Breakbulk

Multipurpose carriers face increased competition from container ships and bulk carriers, both of which are beset with overcapacity and low rates. Meanwhile, breakbulk/project demand is suffering from the decline in commodity prices caused by China’s reduced appetite for commodities and by a global oversupply of oil and gas.

Though heavy-lift and other shipments continue for projects already under way, other large mining and petrochemical projects have been postponed until the market’s direction becomes more clear. Volatile trade conditions also are reflected in declining shipments of steel and other industrial commodities. Other headwinds include increased near-sourcing for oversized shipments such as windmills for electric generation.

The shift of commodities such as cotton and coffee from breakbulk to containers has largely run its course. But other breakbulk and project cargos continues to move on multipurpose vessels, and many of the movements are becoming more complex, and require additional planning, expertise and equipment. Breakbulk/project cargo remains a dynamic market.

News & Analysis

Port of Stockton.
23 Apr 2018
Despite being 75 miles from open sea, the Port of Stockton ranked fourth among Californian ports with 4.7 million tons of cargo last year, including 360,000 tons of breakbulk shipments.
Steel loaded onto a truck from a ship.
10 Apr 2018
Breakbulk carriers and shippers hope the threatened US steel tariffs are merely a negotiating tactic, but if they prove to be more than that an incipient US-China trade war would occur just as the industry appears to be on the verge of a recovery from a long slump.
Truck on a US road.
09 Apr 2018
Full enforcement of the electronic logging device mandate began April 1, but inspectors issued a slew of violations in early 2018, federal data show.
Port of Mobile.
09 Apr 2018
The terminal will be developed on the site of a former bulk terminal in the port’s upper harbor.
Port of Mobile
06 Apr 2018
Port officials expect better quarters ahead for the Port of Mobile (above), and one of several reasons is because automotive shipments are poised to grow with the continuing expansion of auto assembly plants in Alabama and surrounding states.
Port of Jacksonville.
04 Apr 2018
When it comes to finished-automobile shipments, US South Atlantic ports are in a sweet spot. Regional population growth is boosting demand for imports, and new auto assembly plants are bolstering exports.
Port of New Orleans.
03 Apr 2018
Steel and aluminum are important cargoes at US ports on the Gulf, East, and West coasts and the Great Lakes.
A truck travels on a US highway.
03 Apr 2018
US truck capacity may get worse before it gets better, as electronic logging device enforcement begins this month with anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of drivers not having the required device in their cabs. Even so, shippers can use tips described here to keep their freight moving with minimal disruption.
US Customs Building in New York.
02 Apr 2018
Shippers worried that the launch of the US Customs and Border Protection bureau’s (CBP's) much-delayed Automated Commercial Environment system could disrupt cargo flow can take comfort from the CBP’s conclusion that the launch went off without a major incident, and is operating as it should.
Chittagong Port.
30 Mar 2018
Wilhelmsen did an exhaustive search of the market and whittled down the list to five lines with vessels that could accommodate a bold solution for the Chittagong Port assignment.
A truck travels on a US road.
28 Mar 2018
Shippers should be aware that there are anecdotal reports that questionable forms of co-brokering or double brokering are on the rise in 2018, as the supply of US trucks tightens and some brokers look to make a quick buck. During these instances, shippers essentially fund a double commission and could be exposed to financial damages, delays or lawsuits when things go wrong.

Commentary