General Cargo

Before containerisation the conventional (‘break-bulk’) method of moving general cargo in ships around the world’s oceans and waterways was by means of a variety of packages, in bags, bales, chests, barrels, casks, baskets, or simply by lashing goods together. Given today’s widespread usage of the ubiquitous ‘box’, much of the skill (time and tedium) of loading general cargo vessels has been transferred to packing (‘stuffing’) containers at container terminals, factories and such like. It is now rare for a general cargo vessel to be employed for the carriage of such a variety of general cargo, most of today’s ‘liner’ trades that are not totally ‘containerised’ depend on ‘parcels’. These will usually comprise larger lots of cargo, (parcels) that are not suitable for containerisation, and in particular cargo for infrastructure projects such as new power stations, or chemical plants where much structural steel or indivisible large pieces are included. Basic steel movements of beams, billets, tinplate coils, etc often provide the regular base cargo for such parcel liner services. However, it is still likely for a general cargo vessel to carry a full cargo of bagged goods – e.g. bagged rice or bagged fertilisers – which require knowledge of the importance of ventilation, and methods of securing, manifesting and tallying bagged cargo. Most modern bulkcarriers are described by their owners as ‘self-trimmers’ (see Lesson One and Figure 1.7 of ‘Cargoes’). However, this expression must not be taken too literally as meaning that no extra trimming of bulk cargo by shore appliances is required. Firstly, not all bulk cargo flows easily. For example, bulk scrap metal will need careful stowage and, because of handling difficulty, it is important to divide a vessel’s bale cubic capacity by the stowage factor of scrap metal in order to arrive at a more realistic estimate of cargo intake quantity for this commodity. Secondly, the expression ‘self-trimming’ applies normally only to lateral trimming across a ship’s cargo compartments, and rarely to self trimming in either end, fore and aft, of a cargo compartment. The expression applies also to full holds. It follows that for a commodity which only partly fills a cargo hold beneath the angled, self-trimming upper hold sides, that shore trimming might still be essential to spread the cargo across the compartment to render it safe for seaborne transportation. Thus the expression must not be taken literally, although it is reasonable to assume that a fully laden bulkcarrier described as a ‘self-trimmer’ should be capable of loading a cargo without shore trimming assistance.