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Various cargo handling techniques for seagoing general cargo ships

Planning and control of cargo handling


The techniques of cargo handling have, at least in ocean transport, developed considerably over the last decades. This is particularly due to:

(a) Technological advances in ship design and lifting equipment

(b) Rapid development and increase in the tonnages of bulk cargo

(c) The impact of unitisation, and

(d) The new and modern techniques of refrigeration, particularly with container carriage.

It is shippers, as a group, which have been influencing these developments. The requirements for efficient transport have led the transport industry, port authorities, shipowners etc., to develop new concepts for ship technology and cargo handling. It is up to the individual shipper to utilise the available methods of transport and cargo handling, in order to be competitive in the international markets. As a minimum, requirements must be properly defined by shippers so that the most appropriate services may be made available by the carrier.



The shipper will have to prepare consignments for transport. The handling and storage of cargo is not his immediate responsibility, but as it will influence the total transport cost and quality, shippers' will have to ascertain that the best available methods are provided and used. While in transit, commodities are represented by documents. It is in the shipper's interest to see to that the paper work is handled efficiently.

Cargo preparations

Some sort of packaging will normally be a prerequisite for carrying commodities as general cargo, especially in break bulk. Packaging has at least three functions:

(a) To protect the goods;

(b) To keep a consignment together;

(c) To prevent the goods from damaging the environment.

Transport usually subjects the cargo to mechanical forces (shocks, vibrations, pressures) and/or climatical forces (temperature, moisture). At least for a conventional shipment, the packaging needs to be strong enough to withstand the rigours of stowage and multiple handling.

Goods which are not packed properly may damage other goods in the same transport. In such cases the shipper may be liable. Paper and carton are traditionally mostly used in local transport, where the risk of damage is usually smaller. Plastic and especially jute are used to produce bags. Bags are commonly used to pack traditional bulk commodities in small quantities, like cement, sugar or grain. Wood is still common to make cases or crates. Drums and barrels are made of metal or plastics and are used for transport of liquids in small lots.

The shipper has to follow procedures laid down by public authorities as well as commercial practice with regard to packaging, marking and declarations of contents.

The marking should embrace at least the following:

(a) Destination: Address of the end receiver, transhipment, order-number.

(b) Handling instructions: Especially with fragile commodities it is important to mark the package with handling directions to avoid breakage and other damages. To avoid language difficulties a set of internationally recognised signs are developed for cargo marking.

(c) Dangerous goods: Some goods are classified as dangerous. In general, goods are regarded as dangerous if they have chemical or physical properties which can damage other goods, materials or the environment. Examples are explosives, flammable liquids or gases and poisons.

IMO, the International Maritime Organisation, has worked out rules for the handling of dangerous goods at sea in conventions which have been ratified by most member countries. These rules incorporated in the IMDG code contain regulations regarding packaging, marking and labelling, stowage requirements, etc. for various types of explosives, gases, and various types of inflammable materials.

Cargo loading and discharging The rate at which cargo is loaded aboard or discharged from a ship has a significant bearing upon the overall cost of transport. Excessive time in port deprives consignees of the use of their goods, and ship operators of the use of their vessels. Therefore, the improvement of cargo handling methods has been a constant aim of many of those concerned in the operation of ships.

Every cargo handling or transfer system consists of a number of identifiable elements. Goods are moved from one place to another, such as a quayside storage area and a ship's hold. Then there is the commodity itself, which may take many forms, as already described.

Finally, there is the medium by which the cargo is transferred, which may be manual labour, specially designed equipment or some combination of the two. In an efficient system, these four elements must be properly matched. This implies a certain cooperation between the port authority, the shipowner, the shipper, and the possible stevedoring company engaging the port labour.

The earliest efforts to increase cargo handling rates were concentrated mainly on the transfer medium, and led to the development of a wide range of mechanical equipment, such as cranes, conveyors etc., which has substantially improved loading and discharging rates, especially for bulk cargoes. General cargo handling has, however, not benefited to such a great extent from such developments.

In liner shipping, the principal restriction to high handling rates has always been the large variety of packagings used for general cargo, so that significant improvements have only become possible by reducing the number of different forms in which goods are presented for shipment.

Thus it is only with the adoption of unitisation that general cargo carriers have achieved high transfer rates and been able to take advantage of handling techniques similar to those which have been developed for homogeneous cargoes. It is customary to distinguish between vertical and horizontal loading of ships as well as other means of transport. With vertical loading, the cargo must pass over the rail of the ship and into holds through hatches in the deck.

