Bulk Cargo

What is Bulk Cargo?

Bulk cargo is a shipping term for items that are shipped loosely and unpackaged as opposed to being shipped in packages or containers.

An item may be classified as bulk cargo if it is not containerized and easily secured on a vessel. Items such as oil, grain, or coal are all examples of bulk cargo.

Bulk cargo is classified as either free flowing, a liquid, or a dry item. This type of cargo is typically dropped or poured as a liquid or solid into a merchant ship, railway car, or tanker truck.

Items may also be referred to as break bulk cargo, which is cargo that is packaged but non-containerized. Some examples of break bulk include drummed fuel, bagged cement, vehicles, and large parts to build an airplane. Items described as break bulk cargo can be transported in bags, barrels, and pallets.

Use the following diagram to determine if your product classifies as bulk cargo:

bulk cargo

Bulk cargo is classified as wet or dry.


Dry bulk is any cargo carried in bulk in solid form. Such carriage is often referred to as the “dry” trades.[3] They would include:

  • Bauxite
  • Bulk minerals (sand, gravel, copper, limestone, salt)
  • Cements
  • Chemicals (fertilizer, plastic granules and pellets, resin powder, synthetic fiber)
  • Coals and cokes
  • Agricultural products such as dry edibles (for animals or humans: alfalfa pellets, citrus pellets, livestock feed, flour, peanuts, raw or refined sugar, seeds or starches.)
  • Grains (wheat, maize, rice, barley, oats, rye, sorghum, soybeans, etc.)
  • Iron (ferrous and non-ferrous ores, ferroalloys, pig iron, scrap metal, pelletized taconite)
  • Wood chips


Liquid bulk cargo includes any cargo carried in closed tanks and poured or pumped into the carrying vessel, such as:

  • Hazardous chemicals in liquid form
  • Petroleum
  • Gasoline
  • Liquefied natural gas (LNG)
  • Liquid nitrogen
  • Cooking oil
  • Fruit juices
  • Rubber
  • Vegetable oil

bulk cargo

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