Slumping commodity markets are making 2017 a difficult year for breakbulk and project cargo shippers and carriers, despite scattered bright spots such as continuing construction of multibillion-dollar petrochemical projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast, and infrastructure in Asia and South America.

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

A US wareghouse
15 Feb 2018
Many shippers overlook transportation data that monitor their delivery exceptions. Mining data about delivery exceptions might provide shippers with smarter, more-effectual transportation performance data.
22 Jan 2018
Breakbulk and project shipping demand and rates have been in the doldrums since the Great Recession, and low commodity prices softened just as carriers were taking delivery of new ships.
Washington, Oregon ports in a race for non-containerized shipments
21 Jan 2018
In an up-and-down market for breakbulk shipments, Pacific Northwest ports have seen strong volumes in several categories.
20 Jan 2018
Convoy Logistics Providers' niche is "project and specialty needs cargo that can take six months to three years, where [there are sometimes quotes] without even knowing actual weights, dimensions, densities, or dozens and dozens of critical details."
17 Jan 2018
One question that is definitely on the minds of shippers, especially transportation, is if the UK’s post-Brexit trade agreements will stimulate or dampen the growing Europe/UK economies.
14 Jan 2018
Unlike many UK firms, heavy-lift and installation contractor ALE said it isn’t losing any sleep over the potential negative fallout from Brexit. Here's why.
11 Jan 2018
The vessel rotation will include Auckland, New Zealand, and the Australian ports of Brisbane, Port Kembla, Melbourne, and Fremantle.
10 Jan 2018
Businesses will be watching spot rates closely in the next few weeks to see if demand and capacity move back toward an equilibrium.
08 Jan 2018
New ocean and rail services mark the return of the Port of Portland, Oregon, to regular container handling.
05 Jan 2018
The hurricanes that struck the United States last year provided a teachable moment for shippers regarding supply chain structure and management.
03 Jan 2018
Artificial intelligence and related technologies will transform supply chain management as transport operators adopt these technologies to uncover data patterns to boost efficiency, among other benefits, says a logistics executive.