What Goods Can Be Classified Bulk Shipping?

Are you shipping large quantities of liquids or dry raw materials? There’s a good chance they may qualify for liquid or dry bulk shipping, saving you money.

Though not everything can be classified as bulk, a large percentage of the raw commodities we consume every day are transported via bulk shipping. Bulk carriers’ share of total carrying capacity has risen seven percent over the last decade, attesting to the cost-effectiveness of this method of transportation.

What is bulk shipping?

Goods can be classified according to their type: unitary or general cargo and bulk cargo.

Unitary or general cargo: General merchandise is transported in packages or containers like TEU containers, sacks or pallets and the total load is counted in units.

Bulk cargo: Bulk cargo describes large quantities of loose goods, shipped unpackaged and loaded directly in the shipping vessel’s holds. This means of transport acts as the container and the cargo is measured by volume or mass.

What can be sent through bulk shipping?

There are several types of goods that can be sent through bulk shipping and are classified as solid bulk or liquid bulk.

Liquid bulk goods
As the name implies, these are any type of free-flowing liquids, including crude oil, petroleum products, chemicals, liquified natural gas, cooking oils and refrigerated foods (milk or fruit juice). Pumping stations and pipelines are used to load and unload these products. Specialized ships with tanks or deposits designed to hold liquid are needed to transport liquid bulk goods. Because they must adhere to stringent safety measures, they are built with double hulls for additional strength. Tankers are typically large vessels that can withstand more than 400,000 tonnes of deadweight.

Solid bulk goods
Solid bulk or dry bulk is a loose, homogeneous raw material or commodity that is shipped unpackaged. Consisting of unprocessed materials that will be used in manufacturing or food production, these commodities range from grain to metal, minerals, chemicals and wood. However, the three main bulk cargoes by volume are iron ore, coal and grain.

Conveyor belts, cranes, hoppers and silos are used to store and load the goods into the hull of a large merchant carrier designed to carry solid bulk, which has a single running deck with multiple hatchways. Dry bulk must be protected from moisture, which can ruin an entire load. Many solid bulk cargos are classified as ‘dangerous goods’ and require special attention during transportation because they can shift, causing ship instability. Though not as large as tankers, merchant ships have a deadweight of 200,000 tonnes.


If you are shipping large quantities of liquid or dry goods, especially industrial or agricultural products, it’s worth investigating bulk shipping. Not only do you save on packaging, but you can ship large loads via a single vessel, reducing the risk of split shipment delays.

Through our member companies, the ShipNorthAmerica Network provides a broad range of services in specialized freight movement. Visit our blog for more articles, news and updates for the transportation industry.