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Logistics Terms What Are the differences? Containership vs Bulk Carrier

Registration dateNOV 10, 2023

Containership vs Bulk Carrier_What are the differences?
Maritime transportation refers to a technology for moving goods and people that has had a profound impact on global trade and cultural exchange. The history of maritime transportation began with the trading activities of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3000 BC, and gradually evolved with the development of trade to its current state.
Maritime transportation is a major part of world trade and is effective for transporting large quantities of goods over long distances.

Let's compare the characteristics of containerships and bulk carriers, which are mainly used for maritime transportation.
Containership : History
Containership
In 1956, the first containership, the SS Ideal X, set sail on its maiden voyage from Newark, New Jersey, to Houston, Texas. The use of containers allowed for more efficient loading and unloading of cargo, and standardized containers were also easier to secure during transport, reducing the time and labor required for shipping operations. They quickly developed as an advantage for transporting and stacking supplies, especially artillery.

In 1968, containerization was officially standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This formalization of containers worldwide allowed them to be used in a variety of transportation modes, but most notably in the shipping industry.

Since then, container ship technology has rapidly evolved to maximize cargo capacity and improve fuel efficiency. They have also been equipped with advanced features to increase safety. Today, container ships play an important role at the heart of world trade, efficiently transporting goods between continents and contributing to the internationalization of commerce.
Containership : Categorization Based on ISO Standards
A standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that defines standardized specifications for the efficient transportation and handling of containerized cargo. It sets out standardized design, dimensional, fabrication, and marking requirements for containers based on size and shape, and plays an important role in the transport and handling of cargo in the international shipping and logistics industry.

The most commonly used ISO container sizes include the twenty-foot equivalent unit (FEU) and forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU), and the forty-five-foot size, which is used as a standard for indicating load capacity. Each size container has standardized dimensions and connections that allow it to carry different types of cargo, and these standardized specifications serve to facilitate the movement of cargo across the global logistics network.
Containership : Categorization Based on Container Size
Container ships can be categorized into seven different types based on their size.

Feeders are smaller vessels, usually less than 3,000 TEU, that operate between smaller container ports. They collect cargo from smaller ports and transship it to larger ports.
Containership image
Small feeder: up to 1,000 TEUs Feeder : 1,001 to 2,000 TEUs Feeder max : 2,001 to 3,000 TEUs Panamax: 3,001 to 5,100 TEUs

The size of a Panamax vessel is limited to the lock chamber of the original Panama Canal. The lock chamber can accommodate ships with a maximum width of 32.31 meters, a maximum length of 294.13 meters, and a maximum draught of 12.04 meters.

Post-Panamax: 5,101 to 10,000 TEUs

These are containerships that cannot transit the Panama Canal and are used on the Pacific and transatlantic routes and for major containerized cargos between Asia and Europe.

New Panamax and Ultra-large: 10,000 to 14,500 TEUs.

The New Panamax is a containership that can use the Panama Canal, which was reopened in 2016, and can accommodate containerships with a total length of 366 meters (1,201 feet), a maximum width of 49 meters (161 feet), and a draught of 15.2 meters (50 feet).

VLCS Class (Very Large Containerships, 10,000 TEU and above): 14,501 TEU and above.

The VLCS class is used for long-distance routes between Asia, Europe, and North America.

Containership : Categorization Based on Loading Type
Full containerships

A specialized containership that carries only containerized cargo and no other cargo.

Full containerships image
Semi-containerships

A portion of the ship's hold is dedicated to containers, which can be loaded with other general cargo.

Semi-containerships image
Containership : Categorization Based on Container Unloading Method
Lift-on/Lift-off (LO/LO)

A vessel in which containers are unloaded from the deck by a container wharf crane or shipboard crane. LO/LO vessels are full container vessels and have a special internal structure with L- or T-shaped cell guides inside the cargo hold, which are used to stack containers vertically.

Lift-on/Lift-off image
Roll-on/Roll-off (RO-RO)

It is a containership that loads and unloads containers directly with trailers or forklifts through a large deck and ramp installed at the stern. It reduces the time to load and unload cargo and does not require separate loading and unloading facilities, so it is suitable for ports that are not well equipped.

Roll-on/Roll-off image
Hybrid

A combination of lift-on/lift-off and roll-on/roll-off, with a lift-on/lift-off deck at the bow and a roll-on/roll-off deck at the stern for loading and unloading containers with trailers or forklifts.

Bulk Carrier : History
Bulk Carrier image
Bulk carriers began in the 1850s to transport important food grains, ores, and minerals.
A bulk carrier is a vessel specifically designed to transport bulk cargo in unpacked form, and the first bulk carrier was built in 1852. Since then, bulk carriers have steadily improved in efficiency, economic factors, adaptability, and capacity.

