Breakbulk Shipping

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Alternately spelled break-bulk or break bulk, Breakbulk cargo is stowed directly on a vessel’s deck. Understand how breakbulk cargo works, what types of goods are shipped in breakbulk, and how breakbulk cargo is classified.

Classification of Bulk Cargoes

Whether they are shipped by sea, air, or ground, goods are classified into multiple types. Most people are familiar with shipping containers, which require dedicated container ships to transport. There is also RO/RO (Roll-on/Roll-off) cargo, which typically refers to vehicles and other cargo that can be rolled directly on and off the ship.

Any cargo that doesn’t fall into these two categories is called bulk cargo. There are three main classes of bulk cargo: dry bulk, liquid bulk cargo, and breakbulk.

  • Dry bulk is loose, unpacked cargo transported in large quantities, such as sand, charcoal, iron ore, gravel, or cobblestone.
  • Liquid bulk includes free-flowing liquids or liquid gases directly carried inside tanks mounted on specialized ships. Examples include milk, wine, solvents, petroleum products, and natural gas.
  • All other cargo falls into the breakbulk cargo category.

What is Break-Bulk Cargo?

Breakbulk cargo, also known as general cargo, is packaged cargo that is not transported in shipping containers. Instead, it refers to goods stored in various types of individual packaging units that are loaded directly into the ship’s hold.

Examples of packaging units used in breakbulk cargo shipping:

  • Bags
  • Barrels
  • Boxes
  • Crates
  • Drums
  • Pallets

Breakbulk cargo can also include irregularly-sized freight that cannot fit in any standard-sized container or packaging unit. Consequently, this type of breakbulk cargo is sometimes called “non-unitized.”

Types of Breakbulk Shipping Goods

Common types of goods transported by breakbulk forwarders include:

  • General unitized cargo
  • Wood, either as logs or processed lumber
  • Generators
  • Turbines
  • Aircraft parts
  • Oversized machinery
  • Specialized vehicles
  • Satellites and satellite parts


Our company has years of experience transporting breakbulk cargo worldwide and providing full-service logistics to our clients.

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