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

12 Sep 2022
MPV/HL ships could be harder to find in coming years as carriers have difficulty finding funding for new ship orders, despite strong demand and higher rates than they have been able to command for years.
09 Sep 2022
A handful of reefer carriers, having received an unexpected shot in the arm during the pandemic, are adding vessel capacity despite the long-term decline of this niche fleet.
07 Sep 2022
The MPV sector’s long-term outlook remains strong, but shippers are holding off booking in the hope that rates will continue to slide, analysts say.
02 Sep 2022
The specialized reefer fleet has been shrinking for years as perishables shippers have migrated away from breakbulk shipping to refrigerated containers carried on global liner services, but “the mode keeps rescuing itself,” says one observer.
01 Sep 2022
Container carriers are adding incremental capacity to their regional and feeder liner services with MPV and other non-container ships, maritime analyst Alphaliner says.
29 Aug 2022
While spillover cargo flows back to the container market, a strong breakbulk market is keeping the MPV sector afloat.
24 Aug 2022
Developers have installed a total of 139 gigawatts of onshore wind energy production across the US, with another 23 GW under construction or in advanced development as of the second quarter of 2022.
22 Aug 2022
The global super-heavy carrier fleet is at 91 percent utilization as governments accelerate energy investments amid the rush to cut ties with Russia.
19 Aug 2022
Pandemic congestion may be easing as container rates fall, but breakbulk spillover cargo shows no sign of slowing at the Port of New Orleans.
16 Aug 2022
Carrier53, a joint venture of a breakbulk vessel operator and container manufacturer, said it will offer trans-Pacific sailings from China to the US West Coast with a special emphasis on domestic intermodal containers.
09 Aug 2022
Easing container congestion and the summer “doldrums” have sent MPV rates drifting downward, but carriers expect energy-related demand and tight capacity to keep the sector healthy in the long term.
05 Aug 2022
Maersk is expanding its footprint in the heavy-lift sector with the acquisition of specialist logistics provider Martin Bencher that will be central to its new Maersk Project Logistics product.
03 Aug 2022
Congestion and unreliable service from liner carriers is driving some cold chain shippers back to the conventional reefer fleet
27 Jul 2022
The transport of crucial project cargo bound for power generation facilities and renewable energy projects in the US could be stymied by a possible rail strike.
25 Jul 2022
Legislation now under consideration by a Senate committee could put the kibosh on the Biden administration’s ambitious plans to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
22 Jul 2022
SAL joins competitors AAL and UHL with firm orders for multipurpose newbuild vessels, even as charter rates soften a bit from their current high levels.
11 Jul 2022
Uncertainty and congestion are undermining market confidence, but MPV rates are expected to stay well above pre-pandemic levels, according to breakbulk analysts.
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.