Dry Cargo Operations

The dry cargo market serves the needs of charterers in need of dry bulk cargo transportation and is served by owners of bulk carriers. Ships in the dry cargo market may be classified according to their size or deadweight capacity. Several types of bulk cargoes are carried in bulkers or dry cargo ships. Major dry bulk cargoes include iron ore, coal, grains (wheat, barley, soya, corn, etc.), bauxite and alumina, and fertilizers. The parcel size distribution function determines the allocation of which cargoes are carried in which ships (classified by size), mainly based on the demand for the cargo and the geographical distance between the place of production and the place of destination/consumption of the cargo. Iron ore, for instance, is mainly carried in Capesize bulk carriers because it is demanded in large volumes by huge markets such as China and originates in places like Brazil. Coal is carried in Capesize and Panamax vessels, grains are carried mainly in Handymax vessels, and fertilizers are carried mainly in Handysize vessels. Bigger cargo parcels can command economies of scale by virtue of being carried in bigger ships.
A dry cargo bulk carrier is designed to carry its bulk cargo in several holds (e.g., from five in a small Handysize to nine in a Very Large Bulk Carrier). The holds are designed and configured to ensure the stability of the ship and minimize the need for trimming the bulk cargo. Hold frames and hoppers at the top and bottom of the holds fulfill the aforementioned objectives. Frames in the holds may be placed in between the double hull design, ensuring that the ship is easier to clean (this is very important for chartering in the spot market) while maintaining safety and strength. The holds are also equipped with hydraulic hatch covers that may be rolled for opening and closing of the hatches to allow loading and unloading operations to take place.
Bulk carrier cargo operations are time consuming. The captain and terminal operators agree on a detailed plan for loading and unloading according to international regulations. Advanced ports have equipment—pneumatic systems, gantry cranes, and conveyor belts – that allows loading and/or unloading of thousands of tons of bulk cargo per day. After unloading, the holds of the ship must be cleaned in order to load the next cargo and avoid the risk of contamination. Important characteristics for the purposes of chartering ships include the ship’s deadweight (net tons and gross tons), length overall (LOA) and beam, draft, fuel (bunkers) consumption, and speed that can be attained in ballast and when laden. The grain and bale capacity of the ship is also important for determining the amount of cargo that can be lifted.
It is crucial that the ship’s characteristics are written precisely on the charter party so as to avoid any misunderstanding between the two parties. Any deviation on the agreed-upon ship characteristics may result in the cancellation of the charter party.
Seaworthiness is a very important term for the ship (and the shipowner), and it can also be construed to mean cargo worthiness. The obligation of the shipowner to provide a seaworthy and cargo worthy ship for the duration of the charter party fixture is absolute.