break bulk cargo ship

Break Bulk

bagged break bulk cargo

What is ocean freight break bulk?

Break bulk are goods that are stowed on board of the ship in individually counted units rather than in shipping containers. The term break bulk (break-bulk, breakbulk) can also be referred to as general cargo and comes from the phrase, “breaking bulk,” meaning the initiation of removing a portion of a ships cargo. Batches of breakbulk goods are typically packed in smaller containers like bags, boxes, cartons, creates, drums or barrels.

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break bulk cargo on pallets

What are some examples of goods that are shipped breakbulk?

  • Bagged cargo (covered for moisture protection)
  • Baled Goods
  • Corrugated boxes
  • Wooden containers/crates
  • Drums
  • Paper reels
  • Motor vehicles (learn more about automotive shipping here)
  • Steel girders

More than one type of cargo ship.

Cargo ships are built with specific features to most easily to accommodate different types of cargo. Typically, when you imagine an ocean freight cargo ship you can see a large boat stacked high with many different colors of steel-walled containers, otherwise known as intermodal containers that can be loaded and unloaded from multiple types of transport. Break bulk is loaded on to the ship in pallets, in cargo nets, crates or trays and it can be done with cranes present on the dock or in some cases the ships themselves.

illustration of logistics ship, computer and supply chain workers

The decline of break bulk and when it’s used.

The resources needed to load and unload break bulk shipping is common in less developed ports. The use of tankers and carriers for goods that were shipped in barrels and sacks has caused a decline in break bulk shipping.


Breakbulk Advantages

The main advantage breakbulk continues to hold is that it’s a good way to ship to ports that have not kept pace with shipping technology.

Breakbulk requires minimal shore facilities.

  • A wharf to tie the ship
  • Dock workers and longshoreman
  • Warehouses to store goods.


How can GLC help with break bulk or other freight forwarding methods?


Get in touch with us about your break bulk and ocean freight needs.