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International Forwarding Association Blog » Sea freight in Europe » Managing Diverse Cargo Types for Sea Transport

Managing Diverse Cargo Types for Sea Transport

Handling various types of cargo demands specialized knowledge and precise care in sea freight in Europe. Bulk, breakbulk, and liquid cargoes present unique challenges in preparation, safety measures, and loading techniques essential for safe and efficient sea transport.


Bulk Cargo

Bulk cargo, including commodities such as grain, coal, and minerals, requires special attention to safety. For agricultural products like grain, this includes ensuring dryness to prevent spoilage and the potential for hazardous gas build-up during transit. When handling chemical powders, the focus shifts to secure packaging and containment to prevent leakage and reactions with other substances.

The next step involves coordinating with port terminals for the appropriate loading equipment based on cargo type. Conveyor systems are typically used for moving grain and similar materials into the ship’s hold. For heavier or more solid materials like coal and ore, grab cranes, which handle large volumes efficiently, are employed.

During loading, forwarders must calculate the cargo’s weight to ensure it aligns with the vessel’s carrying capacity. In addition, forwarders must have a detailed stowage plan for how this weight is distributed across the ship’s hold. This helps maintain balance and stability during the voyage. Imbalanced or uneven distribution can lead to significant safety risks, including the potential for the ship to list or, in extreme cases, capsize.


Breakbulk Cargo

The breakbulk cargo includes non-containerized goods such as machinery and oversized equipment. Each type requires different safety measures to prevent damage during transit to the port terminals. For transporting machinery, for example, forwarders may use custom cradles or skids that provide a stable base during transport. Oversized cargo like wind turbine blades or industrial components is securely fastened using heavy-duty rigging and cushioning materials to absorb shocks and vibrations during transport.

Again, coordination with port terminals is key to arranging the right equipment for loading. Given the cargo’s dimensions and weight, specialized lifting equipment such as cranes and heavy-duty forklifts are commonly used.

After ensuring cargo is ready for sea transport, forwarders must plan their stowage on the ship to avoid imbalances. Heavy items may need to be loaded at the bottom of the hold, while lighter, more voluminous pieces could be placed on top or in areas with easier access for unloading.


Liquid Cargo

Liquid cargo, such as oil, chemicals, and liquid food products, demands special transport arrangements to ensure safety during transport. Chemical liquids, for instance, require tanks that are resistant to corrosive substances. Edible liquids like oils, on the other hand, need food-grade tankers to prevent contamination.

At port terminals, forwarders work closely with personnel to secure the right equipment, including pumps and hoses, for transferring the liquid to the tanks. They also calculate the total weight and plan the distribution of cargo within the ship’s tanks. This is done to prevent movement that might affect the ship’s balance. This planning might involve distributing the cargo evenly across multiple tanks or ensuring that tanks are filled to a level that minimizes movement of the liquid inside.