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«Break Bulk Shipping Study TABLE OF CONTENTS List of tables List of Figures Executive Summary 1 BREAK BULK CARGO 1.1 Definition 1.2 Types of Break ...»

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1.2 Types of Break Bulk Cargo The SAL Break Bulk Working Group agreed that the cargoes to which this study refers

should generally exclude and include the following:

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Shipping company interviews and visits to Port Kembla and Brisbane indicate that the majority of break bulk cargoes by volume are steel, machinery and timber.


2.1 The Nature of Break Bulk Cargo Although most seaborne general cargoes are now containerised with resultant benefits – reduction in cargo handling, reducing the possibility of loss and damage and providing better protection - break bulk cargo will remain an extremely important cargo into the future. In particular, shipments of oversized and heavyweight items e.g. mining machinery, excavators, construction steel, refinery equipment for oil projects, generators and turbines for renewable electrical generation that cannot fit into containers, are all considered to be break bulk cargo.

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Port authorities, stevedores and importers/exporters interviewed verified the significance of break bulk shipping to Australia. Newcastle Port Corporation reported strong break bulk trade with 49.5% growth rate during the period of 1st July 2008 to end of March 2009 despite the downturn in the global economy. During an interview with the Port of Brisbane Corporation, SAL was advised that the Corporation had taken the potential of break bulk cargo into account in future planning at their Port West development. This project was originally intended to be used for motor vehicle predelivery inspection (PDI) and medium to long-term storage of motor vehicles. This is now being reconsidered to be constructed as three dedicated wharves for cars and general cargoes. P&O Automotive General Stevedores also commented that they expect break bulk cargo volume particularly project cargo volume, to increase in the next few years. Furthermore, importers/exporters also indicated a significant increase in break

bulk cargo volume in 2008 and were confident of the future as noted below:

Stemcor Australia Pty Ltd and CMC Australia Limited, two major steel importers in Australia, alone accounted for a total import volume in 2008 of approximately 850,000 tonnes. Despite the economic downturn, they both expressed confidence in the future of steel imports.

Innovative Timber Ideas, a major timber importer, expressed a preference to move more of their timber products in break bulk form. Their product and logistics/distribution arrangements are more suited to timber being imported in packs rather than containers.

Caterpillar Logistics Services Inc. described how their large machines and equipment supplies support several important projects and industries in Australia. In Melbourne alone, Caterpillar provides machinery for 40-50 projects simultaneously; it has also won the machinery supply contract for the Olympic Dam expansion project in South Australia for which more than 500 over dimensional and heavy machines are expected to be imported into Australia over the next five years.

Australia is not the only nation experiencing substantial growth in break bulk cargo through its ports. The increasing demand for steel and project cargoes has been stimulated by massive government spending on infrastructure improvements worldwide which in turn has stimulated the break bulk sector. As a result the sector is expected to experience continuous growth with the expectation of increased break bulk shipping services provided by various shipping lines. Consequently, the major project cargo shippers such as General Electronic, France’s Alstom and German industrial giant Siemens will no longer have to rely on older and slower tonnage to transport their turbines and electrical power equipment.


General cargo vessels account for a respectable proportion of the world merchant fleet.

At the beginning of 2008, the total number of general cargo ships in service was 17,647 totalling 105 million DWT worldwide (Shipping Statistics Marketing Review- SSMR 2008). This amounted to 9.4% of the total tonnage of merchant vessels that includes tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, general cargo ships and passenger ships (SSMR 2008; UNCTAD 2008).

A steady growth in the number of general cargo ships worldwide reflects the strong and stable traffic growth internationally. For example during the period 2003 to 2007, 2,013 general cargo vessels with a total of 14.5 million were added to the world fleet (SSMR 2008). The scrapping level for general cargo vessels was extremely low because of the strong level of demand for break bulk tonnage (Plume 2006; SSMR 2008). In 2007 new orders for 800 general cargo vessels at 10.4 million DWT were placed with shipbuilding yards and only 191 general cargo vessels with a total tonnage volume of

1.1 DWT were reported to have been broken up (SSMR 2008, 1 & 2).

Table 3: Orders For New Ship Buildings

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It is worth noting that single and multi deck ships are not separated in the order book entries.

When trade grew sharply in 2007/2008, ships suitable for carrying break bulk cargo were still in short supply (Ferrulli 2007; SSMR 2008). The substantial growth in cargo opportunities also attracted others to the break bulk market. For example, six Suezmax vessels from Frontline, an oil tanker company, were converted to heavy lift vessels while established break bulk operators were preparing to take delivery of new multipurpose ships (Dynaliners 2009). An SAL member reported that since early 2008 they have had on order ten 31,000 dwt multipurpose vessels with 700 tonnes heavy lift capacity each (Dynaliners 2009). Rickmers Linie ordered four up to eight 24,000 dwt multipurpose vessels in July 2008 (Dynaliners 2009).

