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Types of Cargo Handled at Ports: Diversity in Maritime Transportation


Maritime transportation serves as a crucial component of global trade, accommodating a wide variety of cargo. At ports, cargo handling generally categorizes into three main groups: Bulk Cargoes, General Cargoes, and Passenger Transportation. In this article, we will explore the details of each cargo type, aiming to understand the diversity in maritime transportation.

Bulk Cargoes:

  • Liquid Bulk Cargo:Liquid bulk cargoes typically include large quantities of liquid goods such as crude oil, petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), palm oil, and fruit juices. They constitute approximately one-third of the total cargo transported by sea.
  • Dry Bulk Cargo:Dry bulk cargoes encompass raw materials transported in large quantities without direct packaging in the ship’s hold. Major dry bulk cargoes include coal, iron ore, grains, bauxite/alumina, and phosphate rock. While these cargoes constitute around one-third of the total cargo transported by sea, minor bulk cargoes encompass other agricultural products, fertilizers, cement, scrap metal, and petroleum coke.

General Cargoes:

  • Container:This category involves unitized cargoes transported in containers. Containers are reusable transport containers made of steel. Standard 20-foot and 40-foot containers are classified into various types based on the cargo they carry (high cube, open top, platform, ventilated, refrigerated, bulk cargo). Container shipping represents approximately 15% of sea transport.
  • Break Bulk:This cargo type includes palletized, bagged, or boxed goods that are relatively smaller in size compared to other general cargo types. For example, sugar bags or palletized goods fall into this category.
  • Neo Bulk:Neo bulk cargoes include industrial goods and are generally distinct from break bulk cargoes. They predominantly represent regularly and uniformly packaged cargoes. This category includes heavy machinery, paper, waste paper, packaged steel, bananas, and timber.

Passenger Transportation:

Passenger transportation by sea ranges from city liners to cruise ships, offering a wide range of services with different quality and service levels, utilizing various types of vessels.

Types of Vessels:

Six main categories classify vessels used in sea trade: Liquid cargo ships (tankers), dry bulk cargo ships, specialized cargo ships, container ships, roll-on/roll-off ships, and passenger ships. Each vessel type is specially designed based on the type of cargo or passengers it carries.

DWT (Dead Weight Tonnage) and Vessel Classification:

DWT is a measure expressing the weight a vessel can carry in tons. Vessels are classified based on their DWT capacity and length. For example, Panamax vessels have dimensions that allow them to pass through the Panama Canal. Countries with the highest number of ships worldwide include Greece, Japan, and China.


Maritime transportation, with its various cargo types and vessel types, plays a significant role as a driving force in global trade. The broad spectrum of services offered at ports caters to the diverse needs of trade and the economy in a globalized world. Each cargo type and vessel category addresses specific requirements and transportation needs, making maritime transportation highly flexible and versatile.

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