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Types of packaging & stowage methods for break bulk cargo

Commodities shipped in general cargo ships

The exporter or seller is usually responsible for packing the goods for break bulk cargo, whereby a consolidated consignment is broken down on delivery for distribution to individual consignees. The type of packaging required for any product varies with the nature and volume of the product as well as the method of transport it is carried over. Generally the following types of packaging are used:

Bagged cargo

The commodity itself has to be robust to withstand outside pressure and compression, for the bags will only hold the contents in one place and will not provide protection against external damage. Such commodities might typically be fertilizers, grain (rice, maize, wheat, etc.), seeds, dried fruit, sugar, coconut, coffee, fresh vegetables, frozen offal (meat from carcasses), flour, copra, small items such as shells, raisins, etc., mail, salt, mineral sands and ores, meal (fish, seed, copra, etc.), dried blood, dried milk etc..

Fibreboard boxes and cartons

Fibreboard boxes and cartons are very widely used for the sake of economy and efficiency. Although comparatively cheap, they are able to withstand normal transport hazards and protect the contents against loss or damage. They may be particularly suitable in the case of goods carried in containers from the point of origin to the destination provided the goods are not fragile. But if the containers have to be unloaded at the port of discharge for further transport to their final destination, they may have to be placed on pallets and securely strapped in order to protect them from pilferage and damage. Depending upon the nature of the commodities, cartons of the right type of suitable strength and sizes should be used.

Wooden cases

These have stood the test of time and their main advantage is that they have the wall strength to support superimposed loads. They are more expensive than the carton-type packing due to the cost of wood. Wooden cases are particularly suitable when the goods are carried by conventional methods and, when they are sensitive to heat, dampness, etc. The goods may require protection by way of packing with layers of insulating material, tar paper, sealed plastic covering etc. There are different types of wooden cases, including those made of plywood, which are being increasingly used by exporters.

Wooden crates

Fig : Wooden crates

Wooden crates

These are suitable for wooden packages built like a skeleton. The open crate can be used when the contents are sufficiently resilient to require a minimal form of packing to facilitate handling and stowage. Sometimes, it is used as an outer package to consolidate fibreboard boxes or give cartons extra protection. The skeleton crate is often used for the carriage of large pieces of machinery.


For certain trades, the use of hessian-wrapped bales is suitable, particularly when the product permits pressure baling or compression by banding. It is, however, vulnerable to pilferage, damage by handling using looks, etc..


Fig :Barrel

Drums, barrels, casks

These are generally used for liquids such as latex, chemicals, whisky, detergents, oil, molasses, casings, paints, powders, granules and other solids such as chemicals, cement, some ores and scrap metal.

Shrink wrapping

Dry chemicals, granular and powdered substances in bags cannot be easily strapped on to a pallet. When these items have to be unitised, bags are stowed on the pallet and interlocked; a polythene sheet of suitable gauge is then draped over the bags. This unit is then passed through a tunnel oven where polythene is heat-sealed tight, binding the bags to the pallet to form a good unit load.

Lift vans

When household goods such as tables, chairs, cupboards, glassware, brassware, etc., have to be moved, especially from one country to another, they have to be packed in "lift vans" which are unit loads specially built for the purpose. They are generally made of wood, lined with waterproof material on all sides and additional metallic proofing on the roof to prevent damage by rain and sun. These units are made to be handled by forklift trucks and packed in ISO 20 foot containers.

Preservation against corrosion

Machinery when being packed for export by sea has to be preserved against humidity and corrosion. All the open parts are chemically treated and sometimes greased. The best preservation is to vacuum-seal the machine. The machine is covered by high density polythene which is draped aver the unit and heat-sealed. A vacuum pump then draws the air out of the polythene and the machine is preserved for as long as one year under vacuum. In lift vans and other packaging, silica gel in sufficient quantity is used, depending on the volume of the package.

Special cargo

There are also various other types of packages designed for special commodities moving by different forms of transport. For example, there are special types of packages for air shipments of commodities like fresh vegetables, meat etc. Again the unit load device (ULD) system adopted for air transport includes containers of metal and fibre-glass as well as lightweight pallets.

In regard to shipments of ready-made clothes, the latest development, garments on hangers (GOH), is that they are carried on hangers inside containers for delivery in the same condition as they left to the consignees' premises or to the department stores at their destination.

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 .
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  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.
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  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;.
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  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. .
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  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 .
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  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. .
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  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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