Breakbulk

Breakbulk

Breakbulk and its glamorous subset, project cargo, remain a dynamic shipping segment, and the multipurpose and heavylift (MPV/HL) carriers that serve it are just beginning to recover from chronic overcapacity and a decade of doldrums.

Breakbulk cargo has been defined as ‘whatever is left over’ after the bulk and container ships are full. While the shift of commodities such as cotton and coffee from breakbulk into containers has largely run its course, other breakbulk and project cargos continue to move on MPV/HL vessels. Not every shipment of breakbulk cargo involves a complex mega-project or thousands of freight tons that require full charters and heavy-lift capacity. Many of these movements are very complex, and require additional planning, expertise and equipment. Project cargo shippers often work closely with carriers’ engineering teams to create transport plans.Simple breakbulk cargoes can often shift shipping modes fairly seamlessly. Steel, for example, flows from breakbulk to bulk carriers to, for some forms of steel, roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) and container transport. The preferred mode will depend on volumes, prices, schedules and demand. Container and ro-ro services offers shippers fixed schedules, predictable routes and prices, and more commoditized handling, simplifying the equation – but only when it makes sense for the cargo.

News & Analysis

05 Dec 2022
The Ocean Terminal project is part of a larger strategy by the GPA to expand the footprint in Savannah to handle bigger vessels and more containers.
05 Jul 2022
The breakbulk industry’s scramble to manage spillover cargo is ebbing as shippers' need for alternative tonnage eases, but that does not necessarily mean a rush back to pre-COVID norms.
29 Jun 2022
Old-fashioned breakbulk and supply chain skills have served shippers well in the “spillover” market, and some practices may linger after the container market normalizes.
24 Jun 2022
Millions of tons of project cargo freight will be moving soon as energy projects, including Qatar’s massive LNG facility, gather steam, logistics executives say.
17 Jun 2022
Softening container rates are expected to pull “spillover” cargo back from the breakbulk sector, but the just-ended COVID lockdowns in China may slow a market normalization.
15 Jun 2022
Container ship capacity has become so scarce that cargoes are spilling over not only to breakbulk and multipurpose vessels, but to the roll-on/roll-off sector as well.
13 Jun 2022
The outlook for project cargo demand is bright, but tight capacity, congestion, high costs, and low schedule reliability will likely persist in the breakbulk sector.
13 Jun 2022
In a hot breakbulk market, carriers are asking for — and getting — far higher detention fees to cover their potential losses when shippers delay loading or picking up their cargo.
09 Jun 2022
No “summer slump” is expected for the multipurpose sector even though softening spot rates for container shipping will send some spillover shippers back to boxes.
02 Jun 2022
Demand for long-haul ro/ro services is strong, but COVID lockdowns and growing global economic uncertainties are constraining vehicle volumes, executives say.
20 May 2022
The latest vessels in UHL’s F-900 series will be built in Hudong, China, and are due to be delivered in late 2023 and early 2024.
13 May 2022
As the global energy transition gains momentum, a “mismatched” market will become more complex, partitioned, and costly, according to Jim Burkhard, head of oil market research at S&P Global.
10 May 2022
A tightening supply of multipurpose ships bodes well for carriers and their bottom lines, but signals a higher “new normal” ahead for breakbulk and project shippers.
10 May 2022
The presence of container shippers at JOC’s recent breakbulk conference shows that while global container volumes are slowing, plenty of logistics managers are concerned enough about future capacity on US trades.
09 May 2022
The latest newbuild order from Japan’s MOL continues a flurry of vehicle carrier orders made in the last month that will result in a bigger — and greener fleet — global fleet.
03 May 2022
Breakbulk importers must navigate complex sanctions rules and a CBP crackdown on goods made with forced labor, attendees at JOC’s 2022 Breakbulk and Project Cargo conference were told.
02 May 2022
Severely limited warehousing capacity at North American ports is adding to the challenges facing breakbulk shippers in 2022, attendees at JOC’s Breakbulk and Project Cargo conference were told.
29 Apr 2022
Multipurpose and heavy-lift vessel capacity will remain tight for years, keeping upward pressure on pricing, carrier executives said at the JOC Breakbulk & Project Cargo conference.
25 Apr 2022
Massive investment in offshore wind energy projects planned for Asia and the US is fueling orders for installation vessels, but at least one analyst expects an equipment shortfall by the end of the decade.
12 Apr 2022
Although rates could plateau or slide as global stressors impact the MPV market, underlying demand will not soften as the energy transition accelerates.
01 Apr 2022
Maersk Supply Service has ordered a new wind turbine installation vessel to build offshore wind projects on the US Atlantic seaboard.
21 Mar 2022
Burned by losses, key engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firms continue to shift away from lump-sum contracting and toward more risk-averse strategies in the oil and gas space.
18 Mar 2022
Rebounding steel and project cargo volumes and a congested container market that continues to push both cargo and containers to the breakbulk mode are driving strong growth at the key Gulf Coast ports.
14 Mar 2022
Combi Lift will serve as a wholesale "integrator" of owner Harren & Partner’s assets, including the carriers SAL Heavy Lift and Intermarine
11 Mar 2022
The Georgia Ports Authority plans to spend $150 million to create a “massive gateway port” for ro/ro and breakbulk cargo.
07 Mar 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could exacerbate a tonnage shortage in the global MPV/HL sector driven by ongoing container-side congestion and spillover cargo.
02 Mar 2022
While Antonov's smaller AN-124s continue to operate, restoring the behemoth AN-225 will take five years and cost more than $3 billion, according to the Ukrainian government's news outlet.
22 Feb 2022
MPV/HL newbuildings expand dship, BBC Chartering fleet as AAL places orders for a total of six new ships.
11 Feb 2022
While a rate "plateau" may be looming, container congestion and equipment supply shortages will continue to push spillover cargo into the MPV sector, analysts say
08 Feb 2022
Auto makers and finished vehicle logistics (FVL) service providers say a dearth of car-haul drivers, dockworkers, and auto processing labor could hinder the tentative recovery in auto manufacturing.
07 Feb 2022
The Northwest Seaport Alliance saw record breakbulk tonnage in 2021 thanks to container congestion and booming demand for construction machinery.
28 Jan 2022
Even a slight recovery in auto production means shippers should brace for the reality that already tight vessel capacity will become even scarcer, ro/ro carriers warn.
24 Jan 2022
As the offshore wind buildout gains momentum, logistics providers are adapting European models to meet the specific needs and constraints of the US market.
11 Jan 2022
Soaring freight rates are incentivizing MPV carriers to turn down lower-value backhauls and return empty to load ports.
27 Dec 2021
Although spillover cargo from the congested container market will recede as the market stabilizes, breakbulk and recovering project demand coupled with shrinking capacity are expected to keep MPV/HL rates from sinking to pre-COVID-19 levels
22 Dec 2021
Extra-loaders carrying spillover cargo are dramatically increasing container imports at the Port of Everett in Washington state.