Bulk carriers as the name suggests carries cargo in bulk. The various cargoes carried in a bulk carrier can be iron ore, coal, steel coil, wood chip, grain, DRI that is direct reduced iron, grain.

I have worked more than 12 years in bulk carriers so I guess I am the right person to share the details of a bulk carrier.

various cargos I carried on a bulk carrier steel coil, coal, grains, cement, sand for palm island in Dubai, rice bags from Thailand to Africa, etc to name a few.

Carrying Cement can be a nightmare for ship crew as it can stick to cargo hold and cleaning can be really a tough job.

There are two aspects to look at a bulk carrier

  1. Seafarer point of view.
  2. as a layman to Bulk Carrier.

Seafarer point of view

If you want to join shipping then it can be a good choice to join a bulk carrier as there are few advantages over other types of ships.

you will get enough time in port to go out and have fun, shopping and party as port stay can be up to one week in some cases.

you can expect long anchorage as loading and discharging take more time in port hence waiting for berth/port can be very long. The longest anchorage in my carrier was 50 days in Santos, Brazil. The longest port stay is 30 days in Denmark

Enough time for maintenance as long port stay and anchorage.

frequent party and less workload

At the same time, it comes with few disadvantages as well, let me name a few.

wages for all crew and officers are less comparing to other ship types.

The number of accidents is more as stress in ship structure is more and ship breaks into pieces and sinks in no time.

image credit wikipedia.com

As a layman to Bulk Carrier

Bulk carriers are ships carrying cargo in bulk. Bulkcarrier accounts for 22 percent of cargo carried by ship.

Bulkcarrier comes in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes starting from single hold mini-bulk carrier to nine hold large bulk carrier.

These single-hold small bulk carriers are found plying between small islands like Andaman. They have a small capacity and hence carries less amount of cargo

Large bulk carriers with 7 or 9 hold sometimes carry 4,00,000 tonnes of cargo and go for long voyages like Brazil to China which takes approximately 40 days

Mini bulk carrier has its own advantage as it can go to any port but in the large bulk carrier, it’s not possible.

Sometimes bulk carriers are fitted with their own cargo gear or in a simple language crane. In that case, these ships do not depend upon port facilities for cargo loading and discharging.

In terms of capacities, bulk carrier vessels can carry a maximum cargo of about 4, 00,000 DWT. The vessels are further sub-divided into six major classes based on their cargo-carrying capacities and the important marine channels through which they can easily pass. The various classes of bulk cargo vessels in the descending order of cargo capacitance can be elaborated as under:

–          Very Large Carriers

–          Capesize & handymax

–          Panamax

–          Handysize

–          Small-sized

Apart from these major classifications, there are several other classifications applicable to certain specific navigation channels. These vessel classifications however do not form a part of the international shipping domain but are restricted to certain geographical shipping arenas.

image credit wikipedia.com

Safety in Bulk Carrier

As I already said bulk carriers are comparatively unsafe so IMO came up with a few instruments to make it safer. In SOLAS chapter XII is dedicated to the bulk carriers for its additional safety measures.

Starting from design to operation various precautions are taken to avoid accidents in Bulk Vessels.

Additionally, ESP is incorporated into various survey programmes to make the Bulk carriers safer. ESP stands for Enhanced Survey Programme. It’s not a survey itself but it’s a programme which is incorporated into Annual, Intermediate and Special/Renewal Survey.

ESP gives guidelines to ship surveyors for surveying the ship and the areas which are prone to damage should be given special care.


Hopefully, you enjoy reading this article and now you know few basics of Bulk carrier ships.

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