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.
US Department of Defense.
14 Feb 2018
The US Department of Defense contract calls for Crowley to move various types of cargo from thousands of suppliers through 41 major depots around the continental United States, including Alaska, and Canada.
Rail transport.
14 Feb 2018
The key north-south rail link is flowing again, after the section between Milan and Basel had been closed for two weeks, but challenges remain, as terminals work to clear a huge container backlog.
RollDock, SAL say pooling their dock vessels will improve vessel utilization.
12 Feb 2018
RollDock and SAL say pooling their dock vessels will improve vessel utilization, broaden coverage, and provide more options for customers.
Trade in wind energy components is increasing in the United States.
07 Feb 2018
After reinventing itself several times over the decades, the Port of Galveston has settled on a business formula that emphasizes vehicles and other roll-on, roll-off cargo, refrigerated shipments, wind energy and project cargo, and cruise ships.
The new AAL-HMM service will operate five ships.
06 Feb 2018
The new AAL-HMM joint-service will operate five ships — four 30,100-deadweight-ton vessels (dwt) from HMM and one 31,000-dwt vessel from AAL.
The Port of Beaumont has found a market in renewable energy and breakbulk bulk cargo.
30 Jan 2018
Beaumont, 90 miles east of Houston, is not a container port but instead has a diversified base of breakbulk cargo that includes projects, military cargo, wind energy, steel, forest products, bagged goods, and dry and liquid bulk cargo.
29 Jan 2018
The new container service will be Pensacola’s first. World Direct said the port near the tip of Florida’s panhandle will complement the carrier’s current calls at Port Manatee.
29 Jan 2018
Port CEO John Murray said the new berth is needed not only for aerospace modules but for shipments resulting from Central Florida’s growth.
24 Jan 2018
The first sailing of MSC’s fortnightly roll-on, roll-off West Africa service will begin Feb. 19 from Le Havre.
22 Jan 2018
The partnerships will allow Netherlands-based Mammoet to provide service in the Spanish market.