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All You Need to Know About Different Bulk Shipping Options

Choose the Right Bulk Shipping Method for Your Cargo


If you are looking to transport large quantities of cargo, choosing the right bulk shipping method is crucial for the safe and efficient shipment of your goods. With so many options available, deciding which is best for your specific needs can be overwhelming. This article will provide an overview of the most common bulk shipping options and their advantages and disadvantages, helping you make an informed decision.

What are Different Bulk Shipping Options


Bulk shipping options offer a wide range of choices for transporting dry and liquid commodities, each with its own unique features and advantages.

Bulk Vessels are the go-to option for both dry and liquid commodities. They can come in the form of single or multi-hold cargo ships. Dry cargos like grains, coal, ore, steel coils, and cement are shipped using bulk carriers ranging in size up to 400,000 metric tons. On the other hand, liquid bulk commodities such as fuels, biofuels, lubricants, oils, chemicals, liquid fertilizers, and edible oils and juices are shipped using tankers specifically designed to load and unload liquids.

ISO Tank Containers, on the other hand, are versatile, well-proven, and safe for transporting bulk liquids. These containers are made from a stainless-steel cylinder and are surrounded by a standard 20-foot container steel framework, making them intermodal and suitable for transport via rail, road, and sea. They are ideal for hazardous and non-hazardous liquids and can carry between 24,000 to 26,000 liters of cargo.

Flexitanks are another option for the carriage of non-hazardous liquids, designed as flexible bladders installed in standard shipping containers. This option is perfect for those who need to transport large volumes of liquid cargo cost-effectively and efficiently.

Dry Bulk Liners are designed for carrying commodities such as polymers, powders, and grains in standard shipping containers, facilitating loading methods such as vertical, pneumatic, or conveyor loading systems. This option is ideal for those needing to transport dry bulk commodities securely.

IBC Totes and Drums are smaller packaging types; These versatile containers can carry up to 1 cubic meter of hazardous and non-hazardous liquids, making them an excellent choice for businesses that transport smaller volumes.

Bulk Vessels are the go-to option for both dry and liquid commodities. They can come in the form of single or multi-hold cargo ships. Dry cargos like grains, coal, ore, steel coils, and cement are shipped using bulk carriers ranging in size up to 400,000 metric tons. On the other hand, liquid bulk commodities such as fuels, biofuels, lubricants, oils, chemicals, liquid fertilizers, and edible oils and juices are shipped using tankers specifically designed to load and unload liquids.

ISO Tank Containers, on the other hand, are versatile, well-proven, and safe for transporting bulk liquids. These containers are made from a stainless-steel cylinder and are surrounded by a standard 20-foot container steel framework, making them intermodal and suitable for transport via rail, road, and sea. They are ideal for hazardous and non-hazardous liquids and can carry between 24,000 to 26,000 liters of cargo.

Flexitanks are another option for the carriage of non-hazardous liquids, designed as flexible bladders installed in standard shipping containers. This option is perfect for those who need to transport large volumes of liquid cargo cost-effectively and efficiently.

Dry Bulk Liners are designed for carrying commodities such as polymers, powders, and grains in standard shipping containers, facilitating loading methods such as vertical, pneumatic, or conveyor loading systems. This option is ideal for those needing to transport dry bulk commodities securely.

IBC Totes and Drums are smaller packaging types; These versatile containers can carry up to 1 cubic meter of hazardous and non-hazardous liquids, making them an excellent choice for businesses that transport smaller volumes.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Bulk Shipping Equipment?


Selecting the perfect bulk shipping equipment for your cargo ensures a smooth and secure transportation process. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and understanding them is vital to making the right decision. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Bulk vessels are a popular option for transporting dry and liquid commodities.

Advantages

Economic freight rates. Streamlined shipping process with just one set of documents.

Disadvantages

Need for onshore tankage at both ends, numerous transfer points, and limited fleet capacity. Unsuitable for certain products and chemicals. Cross-contamination possible.

For a more flexible option, flexitanks are worth considering. 

Advantages

One-way cost system and are globally available. Plus, they are made from single-use, food-grade materials and can be used for storage.

Disadvantages

Need for technical expertise, temperature limitations, and escalating detention costs over time. It's also worth noting that they are only suitable for non-hazardous materials and less efficient than ISO tanks when it comes to heating.

ISO tanks are another popular option for transporting liquids.

Advantages

They are reusable and suitable for hazardous materials, and they can also be heated and used for storage. Additionally, they provide high safety and offer a negotiable free time and consistent detention costs compared to other containerized systems.

Disadvantages

Their availability and cost to purchase, as well as potential empty repositioning and cleaning costs.

Finally, several smaller packaging options are to consider, including IBC totes, drums, and packed goods. 

Advantages

Readily available worldwide and can be reused, recycled, or resold.

Disadvantages

Residue and heel loss, disposal costs, additional handling costs, and limited payload capacity.

What Is the Best Option for My Supply Chain? What Criteria Do I Need to Consider?


Looking for the best bulk shipping option for your business can seem complex. However, with a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can select the right option to optimize your logistics.

Ensure product and packaging compatibility

A qualified operator can help you with this by checking the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). 

Consider the loading and unloading sites

Is there any additional investment required for storage, filling, or receiving equipment?

If you’re shipping liquids

Choosing between ISO Tanks and Flexitanks depends on the shipper and receiver's own Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) protocols, trade lane, availability of equipment, and whether there is an opportunity to reload ISO tanks. The trade lane also impacts which mode of transport is more sustainable.

If you have limited storage capacity or distribute smaller quantities

IBC Totes and Drums are generally the go-to options. However, the heating element is key to determining the preferred option if you're shipping viscous or solidifying cargo.

To make the process smoother, use this checklist to cover all bases:

 

  • Product MSDS 
  • Pick up and delivery location 
  • Customer terms of sale, including volume, tonnage, and validity 
  • Schedule regularity 
  • Container and ISO Tank availability 
  • Security of supply for Flexitank or Dry Bulk liner of smaller packs 
  • Site infrastructure, including storage capacities and fitting locations 
  • EHS requirements at the sites 
  • Availability of trained operators 
  • Need for heating the cargo

With a thorough evaluation of these factors, you can confidently choose the shipping option that perfectly aligns with your supply chain needs, leading to a streamlined and efficient bulk transport logistics process.

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