Dry Cargo Ships Explained: General Cargo Ships

Cargo Ship

Part 1: General Cargo Vessels

As a full-service maritime and offshore procurement company that services all South African ports, the Link Ship Chandlers team tends to geek out about cargo vessels. It’s part of our day-to-day lifestyle, after all. However, we also know that the general public often doesn’t quite get what we’re on about when we go off on a tangent, which is why we’ve decided to devote some blog space to explaining the different kinds of dry cargo ships out there. Today we start with general cargo vessels.


The first mass-produced general cargo vessels were released during the course of the Second World War. At this time, ‘Liberty-type’ ships were all the range, clocking in at around 10 000 tonnes dwt (deadweight). These vessels are constructed to carry:

  • General cargo
  • Bagged/baled cargo
  • Bulk cargo
  • Containers

These days, general cargo vessels range in size from 5000 to 25 000 dwt, and normally feature two decks, which accounts for the name ‘tween deckers’. This configuration allows the cargo hold to be split into two different sub-compartments. Further benefits of the tween decker configuration include the ability to:

  • Carry several different kinds of cargo that can be kept separate in individual cargo compartments to avoid contamination.
  • Accommodate higher tiers of bagged/baled cargoes since the heavyweight is shared over two different decks.
  • Retract and fold the tween decks against the side of the hold if bulk commodities call for a single, larger hold.

Additionally, modern-day general cargo ships also provide the opportunity to load containers when fitted with special container fittings. All these uses have led to these vessels, quite rightly, also being referred to as multi-purpose vehicles. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile type of ship on the oceans today.

There you have it – part one of our series on dry cargo ships, done and dusted. Keep an eye on the blog in the coming weeks and months as we share more exciting news and insider insight on all things shipping in South Africa and further afield. In our next segment on this topic, we’ll take a look at bulk carriers. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with a member of the Link Ship Chandlers team if you would like to learn more about the services we provide from the port in Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Durban and Richards Bay.

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