What is Breakbulk: Demystifying the Breakbulk Shipping Industry

October 3, 2023

Whether you're a seasoned professional or new to the world of shipping, understanding the basics of cargo differences is essential to successful operations. In this blog post, we'll explore the specifics of breakbulk cargo, what it entails, and why it's a crucial part of the global logistics industry. 

What is Breakbulk?

Breakbulk shipment plays a vital role in the transportation of oversized and irregular goods around the world and throughout the US. Breakbulk refers to the process of handling and transporting individual pieces of cargo that are too large, heavy, or irregularly shaped to be containerized. These items are loaded and unloaded individually, as opposed to standard containers used for shipping a multitude of smaller items. 

Breakbulk Cargo Explained

Breakbulk cargo encompasses a wide range of goods, from machinery and equipment to steel, lumber, and even oversized project cargo. It includes items that can't be easily fit into standard shipping containers due to their size, weight, or shape. In fact, breakbulk cargo is the opposite of aggregates or liquids typically considered bulk cargo. 

The unique nature of breakbulk cargo demands specialized handling and equipment, making it a niche but critical sector within the logistics industry. Breakbulk is often the more convenient option though it does sometimes come with challenges like lack of vessel availability, increased risk, or sometimes increased cost. Marine transportation is a great option for mitigating financial concerns when shipping breakbulk as barges can reduce transportation costs by up to 60% compared to truck or rail.

The Breakbulk Terminal: Where It All Happens

Breakbulk cargo isn't just moved from point A to point B; it requires specialized facilities known as breakbulk terminals. These terminals are equipped with the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the handling, storage, and transportation of oversized and heavy cargo. They feature heavy-duty cranes, spacious storage areas, and skilled personnel who are experts in handling unique and valuable cargo.

Breakbulk terminals handle a wide range of cargo types and even facilitate the deconsolidation of breakbulk prior to transloads. Deconsolidation is when cargo is broken up from arriving vessels and then stored before they are shipped to processing facilities through trucks and trains.

Locating breakbulk terminals can be a tedious and time consuming function for shippers looking to move their cargo efficiently. Luckily, the OpenTug platform allows users to filter by specific cargo types to find terminals and vessels that fit their specific shipping needs in minutes.

The Significance of Breakbulk Cargo

  • Handling Specialized Cargo: Breakbulk cargo allows for the transportation of items that wouldn't be feasible to ship using standard containers. This includes heavy machinery, construction equipment, wind turbines, and more.

  • Global Trade Facilitation: Many industries rely on breakbulk cargo for international trade. From energy and construction to aerospace and manufacturing, various sectors depend on the timely and safe delivery of oversized and heavy goods.

  • Flexibility and Versatility: Breakbulk cargo is versatile. It can be tailored to meet the specific requirements of a project, making it an ideal choice for industries with unique or unconventional transportation needs.


In a world where global trade and commerce continues to expand, the role of breakbulk cargo in the logistics industry remains indispensable. Understanding what breakbulk is, the significance of breakbulk cargo, and attending industry events like Breakbulk Americas can be a game-changer for businesses involved in this sector.

Breakbulk Americas is one of the most significant gatherings in the industry, attracting professionals, exhibitors, and experts from around the country. It's an excellent platform for networking, gaining insights into the latest industry innovations, and learning from industry leaders.

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