Major trade today is concentrated very much upon the route between China, United States Brazil, Australia, Japan, Korea. There are, however, many other routes, with ships of all sizes from short-sea/coastal up to handy-sized deep-sea bulk carriers. There are very many minerals carried at sea other than iron ore, some forming an important volume trade. One such is bauxite, the staple constituent of the aluminium industry, the raw materials being exported in large quantities from West Africa (Guinea, Kamsar Port) and from Brazil in particular, to various aluminium smelters worldwide – e.g. in Canada, Venezuela and the UK/Eire. From the cargo types and seaborne minerals, one can gain an idea of exporting and importing regions where appropriate vessel/ship types are used.
Dry-cargo vessels can be divided into various size and type categories. However, major cargoes are carried on Capesize and Panamax dry bulk carriers:
Capesize: These vessels (of around 100,000/200,000 tonnes DWT) are, of course, limited very much by port restrictions and they concentrate on cargoes of iron-ore or coal on long-haul runs, operating principally from loading areas in Australia, South Africa, Brazil, West Africa and the United States and Canada, discharging mainly in the Far East and Europe. Not all vessels operating in this size category are pure dry-cargo vessels; many combination carriers -principally “VLOOs” (Very Large Ore-Oilers) transferring into the oil trades when the opportunity arises or out of the oil trade when freight levels are uninviting. Panamax: These ships of around 55,000/70,000 DWT are arguably the new “workhorses” of the dry cargo trades and many port facilities have been upgraded in recent years to accommodate ships of these dimensions. This process is continuing (e.g. Iraq’s deepening of the channels to and from the ports of Khor Al Zubair and Umm Qasr to around 12 metres) and as it develops, so the range of commodities these vessels regularly engage in carrying can widen still further. Most Panamaxes are pure bulkcarriers, although they have to compete with OBOs in the Atlantic when economic circumstances dictate, and the availability or otherwise of these “invaders” from the oil industry can have a profound effect upon the state of the dry-cargo market.