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What is Breakbulk Shipping?

Most shippers are familiar with the more common methods of moving cargo – such as container shipping and air freight forwarding – but what if a piece of cargo is too big to fit in a container or too heavy for a plane? What options does a shipper of oversized cargo have? The answer can be found in breakbulk shipping.

Breakbulk Explained

Breakbulk cargo is defined as general cargo or goods that do not fit in or utilize standard shipping containers or cargo bins. Breakbulk is also different from bulk shipping, which is used for cargo such as petroleum products or grain. Instead, breakbulk cargo is transported individually, oftentimes on a skid or pallet or in a crate.

Examples of breakbulk cargo include construction equipment, manufacturing materials, oversized vehicles, boats, cranes, turbine blades, ship propellers, generators, large engines and more.

In the early days of shipping, ocean-going cargo was most commonly breakbulk. However, with the increased use of more efficient and secure shipping containers in the late 1960s, it is now generally reserved for cargo that is too heavy or large to fit in a container. Though an effective method of shipping oversized cargo, breakbulk shipping is more time-intensive than container shipping because each piece must be loaded and unloaded individually, oftentimes with special equipment.

Benefits of Breakbulk Shipping

The main benefit of shipping in this manner is the ability to move oversized, over-weight items that wouldn’t otherwise fit into a container or cargo bin. Simply getting these large items from point A to point B via such a service is a big plus for many shippers.

But there are other benefits, too. In some cases, breakbulk can be an affordable way to ship such large cargo — since the item will not have to be dismantled to ship. This same benefit applies in terms of speed. When you reduce the time spent in deconstruction and re-construction, the item will be ready for dispatch upon arrival much more quickly.

Drawbacks of Breakbulk Shipping

When you only look at the benefits, you may wonder why breakbulk cargo isn’t used more often. The reason being is that it can be more expensive. Large cargo often takes up more space in the ship or cargo hold than items that are packaged neatly in uniform, stackable containers, which results in higher shipping costs for breakbulk items.

Making it Work

Ships that are used for breakbulk shipping are often outfitted with special cranes and other pieces of equipment to accommodate such loads. It’s true that attempting to ship oversized and heavy items is more difficult than more standardized cargo, but companies like Crowley are capable and ready to handle the job. With Crowley’s expertise and equipment, it is possible to move nearly anything, anywhere by ship.

If you think this may be a good shipping method for your cargo, contact Crowley today.