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Break bulk cargo

It is also known as general cargo. Break bulk cargo simply means goods stowed on a general cargo platform in individual units. They are not stored in containers. The term comes from the phrase ‘breaking bulk’, which means to extract a portion of a ship’s cargo.

Goods transported through break bulk are therefore handled  for convenient unloading and loading. Break bulk shipping is very useful in small or underdeveloped ports and offloading to smaller vessels.

Bulk cargo and break bulk cargo have been used interchangeably in business operations but they are distinct from one another.

Bulk cargo refers to trades where dry cargoes are loaded directly on the holds of the ships. Examples of these cargoes are grain, iron ore, coal, and other related items.

Break bulk cargo on the other hand refers to the trades where the cargoes are stowed in unitized forms like bags, pallets, drums, crates, and the like. Ships carrying these items are called ‘break bulk’ vessels.

What are the different types of packaging used in break bulk cargo?

It is the primary responsibility of the shipper to pack the goods before the break bulk shipment. Choosing the appropriate packaging depends on the nature of the product and its volume. The most common break bulk cargo examples are listed below:

Bagged cargo

These are commodities packed in bags or sacks. The commodity carried inside the bags should be robust enough to endure external pressures during the journey.

Examples of commodities packed in bags are sugar, flour, salt, coffee, cement, grain, fertilizer, seed, dried milk, and the like. The bags are usually made of paper, plastic, polypropylene, or open mesh plastic fiber. The important thing here is that the material of the bag is compatible with the commodity and provides protection against contamination.

Handling bagged cargoes must be done properly to avoid tearing of bags. Also, shippers must take extra precautionary measures since bagged cargoes are at risk of loss, theft, or pilferage.

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