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A bulk carrier is a cargo ship that is used to carry unpacked cargo such as wheat, coal, various mineral products, and cement in its hull, which is designed to carry this type of goods.

The production and usage of these types of carriers began in 1852 and as a result of the big demand for transportation of bulk cargo, the production and use of this type of ships have been increasing so that now more than 20% of the world’s cargo ships are bulk carriers.

Another definition that can be given to bulk carriers is: single-deck vessels, built with single or twin holds and used to carry dry bulk cargo.

The emphasis on dry goods in this definition is to distinguish them from ships carrying bulk-liquid goods.

Classification of bulk carriers

Mini Bulk Carrier

Mini-bulk ships are ships that carry cargo from 1,000 to 10,000 tons. These carriers usually sail on rivers; however, they can also travel internationally on short distances.

Depending on the capacity, the dimensions of these ships are different, so their length is from 100 to 130 meters and their draft is less than 10 meters.

The number of holds of this type of ship does not exceed 3.

Small-Size Bulk Carrier

The size of these types of ships is slightly larger than mini ships so that they can carry a cargo of 10,000 tons to 15,000 tons.

Small ships and mini-ships are not two separate categories, they are in the same category, but to emphasize their importance we expressed them separately. As mentioned, these ships are used for transportation on domestic waterways as well as short international distances, and therefore they are very suitable for traffic between European countries.

Small Size

Handy Bulk Carrier

These ships consist of two groups. The smaller size group is called HandySize and the larger size group ships are called Handy Max. HandySize ships are suitable for carrying 15,000 to 40,000 tons and HandyMax ships are used for carrying 40,000 to 50,000 tons.

Handy Size

Due to their suitable dimensions, Handysize ships can berth, load, or unload in most ports worldwide, especially in the Middle East and North Africa’s ports, as well as in the Mediterranean and Black Sea ports, thus demand for this type of bulk carrier often is more.

The following image shows the dimensions of Handy ships:


SupraMax Bulk Carrier

Supramax ships are large ships. These carriers are capable of carrying cargo up to 60,000 tons. Depending on the type of product, it is better to use SupraMax ships instead of Handy Max for relatively long distances – from the Middle East to China or from the Mediterranean to India and China – and to reduce shipping costs. For example, if the ship is rented for carrying phosphate, the amount of 50 to 60 thousand tons is suitable for the consumption of large fertilizer and phosphoric acid factories or the consumption of several small factories for one month. The one-month period is suitable for the production and loading of the next cargo, which reduces the cost of transportation and, consequently, the cost of raw materials for producers.

Currently, the ports of Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon, the port of Al-Aqaba in Jordan, and some Egyptian ports in the Red Sea are capable of loading and unloading SupraMax ships.

Panamax Bulk Carrier

Panamax ships are the largest ships that can cross the Panama Canal. Panamax ships are very suitable for carrying cargo up to 80 thousand tons. Shipping cargo from the Middle East to long distances such as South America, Australia, and Japan on ships smaller than the Panamax has little or no economic cost.

Is the ability to carry large cargo an advantage for a ship?

It may seem simple, but it’s not easy to answer. Type of goods, consumption, and demand at the destination, distance from the origin to the destination, the possibility of transit of the goods to neighboring countries at the destination, the possibility of mooring in the port of the destination, type of waterways through which the ship must pass, security conditions in the region of the destination country And many other factors are influential in choosing the right type of carrier, and it is not only the shipping price that affects the choice of the required ship.

However, as it is clear, the characteristics of the ports of origin and destination and the volume of cargo to be sent are the most effective factors in choosing the right ship in ordinary situations (safe and depth seas).

For example, to send strategic goods such as wheat, which has a very high consumption, in normal conditions and deep seas, the usage of large ships for long distances is much more appropriate. But with shipments of specific and limited phosphate ore from the Middle East or the Mediterranean region to Europe, using ships larger than Handy is not very helpful.


Capesize Bulk Carrier

Capesize ships are large ships that can be moored by a limited number of ports in the world. These ships can load cargo of less than 125 thousand tons and therefore, berthing to these sea giants is not possible for every port. Such ships are not usually used to carry phosphate.

Cape Size

Larger ships than the Capesize are very large carriers that have very special uses, such as transporting iron ore.

The image below shows the relative size of bulk carriers.