Difference between bulk and break bulk

Bulk and Break bulk are two terms that are being used incorrectly and interchangeably during the course of day to day business..

These terms cannot be used interchangeably because there are distinctive differences between Bulk and Break Bulk in terms of cargo, nature, size, capacity, handling, trade, customers, ports, terminals, equipment, infrastructure…………………………………..

I have designed below infographic to visually demonstrate the differences between the definition of Bulk and Break Bulk, differences in their operations, how the handling differs in both and differences in ships for both of these two cargo types..

Difference between bulk and break bulk



Do you have any other points that you would like to share regarding the difference between Bulk and Break Bulk..?? Please comment if you do have..




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64 comments on “Difference between bulk and break bulk”

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  3. By AifoU Reply

    Where can one find international regulations governing the carriage requirements of break bulk cargo?

  4. By Jarle Reply

    Good afternoon
    I’am writing a book about ” cargo handling on ship ” it is for the maritime Scholl in norway . Wondering if I can use the Picture (sketch) of a break bulk cargo ship in the book?

  5. By Wilma A. Bautista Reply

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you so much and glad this article explained very well about breakbulk and bulk cargo.
    I have an inquiry about transporting of sand. And this is called bulk cargo. Can you help me who is right person or company to inquire about this cargo. I look forward to your kind assistance.

    Thank you.

  6. Pingback: Difference between bulk and break bulk – My Blog

  7. By Christopher Pitch Reply

    Hi Hariesh – concerning the bulker sizes, I’ve always considered Handies to be up to 35,000 dwt with handymaxes up to abt 50,000 dwt and supramaxes above that. I know that handymaxes were out of favour for a long time due to the bigger is better for fuel efficiency theory howevr they do seem to be making a comeback

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Hi Christopher, there is always scope for the different size vsls at different ports.. In my opinion, Handys will never go out of favour as there are still a lot of small ports around the world where these vsls are needed and also many short sea trades..

  8. By Nghede Kati Reply

    Somebody…..Anybody help,please.What can I do so that I can be able to read the info in this article.It is just blurred.I need this data badly.

  9. By Nghede Kati Reply

    The article is blurred,I can’t read anything.It looks like just the info I need for my assignment.I have created an account & signed in,but still can’t read anything.

  10. By Maeva OBONE Reply

    thank you for finally making me understand the difference between these two terms, the way you designed it is clear like water for me…thanks a lot keep it up and GOD bless you

  11. By Peter Burns Reply

    Excellent Graphics and explanations….I’m brushing up on terminologies etc etc…haven’t been in the dry bulk cargo business for quite a few years but hopefully that’s about to change
    Your site has helped tremendously….and so do the blogs/questions from others in general. Overall a very useful site…well done &
    Thank you again
    Peter Burns

  12. By Louis Grobler Reply

    Very nice summary to give a basic idea to some of my staff to understand the difference. Good job! It is for basics, thus understandably there is a lot of ifs and buts, but it is certainly an excellent starting point to get the basics right.

  13. By David ROSE Reply

    good day everyone,
    could you please tell me in which right bulk section my following example could be : a vehicle or any item carried on a bedflat ?(yacht shipped on 6x40flat for example).
    is it unitized cargo or neo bulk cargo.
    i think in my company i work, the term is not appropriate (we call it breakbulk cargo)
    and for information, can we call a Flat equipment, a Container.
    if we look a cargo on a flat, it does not really contain the cargo, since this cargo dimension may be outside the equipment
    thank you

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Hello David, a container comes in many size/types.. Platform or Collapsible Flat Rack is one such type.. Cargoes that don’t fit in a standard container maybe loaded on a Flat Rack.. That cargo is then identified as an Out of Gauge cargo or Over Dimensional Cargo depending on which side of the Equator you come from.. But it will still be classified as a container shipment.. The freight for such cargoes maybe charged per container + the additional Out of Gauge charges for lost slots..

      However, there are cases where break bulk cargo maybe loaded on a container vsl but on top of several flat rack containers and then lashed on board.. Such cargo may be charged as lumpsum instead of per container..

