Dry Bulkship Transport

Bulkships transport huge volumes of cargoes such as iron ore, coal, grain, salt, aluminum, and copper ore without packing or packaging. These vessels are called “bulkers,” “dry bulkers,” “bulk carriers,” or “dry bulk ships,” since they transport “dry cargo” in “bulk.” Bulkships vary widely in size and configuration, depending on the cargo they carry and the characteristics of the ports where they call.

Dry Bulkship Transport

Bulkships Come in Various Sizes to Meet Any Transport Need

Merchant vessels have grown in size throughout their long history, always in pursuit of greater economic efficiency. Among them, bulkships come in a variety of sizes.

“Capesize” vessels are so large that they cannot pass through the Panama Canal, and have to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, hence the name “Capesize.” The “Panamax,” on the other hand is the largest class of ship that can pass through the Panama Canal. It is built to meet the canal’s passage requirements, which specify that ships can be no longer than about 274 meters long and 32 meters wide. “Handy” class bulkers have smaller hulls than the Panamax. They are so named because their relatively small size offers the convenience of being able to call in and out of almost any port in the world. Another feature of “Handy” bulkers is that they are equipped with their own cranes to handle cargo.

Standard deadweight tonnage LOA Main cargoes
Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) 250,000 About 330m Iron ore
Capesize 180,000 About 292m Iron ore, coking coal
Panamax 82,000 About 229m Iron ore, cocking coal, thermal coal, grain
Handymax 58,000 About 190m Thermal coal, grain, salt, cement, steel product
Small Handy 38,000 About 180m Steel product, cement, grain,ore

Bulkships have “topside tanks,” triangular ballast tanks (filled with water to stabilize the vessel) fitted at both shoulders/wings of the cargo holds. These help the ship maintain the proper trim no matter how much cargo is on board. The sides on the lower part of the hold are designed with a hopper configuration to maximize loading/discharging efficiency by preventing cargo from accumulating in the corners.

Some bulkers have cranes for loading/discharging, while others rely on shoreside equipment. In general, vessels larger than Panamax do not have cranes. Hatch covers at the top of the hold are opened only during loading/discharging.

Dedicated Bulkships by Cargo
Generally, an optimal type of bulkship is chosen based on cargo volume, port scale, facilities, and equipment. But some dedicated bulkships are designed and constructed to transport a specific cargo in the safest, most economical, and most efficient manner.
  • Iron ore carrier discharging cargo
  • Coal carrier loading on cargo
  • Woodchip carrier discharging cargo