Dry Cargo Ships Explained: Bulk Carriers

Bulk Carrier Vessel

Part 2: Bulk Carriers

The Link Ship Chandlers team is very passionate about shipping, which kind of goes without saying to be honest. After all, we spend our days working at a full-service maritime and offshore procurement company that services all of South Africa’s ports, so we’re around ships a lot, and talk about ships a lot. As such, you could go as far as to call us shipping aficionados (if you were feeling generous – the word ‘geek’ has also been used in the past).

In our previous blog, we gave you a concise rundown on the general cargo vessels. Today we move on to the fascinating topic of bulk carriers.


As the rather straight-forward name implies, bulk carriers are used to carry bulk cargo. This includes things like grain, minerals, coal and iron ore. In some cases, general cargo may also be shipped on smaller bulk carriers. Ships of this kind have a single deck and aren’t made to accommodate containers. These vessels are fitted with hatches that open wide to facilitate quick and efficient loading and discharging, and the holds are large and unrestricted for the same reason. While general cargo vessels can accommodate a variety of cargoes at one time, bulk carriers are designed to carry homogenous loads.

Bulk carriers are sorted by type in terms of size and carriage capacity. The most common categories include:

  • Mini Bulkers: Deadweight of up to 15 000 tonnes.
  • Handysize: Deadweight between 15 000 and 39 000 tonnes.
  • Handymax: Deadweight between 40 000 and 50 000 tonnes.
  • Supramax: Deadweight between 50 000 and 60 000 tonnes.
  • Ultramax: Deadweight between 62 000 and 65 000 tonnes.
  • Panamax: Deadweight between 60 000 and 70 000 tonnes.
  • Kamsarmax: Deadweight between 80 000 and 85 000 tonnes.
  • Capesize: Deadweight between 160 000 and 210 000 tonnes.
  • Ultra Large Ore Carriers: Deadweight of up to 400 000 tonnes (mainly used for iron ore as the name implies).

There you have it – a quick look at bulk carriers in a proverbial nutshell. 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 short-sea vessels. 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 ports in Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Durban and Richards Bay.

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