However, a downturn occurred after the 2008 global financial crisis hit resulting in a large number of new building cancellations by major operators beginning in mid 2008 (Dynaliners 2009). Despite this 73.5% of the general cargo vessels i.e., 1,057 vessels, in the order book are still expected to be delivered by the end of 2009 which will provide significant extra capacity for break bulk cargo (SSMR 2008). The new orders for general cargo vessels are expected to continue growing at 3.5% annually through 2012, less than other segments but nonetheless significant (Lloyd’s Register Fairplay 2009;

MarineTalk 2009).

–  –  –


Break bulk, the forgotten cousin of the global shipping industry, has received international attention recently mainly due to the large number of major infrastructure and commercial projects underway worldwide e.g. mining projects and renewable wind power projects. The demand for break bulk cargo space for machinery, equipment and components needed for construction of these projects has been strengthening for some time across Europe, North America, South America, Middle East, Asia and Africa as well as for Australia (Barnard 2007). Although the global economic downturn caused by the GFC has softened the demand for many break bulk cargoes, the long term international significance of break bulk cargo to be moved by sea cannot be discounted.

In the USA, break bulk cargo has been perceived as an important one for the shipping industry and is expected to remain strong at least for the next ten years (GlobalSecurity.org n.d.). Although the global economic recession threatens to slow the overall increase in containerized trade to/from the USA, the growth of breakbulk business is not likely to slow to the same extent. The main break bulk ports in the USA are attracting new break bulk services to handle the increasing traffic (Leach 2008). For instance, in March, 2009, South Carolina Port Authority reported a 26.5% increase in break bulk volume for this fiscal year, compared with 2008 (Bird 2009). The cargoes included machinery and wind turbine equipment and are providing steady business for break bulk ports and carriers (Leach 2007; Nodar 2008). Interestingly, US ports are seeing sizeable volumes of used equipment being shipped to the Middle East, West Africa, India, China, South America and Russia (Leach 2008). The interest in wind power has seen a considerable rise in the number of vessels that carried wind energy components to a number of East Coast US ports (Nodar 2008).

In Canada, various players (e.g. freight forwarders and exporters) involved in international trade reported a capacity shortage for break bulk cargo. Some exporters are also struggling to find available space on a limited number of vessels (Horibe 2008).

Others have to book shipments for break bulk cargoes weeks in advance (Horibe 2008).

They also strongly believe that shipping services in the break bulk sector must improve due to the high demand for resources, mining, oil and gas development and exploration in Canada (Horibe 2008). Despite the global downturn forcing delays and cancellations of some energy and infrastructure projects from Canada to Australia, the lack of vessel space for over-dimensional equipment and understaffing at shipping lines are the existing problems and will affect the future development worldwide when trade recovers (Horibe 2008).

In a special break bulk report in Canada’s weekly transportation and trade logistics magazine—Canadian Sailings’ - Kathlyn Horibe (2008) stated that “Break bulk is definitely a smaller piece of the transport pie, but its importance can never be undervalued. We’ll always have a need for heavy industry, power generation and refineries, but we may lose the infrastructure and ability to rebuild these industries in Canada. ” In Europe, although break bulk is a relatively small business compared with container handling, European ports still support break bulk operations. In particular, Europe’s top ports (e.g. Rotterdam) are refocusing their efforts on break bulk and general cargo now because they consider break bulk adds greater value (Barnard 2008). Also, the 4th 9  annual break bulk European conference and exhibition was held in Antwerp— for decades Europe’s most important gateway for steel products—on 26-28 May, 2009 (Port of Rotterdam). The allure of break bulk in Europe was partially aroused by Babcock and Brown Infrastructure (BBI), a Sydney based unit of Australia’s secondlargest investment bank (Barnard 2008). They announced break bulk cargo handling acquisition at several European ports from Finland to Italy (Barnard 2008). As BBI has demonstrated, there are still plenty of benefits (e.g. strong and stable traffic growth, lucrative untapped consolidation prospects, solid operating margin for well-run operations) to be exploited in the “unfashionable” break bulk sector although severe uncertainty will be faced by them (Barnard 2008).

Asian break bulk and project cargo shipping has experienced double digit growth annually in the past few years. According to the Breakbulk Asia Transportation Conference in Singapore (17 & 18 Feb, 2009), the demand for break bulk cargo especially project cargo remains strong in China and South East Asian countries.

Despite being heavily hit by the economic crisis, China continues to invest multibillion dollars in infrastructure projects such as refineries, highways, power plants and airports resulting in an on-going strong demand for break bulk imports. Moreover, many Chinese ports are experiencing a boom in break bulk shipments to and from Africa because of China’s growing infrastructure investment aid to Africa (McLymont 2008).

Some African countries, whose economies have been increasing at the rate of 5-6% annually in last ten years, need large scale infrastructure projects such as new transportation and power plants to support further growth (McLymont 2008). With large amounts of cash reserves provided by China ($1.6 trillion), USA ($62 billion) and other western countries, substantial infrastructure projects that are going to benefit African countries will boost the demand for break bulk imports (McLymont 2008).

In summary, international awareness of the importance of break bulk shipping will continue increasing due to the global demand for break bulk cargo which is projected to be strong especially for timber, steel, machinery and other oversize equipment for worldwide investment on infrastructure development and resources exploration.


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