What is meant by break bulk cargo? Break bulk cargo refers to goods that are transported individually, rather than in standardized shipping containers or bulk cargo. This traditional method of shipping involves loading and unloading cargo piece by piece, rather than in large containers or bulk shipments. Break bulk cargo can include a wide range of products, such as machinery, equipment, steel products, bags of grains, barrels of liquids, and oversized items that cannot be containerized. Here’s a detailed look at what is break bulk cargo and its significance in the logistics industry.

What is Break Bulk Cargo

What is Break Bulk Cargo

Break bulk cargo is characterized by its non-containerized nature, meaning it is loaded and unloaded individually at ports or terminals. Unlike containerized cargo, which is packed into standard shipping containers and transferred as a single unit, break bulk cargo requires handling each item separately. This shipping method has been used for centuries and was the primary mode of transportation before the widespread adoption of containerization in the mid-20th century.

Why is breaking bulk important?

Despite the prevalence of containerization in modern shipping, break bulk cargo continues to play a significant role in certain industries and trade routes. Here are some key reasons why break bulk cargo remains relevant:

1. Flexibility:

Break bulk shipping offers flexibility in handling diverse types of cargo, especially oversized or irregularly shaped items that cannot be containerized.

2. Specialized Handling:

Certain goods require specialized handling or stowage arrangements, which may be better accommodated through break bulk shipping.

3. Access to Ports:

Some ports may lack the infrastructure or equipment to handle containerized cargo efficiently, making break bulk shipping a practical option for accessing these ports.

4. Project Cargo:

Large-scale infrastructure projects, such as construction, energy, and mining ventures, often involve transporting heavy machinery, equipment, and materials that are best suited for break bulk shipping.

5. Regional Trade:

In regions with limited containerized shipping services, break bulk cargo remains a vital mode of transporting goods between ports and terminals.

What is Break bulk ship size?

What is Break Bulk Ship Size

Break bulk ships, also known as general cargo ships, come in various sizes to accommodate different types and quantities of cargo. The size of a break bulk ship can vary significantly depending on factors such as its capacity, dimensions, and the nature of the cargo it carries.

Generally, break bulk ships range from small vessels designed to carry a few hundred tons of cargo to large vessels capable of transporting several thousand tons. Some common types of break bulk ships include:

1. Small Coastal Vessels:

These are smaller ships typically used for short-distance transportation along coastal routes or within inland waterways. They may have a capacity ranging from a few hundred tons to a couple of thousand tons.

2. General Cargo Ships:

These mid-sized vessels are versatile and can handle a wide range of cargo types, including break bulk, containers, and bulk commodities. They typically have capacities ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of tons.

3. Heavy Lift Vessels:

These specialized ships are designed to carry oversized or extremely heavy cargo that cannot be accommodated by standard cargo ships. They may have unique features such as extra-strong deck cranes or adjustable cargo holds to facilitate the loading and unloading of heavy items.

4. Project Cargo Vessels:

These are specialized vessels designed to transport large, complex, or high-value cargo associated with specific projects, such as industrial machinery, construction equipment, or components for infrastructure projects. They may vary widely in size and configuration depending on the requirements of the cargo being transported.

The size of a break bulk ship is typically measured in terms of its deadweight tonnage (DWT), which represents the total weight of cargo, fuel, water, provisions, and equipment that the ship can carry. Factors such as the ship’s length, beam (width), and draft (depth in the water) also contribute to determining its size and capacity.

What is the difference between bulk and break bulk?

What is the Difference Between Bulk and Break Bulk Cargo

Bulk and break bulk are two terms often used in the shipping and logistics industry to describe different methods of transporting cargo:

1. Bulk Shipping:

  • Bulk shipping refers to the transportation of unpackaged, homogeneous cargo that is loaded directly into the ship’s cargo holds without the use of any packaging or containers.
  • Common types of bulk cargo include commodities such as coal, grain, ore, petroleum products, and chemicals.
  • Bulk cargo is typically loaded and unloaded using specialized equipment such as conveyor belts, cranes, or suction devices.
  • Bulk shipping is preferred for large quantities of homogeneous cargo that can be easily poured, pumped, or scooped into and out of the ship’s holds.

2. Break Bulk Shipping:

  • Break bulk shipping involves the transportation of individual or packaged cargo items that are loaded onto the ship individually or in smaller groups.
  • Unlike bulk cargo, break bulk cargo is not homogenous and may consist of a variety of different items, sizes, and shapes.
  • Break bulk cargo is typically loaded and unloaded using pallets, crates, containers, or other packaging materials to protect the cargo during transit.
  • Break bulk shipping is preferred for cargo that is not suitable for bulk transportation, such as machinery, vehicles, project cargo, or goods requiring special handling or protection.


Break bulk cargo plays an important role in the logistics industry by offering a flexible, cost-effective, and reliable transportation solution for a wide range of goods. Its versatility, individual handling, and specialized capabilities make it an indispensable option for businesses seeking efficient transportation of oversized, irregularly shaped, or project cargo. As a trusted logistics partner, Galaxy Freight provides comprehensive break bulk cargo services customised to the unique needs of our clients, ensuring timely and secure delivery of goods worldwide. Contact us today to learn more about our break bulk cargo solutions and how we can support your logistics requirements.