Emergency Logistics Glossary

What is breakbulk cargo?

What is break-bulk? Definition

Break bulk cargo forms a special category within solid bulk cargo. General cargo differs from other types of goods in its physical nature and handling. In contrast to bulk goods transported in bulk, such as coal, ore or grain, general cargoes are generally those that can be transported and stored “in one piece”. The individual general cargo is called a “collo” (plural: “colli”).

Examples for general cargo

Typical examples of break bulk cargo are production goods such as semi-finished products, tools and machines, production and assembly parts, but also electrical appliances, tree trunks, furniture or clothing.

Properties of general cargo

  • The goods must have a solid aggregate state and be manageable as individual pieces.
  • Their shape and nature must also not change during transport in order to continue to be considered general cargo.

What needs to be considered when transporting general cargo?

Depending on the type of general cargo and the means of transport, there are various forms of packaging for transportation. Piece goods can be transported in containers or on loaded pallets, for example, so that they are easier to handle. Other piece goods can be transported as individual workpieces. The selection of the means of transport also depends on the type of general cargo:

  • Road transport: Trucks with tail lifts or lift trucks
  • Sea transport: Special container ships
  • Rail transport: special flat cars or container trains
  • Air transport: cargo planes

Oversized general cargo is usually shipped by road via heavy haul.

General cargo is often more sensitive

When transporting general cargo, it should be noted that it is usually much more sensitive than other types of goods. Even minor damage or deformation during transport can have serious consequences and lead to high costs. This means that general cargo, means of transport and packaging must be carefully coordinated to avoid damage. General cargo must be secured very well in the chosen means of transport to prevent it from slipping or falling over.

General cargoes are part of bulk commodities

General cargo is a subgroup of [ bulk goods ]. Basically, a distinction is made between solid bulk goods (dry bulk) and liquid bulk goods (liquid bulk). Solid bulk goods are further differentiated between general cargo and bulk cargo.
In the case of solid bulk goods, a further distinction is made between general cargo and bulk cargo. In contrast to general cargo, bulk cargo involves loose goods such as gravel, sand or grain, which are transported in silos or containers and are often used as raw materials for production or as construction materials.

General cargo: alternative designation

In logistics, groupage is also used as an alternative designation for general cargo. This is because general cargo can often also be summarized as consolidated cargo.

What is not general cargo?

  • Liquid or gaseous substances such as gasoline, milk or chemicals are not general cargo. They do not have a solid state of aggregation.
  • As bulk materials, goods such as coal, gravel or sand cannot be handled as a single unit. They also change shape when they are moved.