Today, the market share of bulk carrier is around 21% of the global merchant fleet.
More than 50% are owned by Greek, Japanese, and Chinese owners, and more than 25% are registered in Panama alone. Bulk carriers play an essential role in merchant navigation, and advances have made them safer.
Currently, bulk carriers account for about 40% of the total merchant ships available for operation worldwide.

The earliest bulk carriers were coal-carrying vessels, with cargo loaded and unloaded by conveyor belts. By 1911, they had evolved into diesel-powered bulk carrier. A bulk carrier is a large vessel designed to carry bulk cargo. Usually, the cargo is either liquid or solid, and bulk carriers are optimized to carry these cargoes in large quantities.
Bulk Carrier : Categorization Based on Cargo Type
Universal Bulk Carriers image
Universal Bulk Carriers (MPP Ships, Multipurpose Bulk Carriers)

Universal bulk carriers are designed to carry all types of bulk cargo and account for approximately 80% of all bulk carriers in operation.

Highly Specialized Bulk Carriers (HSBCs)

These are used to transport specific types of cargo and are classified into five categories.

- Coal Carriers
Single-decker cargo ships for the purpose of transporting coal, ranging in size from 2,000 to 20,000 tons. Coal is fed into the ship by a longitudinal belt conveyor installed under the ship's shed, and is transferred to the deck unloader and shore. They can also be used to transport grain, wood pellets, and other smaller cargoes.

- Grain Carriers
A vessel used exclusively for the transportation of grain.

- Cement Carriers
Vessels intended for the transportation of cement, with special pneumatic, mechanical, or combined systems for self-unloading.

- Oil and ore carriers (OO-type ships, Ore/Oil Carriers)
A vessel capable of transporting oil and ore simultaneously.

- Ore Carriers (Ore Carriers)
Ships that transport ore materials in bulk, structurally identical to standard bulk carriers, with capacities of up to 400,000 tons or more.

Bulk Carrier : Categorization Based on Sailing Region
Seawaymax Bulk Carriers (Seawaymax)

Seawaymax bulk carriers are the largest size for traveling the locked waterways of the Great Lakes Seaway in North America, connecting the Great Lakes of North America to the Atlantic Ocean. SeawayMax bulk carriers have a maximum hull length of 226 meters and a maximum draft to waterline of 7.92 meters.

Kamsarmax Bulk Carriers

Kamsarmax bulk carriers are non-international bulk carriers that can enter the port of Kamsar in the Republic of Guinea, and are slightly larger than the Panamax class. They are 229 meters long, and their main commodities are coal, iron ore, and grain.

Baltimax Bulk Carriers

Baltimax bulk carriers are the largest type of bulk carrier that can cross the seas and enter the ocean with a crane entry depth of 15.2 meters and a working height of 65 meters in the air.

Setouchmax Bulk Carriers

Setouchmax bulk carriers are the largest type of bulk carrier that can operate in Japan's inland sea, the Setouchi Sea, with a tonnage capacity of 203,000 tons.

Dunkirkmax Bulk Carriers

Dunkirkmax bulk carriers are the largest type of bulk carrier that can handle the French port of Dunkirk, with a deadweight capacity of 175,000 DWT.

Newcastlemax Bulk Carriers

The largest type of bulk carrier that can enter the Port of Newcastle, with a tonnage capacity of 185,000 DWT, a maximum width of 50 meters, a length of 300 meters and a draft of 20 meters.

Malaccamax Bulk Carriers

The largest type of bulk carrier that can transit the Straits of Malacca, with a maximum length of 333 meters, a maximum width of 60 meters, and a draught of 20.5 meters, according to current legal restrictions.

Chinamax Bulk Carriers

Chinamax bulk carriers are the largest type, initially used to restrict access to Chinese ports, but later changed to the term "Chinamax compatible" for ports and other infrastructure that can accommodate ships with a length of 360 meters, a maximum width of 65 meters, and a 24-meter draft.

Valemax Bulk Carriers

Valemax bulk carriers, named after the Brazilian mining company Vale, are the world's largest bulk carriers by weight and length for exporting iron ore.

Bulk Carrier : Categorization Based on Design
Bulk Carrier image
Geared Bulk Carriers

A dry bulk carrier with built-in unloading equipment such as buoys, cranes, or conveyor belts. They can be easily loaded and unloaded on board. Typically, bulk carriers of the mini, handysize, handymax, supramax, and ultramax classes belong to this type.

Gearless Bulk Carriers (GBCs)

A dry bulk carrier with no unloading equipment, which carries its cargo fixedly on a specific line and operates an unloading port. It has the advantage of not requiring specialized cargo equipment, which greatly reduces construction and maintenance costs.

