Terms & Glossaries of Shipping and Trading

Breakbulk Cargo

Breakbulk Cargo refers to goods that are transported in individual pieces or packages rather than in containers or bulk. This type of cargo includes items that are too large or heavy to fit into standard containers and thus must be handled, loaded, and unloaded individually.

Detailed Overview of "Breakbulk Cargo"

Definition of Breakbulk Cargo

Breakbulk Cargo, also known simply as "break bulk," is cargo that is shipped as individual pieces rather than in containers or in bulk form. It encompasses a wide variety of goods, from large machinery and vehicles to bags of cement, crates of fruit, or rolls of steel.

Key Characteristics of Breakbulk Cargo

1. Individual Handling: Each piece of cargo is handled separately during loading and unloading.
2. Diverse Packaging: The cargo can be packaged in crates, boxes, barrels, bags, or simply as large items without packaging.
3. Special Handling Equipment: Often requires special equipment like cranes, forklifts, or slings for handling.
4. Port Facilities: Not all ports are equipped to handle breakbulk cargo, requiring specific facilities and labor.

Types of Breakbulk Cargo

1. Project Cargo: Includes large, heavy items such as machinery, turbines, and industrial equipment.
2. Heavy Lift Cargo: Extremely heavy items that require specialized handling equipment.
3. Vehicles: Cars, trucks, and other vehicles shipped individually.
4. Bagged or Baled Goods: Items like agricultural products, cement, or textiles packaged in bags or bales.
5. Palletized Cargo: Goods stacked on pallets and secured for individual handling.

Importance of Breakbulk Cargo

1. Flexibility: Allows for the transportation of oversized or irregularly shaped items that cannot fit into standard containers.
2. Specialized Transport: Essential for industries that require the transport of heavy machinery, construction materials, or large equipment.
3. Economic Value: Often used for high-value goods that require careful handling.
4. Global Trade: Facilitates the movement of a wide variety of goods across the globe, supporting various industries and economic activities.

Steps Involving Breakbulk Cargo

1. Preparation and Packaging: Goods are prepared and packaged appropriately to withstand handling and transport.
2. Loading: Special equipment is used to load the cargo onto the vessel. This may include cranes, forklifts, and other lifting devices.
3. Transport: The cargo is transported by sea, typically on multipurpose vessels designed to handle a variety of cargo types.
4. Unloading: At the destination port, the cargo is unloaded using similar special equipment and handled carefully to avoid damage.
5. Delivery: The cargo is then delivered to its final destination, often requiring additional handling and transportation logistics.

Practical Uses of Breakbulk Cargo

1. Construction Industry: Transporting construction materials, prefabricated buildings, and large machinery.
2. Agriculture: Shipping bulk commodities like grain, rice, or coffee in bags.
3. Automotive Industry: Moving vehicles and parts that cannot be containerized.
4. Energy Sector: Transporting parts for oil rigs, wind turbines, and other large equipment.

Example Scenario Involving Breakbulk Cargo

1. Shipping Machinery: A company needs to transport large industrial machinery from Germany to Brazil. The machinery is too large to fit into standard containers, so it is shipped as breakbulk cargo.
2. Preparation: The machinery is carefully packaged and secured on pallets to ensure it can be safely handled.
3. Loading: Using cranes, the machinery is loaded onto a breakbulk vessel at the port in Hamburg.
4. Transport: The vessel sails to the port of Santos in Brazil, where the cargo is carefully unloaded using similar cranes and handling equipment.
5. Delivery: The machinery is then transported by truck to the final installation site in a factory.

Benefits of Breakbulk Cargo

1. Versatility: Suitable for a wide range of goods that are not compatible with containerization.
2. Accessibility: Allows for the transport of goods to and from ports that may not have container handling facilities.
3. Cost-Effective for Certain Goods: Can be more economical for shipping large, heavy, or awkwardly shaped items.
4. Reduced Damage Risk: Items can be securely packed and handled individually, reducing the risk of damage.


Breakbulk Cargo is a vital component of global shipping and logistics, enabling the transportation of a diverse range of goods that cannot be containerized. This method of shipping offers flexibility, supports various industries, and facilitates the movement of oversized and heavy items across the world. Understanding the processes and benefits associated with breakbulk cargo is essential for businesses involved in international trade and logistics.