Some ports and the infrastructures around these ports are not equipped to handle bulk grain, in which case the cargo must be carried in bags throughout the loading operation, seaborne carriage, discharge and distribution process.
Where bagging is not feasible in the loading area, through reasons of cost or lack of facilities, there may well be means of bagging enroute, and in some trades it is regular practice for a ship to load bulk grain, to transport that cargo to a port where bagging facilities can be utilised, and to reload bagged grain for onward carriage to the port of discharge.
Commonly, Bagged Grain increases the stowage factor of the product, ships carrying around 10% less Bagged Grain than in bulk form. Therefore, traders involved in bagging enroute must calculate to load only 90% of a ships bulk capacity at the original loading port, although certain organisations skilled in bagging and restowing claim to achieve bagged quantities close to the bulk figures.
Usually, Bagged Grain is more laborious to handle than bulk, and more time consuming still to stow.
In some ports, Australia is an example, the cost of stowing bagged grain is considerable and thus a method known as random stow is popularly employed, whereby bags of grain are lowered into a ships hold and not otherwise handled; which worsens stowage capacity still further.
Even today, there are places where Bulk Grain may require to be bagged by hand in ships’ holds, a few bags at a time being hoisted ashore by rope sling, adding considerably to discharge time.
Contrarily, grain can be pre-slung in convenient groups of bags when loaded, to expedite discharge operations. Grain in bags remains an essential and major part of seaborne trade, and will remain so as long as such cargoes need to be directed to poorer regions of the world whose folk are unable to equip ports with sophisticated equipment, and which in any case, have inadequate onward transport facilities from their ports of discharge.
A further consideration with bagged cargo is the liability of damage to sacks during their handling, and thus the loss of valuable cargo through spillage; together with the risk of pilferage through the stealing of sacks, even of their miscounting at either or both the loading and discharging ports. To protect themselves against these risks, it behoves traders and shipowners alike to scrutinise the cargo handling performance of the stevedores, to ensure that proper methods of handling are employed, not for example, hooks which tear open bags, and that, if possible, adequate tallymen are employed to count bags loaded or discharged.
Since cargo claims for shortage on delivery can be costly, easily concocted but difficult to defend; offending parties such as inefficient shore labour must be placed on written notice when such incidents occur, and if possible, local (P&I Protection and Indemnity) Club assistance should be sought.
In Bagged Grain shipping, where handling problems are anticipated at the discharge port, it is prudent to contract to carry spare bags, needles and twine, in order to replace or repair damaged grain sacks.