Bulk Carrier image
Integrated Bulk Carriers (dedicated ore-bulk-oil (OBO) ships)

A vessel that combines the design features of a bulk carrier and a tanker to transport ore and crude oil products simultaneously.

Self-unloading bulk carriers (Self-Discharging Bulk Carriers)

Equipped with a transfer conveyor belt for unloading cargo to shore and an arrow for releasing the cargo. Pneumatic loaders (suction-compression loaders, pneumatic method using a pneumatic conveyor) are used.

Lakers Ship (Lake, Lakers)

Operates on the Great Lakes of North America and is the largest bulk carrier in the non-commercial cargo fleet. It is used to transport cement, sand, and other bulk cargoes.

Bulk In, Bags Out (BIBO) Bulk Carriers

Equipped with equipment to pack cargo into bags while unloading.

Containership vs Bulk Carrier Q&A
Q: What is the biggest difference between containership and bulk carriers? A: Cargo types and purpose!
- Types of cargo and their uses
Container ships carry different types of cargo in standardized containers to protect them and make them easier to load.
Bulk carriers carry large quantities of liquid or solid cargo, such as coal, grain, and oil. They have large open-air rooms for bulk transportation and are used to transport raw materials in mining and agriculture.

- Loading and unloading methods
Container ships use cranes or forklifts to load and unload cargo into containers. The cargo is packaged so that different cargoes can be moved quickly, while bulk carriers mainly use pumps or conveyor belt systems.
Q: Which are faster, containership or bulk carriers? A: Containerships!
Container ships and bulk carriers can have different speeds depending on the purpose and conditions of their respective transportation, with container ships generally being faster.

Container ships often operate on fast schedules and precise timetables, with an average speed of between 18 knots (about 33.3 km/h) and 25 knots (about 46.3 km/h).

Bulk carriers are primarily used to transport large quantities of cargo, where safe transportation and economy are important. The average speed of a bulk carrier is between about 10 knots (18.5 km/h) and 15 knots (27.8 km/h).

In addition to this, the speed of a bulk carrier also takes into account economic conditions. For example, when fuel prices are high, ships may operate at slower speeds to reduce fuel consumption.
Q: Which are more fuel-efficient, containership or bulk carriers? A: Depends on transportation conditions and situations!
It depends on the situation, as the conditions that determine fuel efficiency are varied and complex. It depends on the ship's design, size, operation, and distance traveled.

Let's take a look at some of the factors to consider.

- Size and cargo volume
Larger container ships are heavier and larger than smaller ones, so they have a relatively high fuel consumption rate for transportation. However, if a bulk carrier is carrying a larger volume of cargo than a container ship, the fuel consumption per cargo may be lower.

- Transportation distance
Container ships are more fuel efficient when longer distances need to be covered, while bulk carriers can be advantageous for shorter distances.

- Cargo type
For the same distance, a bulk carrier may be less fuel efficient if it is moving a heavier, bulkier cargo.
Q: What is the biggest containership and bulk carriers currently? A: MSC Gülsün class containership and Valmax class ship!
The MSC Gülsün class containership is a very large size vessel operated by MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) and belongs to the ULCB. They are approximately 1,312 feet (400 meters) long, 197 feet (60 meters) wide, and have a maximum TEU capacity of over 23,000 TEUs.

The largest dry bulk carriers, the Valemax class vessels, are the largest to date, with a length of approximately 1,312 feet (400 m), a width of 230 feet (70 m), and a maximum capacity typically designed to transport more than 350,000 tons of raw materials.

Advantages and disadvantages of containerships

- Advantages of container ships
1) Versatility: Container ships can accommodate many different types of cargo and can be easily loaded and unloaded into containers.
2) Safety: Containers can protect the cargo inside.
3) Speed: Containerized cargo is efficiently handled at ports, allowing for fast movement.
4) Transportation efficiency: Containerized cargo can be moved via multiple modes of transportation.

- Disadvantages of container ships
1) Fixed costs: Containerization and dismantling require an initial investment and labor costs.
2) Volume limitations: It can be difficult to handle large objects or high volume cargo.

Advantages and disadvantages of bulk carriers

- Advantages of bulk carriers
1) Bulk transportability: Large amounts of raw materials and large cargo can be loaded and transported.
2) Low cost: The cost per unit of transportation is low due to the large volume.
3) Simple loading and unloading: The loading and unloading method is simple and fast compared to containerships.

- Disadvantages of bulk carriers
1) Limited versatility: bulk carriers can only handle certain types of cargo.
2) Delays: Loading and unloading bulk cargo can be slower than containerized cargo and can cause delays in the logistics chain.