      Trust this clarifies..

  14. By Tienie Reply

    I am just so happy to find out this blog. Thank you very much, it is extremely informative!!!

  15. By Capt R.Satishraja Reply

    Hai I am a Master mariner and a teacher by passion. When I spill a hand full of jewels from this treasure I feel more realistic and authentic. Your efforts are commendable.

  16. By Bud Cohan Reply

    Great visuals but the article doesn’t cover the topic fully. There doesn’t appear to be any “universal” agreement re: definitions of the terms — check out the various dictionaries. There’s breakbulk, break bulk, and break-bulk as well as bulk cargo, et ali. Their definitions are similar among the various glossaries/dictionaries but nevertheless contain slight differences. Hinkleman’s global terms dictionary appears to be quite detailed but the only one I could find on the internet was 10 years old.

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Hello Bud, can you pls clarify what is not covered in the article..

      The objective of the article was to explain the differences between bulk and break bulk.. As you rightly mentioned, Break Bulk is written as breakbulk, break bulk, and break-bulk across the internet and in text books, but it all means the same and that meaning is what is explained in the infographic..

      As explained in the article, Break bulk ships are also called Multi Purpose or General Cargo ships and in some cases people also refer to Break Bulk cargo as General Cargo because there are too many types of cargoes to list..

      There are no universal agreements on how Break Bulk/Multi Purpose/General Cargo ships are referred to.. IMO doesn’t make any reference to the term Break Bulk itself but refers to General Cargo ships..

  17. By Miguel Fernandes Reply

    After so many years working in the shipping and logistics business, for the first time I got a full picture about this….

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Thank you Miguel, that is one of the objectives of this blog to refresh and enhance the memory or knowledge of those already in the industry for several years, but may not be dealing with certain segments all the time.. 🙂

  18. By Emil Mathew Reply

    Ship Types based on DWT appeared to be confusing. This can be explained clearly with a two dimensional graph instead presenting in a pie chart. Otherwise your explanation on break bulk and bulk is informative…

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Hello Emil, a pie chart represents data visually as a fractional part of a whole and readers can see the data comparison at a glance.. As you can see in the pie chart, the Bulker category dominates the world’s ship types @ 43%.. That was the objective..

  19. By suresh nair Reply

    Hi, Hariesh,
    Class article. Very informative. for all those especially who are more into containerized shipping.. There are many terms when a break bulk or bulk cargoes are shipped.
    We would appreciate some blog on these subjects like hook to hook etc.
    Keep up the good work…all the best.

  20. By Saeed Mirza Reply

    Great explanation, thanks.
    Any cargo such as coal, grain, phosphate or as you mentioned “cargo not packed” we used to call “in true bulk” to differentiate from the bulk cargo. Will this term help?

  21. By Alberto Coll Reply

    Hi Hariesh, what a great post, thanks for your work.
    Have you done some similar infographic or post to define each one of the Bulkers and where their names come from?

  22. By L.R.Stewart Reply

    Just for general interest only . Presentation was of a friendly introductory nature . Please also refer to IMO´s definition of a ” bulk carrier” .

    The so called ” Geared Dry Bulker” can at times carry a full and complete ” homogeneous ” cargo under deck & on deck such as sawn timber or strapped/bundled logs (paper pulp trade) and must observe all the prevailing rules of the trade and good seamanship concerning lashing/securing /stability .

    Although the practice was never fostered and has disappeared – since say the “70 ties ” – grain ( bagged & bulk” parcels ) and coal in bulk have been carried on weather deck of a ship !.

  23. By Alex Reply

    The breakbulk cargo is the one which includes several types of cargo altogether. Breakbulk cargo is is found in many areas of Africa and Asia. The cargo which is made up of only one type packed uniformely is named neo-bulk cargo. You described neo-bulk cargo as being breakbulk cargo. Actually, breakbulk cargo tends to lose importance in modern shipping.

  24. By Karen Read Reply

    This was a great article. Thank you for making it so clear and for all the great education you provide.