

These kinds of ships have built-in ramps on their bow or stern (the ramps can also be on land) to make the loading and unloading of the wheeled cargo much easier than if it was done with a crane.

On the other side of the RORO vessels, there are the called LOLO, or lo-lo, which are those equipped with cranes for the loading and unloading of the cargo.

Variations of ro-ro vessels

There are different kinds of ro-ro vessels. Car carriers: Those which transport cars exclusively. Pure car/truck carrier (PCTC): The ones that transport trucks as well as cars.

ConRo: or RoCon. This type of vessel stacks containerized freight on the top decks and vehicles are stored in the below decks.

RoLo:  A vessel with ramps for the vehicle decks but with other cargo decks only accessible when the tides change or by the use of a crane

RoPax: is the acronym for roll-on/roll-off passenger, a vessel built for freight vehicle transport along with passenger accommodation.

Transportation of livestock and animals

Livestock and animals are another commonly transported cargo between several countries.

Ships that are commonly used to transport livestock include modified bulk carriers and specialized vessels intended to create space for different categories of animals.

These vessels have decks within the storage holds that compartmentalize the cargo. There must be adequate lighting provided by artificial means in the case of multi-deck vessels.

However, it is preferable to use a split deck system to ensure that the animals reach their destination in the best possible condition. This system entails keeping several decks below the main deck primarily as resting areas.


Businesses usually tow barges behind ships to provide more space for freight. Cargo ships use barges on a daily basis, so if you see an extra boat behind a cargo ship, it’s most likely a barge.

Smaller shipments can be grouped together with other cargo to fill a container, allowing for cost-sharing of transportation services.

Larger cargo can fill one or more containers, offering shippers unmatched bulk options. In fact, vessels are the ideal way to move high volumes of cargo.

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