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International Forwarding Association Blog » Sea freight in Europe » Types of Cargo Shipped by Sea Freight Transport

Types of Cargo Shipped by Sea Freight Transport

Sea transport was the main vehicle of international commerce for centuries and is still a popular mode of transportation due to factors such as high load capacity, low cost, and reliability in bad weather. Sea freight transport is also a preferred solution for shipments across long distances.

Types of Goods Transported by Sea

The main categories of cargo transported by sea include roll on/roll off, break bulk, dry bulk, liquid bulk, and container cargo.


Container Cargo

Containers are used to ship items such as computers, meat, clothing, televisions, and toys. Goods are usually shipped in containers with metal walls to protect them against extreme temperatures, moisture, and bad weather conditions. Containers transported by sea also fit on train wagons, barges, and trucks.

Liquid Bulk

Hazardous goods that fall in the category of liquid bulk include fuel oil, petrol, and crude oil. They are shipped on big tankers and transported to refineries and other facilities. Barge-towing trains and tankers are used to ship petroleum products while chemical and food industry products are often transported by chemical tankers. The vessels are subject to regular monitoring and vetting inspections to ensure that they meet safety requirements. Logistics service providers that ship liquid bulk specialize in supply management, quality control, and labelling and packaging. Partnering with freight ship companies, IFA members also specialize in rapid and intermodal transport and have access to storage facilities that meet environmental, industrial, firefighting, and fire prevention standards.

Dry Bulk

The category of dry bulk cargo includes goods such as sand, salt, sugar, cement, iron ore, coal, and grain. Dry bulk can be divided into two sub-categories – minor and major bulk products. The first category includes items such as fertilizers, minerals, and cement while the second category includes products such as iron ore and coal. Some dangerous goods are also shipped by bulk carriers and require special measures during discharge, transportation, and loading. Cargo that may liquefy during shipping is a safety hazard as liquefaction may result in loss of the ship. Examples of dry bulk cargo of this type are zinc and nickel concentrate, coal, and nickel ore. Special measures are required during shipping, including visual monitoring and monitoring of moisture content.

Break Bulk

Individual or break bulk cargo refers to cargo that requires individual loading and includes goods such as art, household furniture, farm machinery, and vehicle parts. General cargo ships are used to transport break bulk cargo, and items are loaded in barrels, drums, crates, and boxes. Weather-resistant and military types of corrugated fiberboard are also used to ship break bulk cargo.

Roll on/roll off

This category includes rolling stock such as project cargo, heavy machinery, machines, and vehicles. Ports that handle roll on/roll off cargo offer a number of specialized services such as second stage manufacturing, spraying, dewaxing, and washing, repair, and installation of air-conditioning, hooks, bumps, and other components. Pre-delivery inspections are also conducted in vehicle processing centres. Additional services include stock management, fiscal representation, and distribution and storage of cargo.