Derricks, cranes and conveyor belts are commonly used for the transfer of dry commodities. Liquids and gases are moved through pipelines. This traditional method is very useful for the handling of bulk cargoes.

Horizontal loading of cargo is done through openings in the bow, side or stern of a ship. These ships are commonly referred to as roll-on/roll-off (Ro/Ro) ships as the cargo can be accepted on wheeled vehicles. Flexibility and fast port turnarounds are the essential feature of Ro-Ro operations, and cargo handling rates can be significantly increased.

Discharging door of a Ro/Ro ship

Fig: Discharging of a train coach via the stern door of a Ro/Ro ship

Not all horizontal loading ships are strictly Ro-Ro ships. Pallet carriers may, for example, have side doors only and the cargo is loaded or discharged by fork-lift trucks operating on the quayside.


Summarized below some more details on general cargo ship cargo handling procedure and operational info:
  1. Cargo handling procedure for general cargo ship

  2. Suitable safety nets or temporary fencing should be rigged where personnel have to walk or climb across built-up cargo, and are therefore at risk of falling .
    More .....

  3. Various cargo handling techniques

  4. (a) Technological advances in ship design and lifting equipment (b) Rapid development and increase in the tonnages of bulk cargo (c) The impact of unitisation, and (d) The new and modern techniques of refrigeration, particularly with container carriage.
    More .....

  5. Cargo information rules

  6. The MS (Carriage of Cargoes) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/336) [Regulation 4(1)] specifies that the shipper must provide such information to the operator or master sufficiently in advance of loading to enable them to ensure that: the different commodities to be carried are compatible with each other or suitably separated;.
    More .....

  7. Cargo packaging - general cargo ships procedure

  8. To achieve compatibility between cargo owners and the owners of the means of transport requires knowledge of the cargo-handling procedures in transport. These procedures are described with reference to major characteristics of commodities and cargoes. .
    More .....

  9. Cargo stowage plan

  10. The copies are forwarded to agents at ports of discharge to allow the booking and reservation of labour, as appropriate. Relevant details of cargoes, i.e. total quantity, description of package, bales, pallets etc., tonnage, port of discharge, identification marks and special features if and when separated .
    More .....

  11. Shipment procedure for cargoes in different forms

  12. General cargo is a term that covers a great variety of goods. In regard to modern cargo handling it refers to loose cargo that has not been consolidated for handling with mechanical means such as unitised or containerised cargo. It refers to individual items of any type of cargo, bagged or baled items, cases or crates, individual drums or barrels pieces of machinery or small items of steel construction. .
    More .....

  13. Information exchange on cargo stowage and planning

  14. Advance planning, exchange of information, and continuous ship to shore communication are all critical. All cargoes should be stowed and secured in a manner that will avoid exposing the ship and persons on board to unnecessary risk.
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  15. Lifting and carriage of deck cargo

  16. The safe securing of all deck cargoes should be checked by a competent person before the vessel proceeds on passage. The master is responsible for ensuring that it is correctly stowed and adequately secured for the intended voyage. Areas on the deck which are not to be used for cargo stowage should be clearly marked or otherwise indicated. .
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  17. Safe use of pesticides on board cargo ships

  18. Ship's personnel should not handle fumigants and such operations should be carried out only by qualified operators. Fumigation should only be carried out with the agreement of the ship's master..
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  19. Types of packaging & stowage methods for break bulk cargo

  20. The rigging time being negligible, and the crane is able to pick up and land permitted loads anywhere within its working radius. .
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  21. Various commodities carried by general cargo ships

  22. Cargoes should be stowed and secured in a manner that will avoid exposing the ship and persons on board to unnecessary risk. The safe stowage and securing of cargo depends upon proper planning, execution and supervision by properly qualified and experienced personnel. .
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  23. Methods of ventilation

  24. The holds of most dry cargo ships are ventilated by a mechanical supply and natural exhaust system .
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  25. Carriage of containers on cargo ships

  26. The process of loading and securing of goods into a container should follow the IMO/ILO/UN/ECE Guidelines for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTUs). Special care should be taken when lifting a container the centre of gravity of which is mobile, e.g. a tank container, bulk container or a container with contents which are hanging..
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  27. Working in cargo spaces safely

  28. Safety arrangements prior to working cargo should ensure that adequate and suitable lifting plant is available, in accordance with the register of lifting appliances and cargo gear, .
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  29. Cargo handling procedure for general cargo ship

  30. Suitable safety nets or temporary fencing should be rigged where personnel have to walk or climb across built-up cargo, and are therefore at risk of falling .
    More .....



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