What is breakbulk?

Breakbulk refers to cargo transported on vessels as individual units, as opposed to bulk cargo (such as oil and grains) stored in the ship's hold or cargo that is kept in shipping containers.

Examples of breakbulk cargo include heavy, oversized equipment and materials such as boats, turbine blades, machinery, steel beams, engines, and propellers. Breakbulk shipping also includes cargo transported in crates, boxes, barrels, or as loads secured to pallets.

breakbulk vessel, otherwise known as a multi-purpose or general cargo vessel, is used for breakbulk shipment. Vertraco's breakbulk vessels are equipped with heavy-left cranes to load and unload break bulk cargo faster than dockside cranes.

However, since each item needs to be loaded and unloaded individually, breakbulk vessels must be served by experienced stevedores to ensure this runs smoothly and efficiently. With Vertraco's long-running shipping partnerships though, you can be sure your breakbulk cargo is in safe hands.

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Breakbulk shipping - what are the benefits?

The key benefit of breakbulk shipping is the ability to transport oversized and heavy-lift items that are not suited to containerized transport. However, there are other advantages to break bulk shipping as well.

Little or no deconsolidation and reconsolidation

Breakbulk cargo doesn't need to be disassembled to be transported, which means it also doesn't have to be reassembled at the final destination.

This is a huge time and cost saving for those shipping oversized cargo.

More delivery destinations

Many smaller ports are unable to accommodate container ships, nor do they have dockside cranes for unloading containers.

Breakbulk vessels, however, can deliver to most of the world's ports since the loading and unloading equipment is already on the vessel. This means you can transport breakbulk cargo to many more destinations compared to containerized shipping, especially in underdeveloped nations.

Shorter transit times

Breakbulk vessels frequently have shorter transit times than container vessels since they tend to make fewer stops. For those with time-sensitive shipments, this could make breakbulk shipping the more attractive option.

Breakbulk ship
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Streamlined paperwork

Another advantage of a breakbulk shipment is that much less paperwork is required than if the cargo were broken up into separate parts. Containers with an array of goods have bills for each item inside, but with breakbulk only one is required.

Breakbulk shipping - are there disadvantages?

Breakbulk shipping tends to be more expensive than container shipping due to higher labor costs and the fact that the cargo takes up more space on board than modular containers.

However, these extra costs are typically recovered in the case of cargo that would otherwise need to be disassembled and reassembled to fit inside a shipping container.

Vertraco is your reliable partner for breakbulk shipping

Vertraco's shipping company Europe Caribbean Line (ECL) ships break bulk cargo between Northwest Europe, the Caribbean, and the North coast of South America on two separate scheduled services.

We specialize in transporting various types of break bulk and other cargo on one ship. Our trusted agents, stevedores, and shipping partners ensure your break bulk cargo is loaded, secured, and unloaded safely, before heading to its final destination.

If you'd like to find out more about shipping breakbulk with Vertraco, get in touch with one of our advisors who'll be happy to help.


Vertraco Shipping has been an expert in worldwide transport and forwarding for over 35 years. Sea transport is our business.

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