What is Capesize Bulk Carrier?

What is Capesize Bulk Carrier?

A Capesize bulk carrier is a type of large cargo ship specially designed to transport bulk cargo, such as iron ore, coal, grain, or other commodities. The term “Capesize” is used because these ships were traditionally too large to transit through the canals of Panama or Suez, so they had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn, hence the name.

Capesize bulk carriers are typically between 100,000 to 200,000 Deadweight Tonnage (DWT). Capesize bulk carriers are an integral part of the international shipping industry, particularly for countries that are heavily involved in importing or exporting raw materials.

Capesize bulk carriers are not equipped with onboard cranes and other mechanisms to load and unload cargo. Generally, Capesize bulk carriers loaded and unloaded with shore cranes and facilities.

Capesize bulk carriers require specific deep-water ports and specialized facilities to handle their size and the volume of cargo they carry. Because of their size, Capesize vessels are more economical for transporting large quantities of bulk cargo over long distances.

Capesize bulk carriers are the largest ships in the dry bulk shipping category, which also includes Panamax, Supramax, and Handysize vessels. Each of these categories is distinguished by size, with Capesize bulk carriers being the largest and Handysize being the smallest.

Because of their immense size, Capesize bulk carriers operate primarily in deep-water routes, carrying bulk cargo between countries and continents. These routes commonly include transport between major ports in Brazil and China, Australia and China, or Australia and Europe, as these are some of the most significant iron ore trade routes globally.

The design of Capesize bulk carriers is primarily driven by their cargo. For instance, the holds are usually designed to minimize the chance of cargo shift, which can be a significant problem when transporting large quantities of bulk cargo over the open ocean. Additionally, the hull is constructed to withstand the heavy loads and the harsh conditions that can be experienced during long sea voyages.

Furthermore, Capesize bulk carriers, like other commercial ships, are subject to international regulations regarding safety and environmental impact. These include regulations regarding emissions, ballast water management, and the structural integrity of the ship.

However, the large size of Capesize bulk carriers also poses certain challenges. For instance, they require specialized port facilities and can only dock in deep-water ports. This means that Capesize bulk carriers’ routes and schedules need to be carefully planned.

Additionally, the market for Capesize bulk carriers can be volatile, with freight rates fluctuating significantly based on supply and demand for bulk commodities, fuel prices, and other factors. Despite these challenges, Capesize bulk carriers continue to play a vital role in global trade, particularly in the transportation of raw materials.

The economic viability of Capesize bulk carriers is closely tied to the global economy’s health. For instance, a boom in construction, particularly in developing countries, can drive up the demand for raw materials such as iron ore, coal, and grain, which are typically transported by Capesize bulk carriers. Conversely, a downturn in the global economy can reduce demand for these commodities, leading to lower freight rates for Capesize bulk carriers.

Capesize bulk carriers also have relatively high operating costs, partly due to their large size. These costs include fuel (bunker), crew wages, maintenance and repair, insurance, and port charges. Therefore, managing these costs effectively is crucial to the profitability of operating a Capesize bulk carriers.

From a technological perspective, there is a growing interest in making Capesize bulk carriers more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. This is driven by both regulatory pressures and the desire to reduce operating costs. Some of the strategies being explored include improved hull designs to reduce drag, more efficient engines, the use of alternative fuels like LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and even the use of wind power through technologies like rotor sails or kites.

Capesize bulk carriers are a key component of the global shipping industry, particularly for the transport of bulk commodities. Capesize bulk carriers are massive vessels with significant operating costs, but their ability to transport large quantities of cargo across the world’s oceans makes them indispensable. However, like all commercial shipping, Capesize bulk carriers face challenges, including market volatility, operating costs, and the need to reduce their environmental impact. The future of Capesize bulk carriers, therefore, will likely involve continued efforts to increase their efficiency and sustainability, while also navigating the dynamics of the global economy.

Capesize Bulk Carrier Specifications

A Capesize bulk carrier is one of the largest types of cargo ships. They are so called because they are too large to traverse either the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal, and Capesize bulk carriers¬† must round the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn to navigate between oceans. Capesize bulk carriers’ specifications can vary depending on the specific model of the ship, but here are some typical general specifications:

Size and Dimensions:

  • Length: Around 270 to 300 meters (885 to 985 feet).
  • Width (beam): Typically about 45 meters (147.6 feet).
  • Draft: Roughly 18 meters (59 feet).

Cargo Capacity:

  • Deadweight tonnage (DWT): Generally between 150,000 to 200,000 metric tons.

Engine and Speed:

  • Main Engine Power: Approximately 10,000 to 15,000 kW.
  • Cruising Speed: About 13 to 15 knots (24 to 28 km/h or 15 to 17 mph).

Fuel Consumption:

  • At cruising speed, a Capesize bulk carrier typically consumes around 50 metric tons of fuel per day, depending on the engine, ship’s speed, and other conditions.


  • A Capesize bulk carrier is usually manned by a crew of about 23 to 28 people.

Construction Materials:

  • Hull and superstructure are typically constructed of various grades of steel, designed for high strength and resistance to the marine environment.


  • The operational lifespan of a Capesize bulk carrier is typically 25 to 30 years, although this can be longer with proper maintenance and upgrades.

Other Features:

  • Due to their size, Capesize bulk carriers are typically equipped with a range of advanced navigation and safety systems.
  • Capesize bulk carriers often feature several large cargo holds with hatch covers, and usually Capesize bulk carriers do not have onboard cranes or other loading/unloading equipment.
  • Capesize bulk carriers are designed for long ocean voyages and often include amenities for crew comfort during these extended trips.

It’s important to note that the specifications can vary significantly based on the design and the specific purpose of the ship. For example, some Capesize bulk carriers are designed specifically for carrying certain types of cargo, like iron ore or coal, and these may have different specifications.


How many holds does Capesize Bulk Carrier have?

A Capesize bulk carrier typically has nine (9) cargo holds. However, the exact number can vary depending on the specific design and purpose of the ship. The design of cargo holds can also differ based on the type of cargo the ship is intended to carry.


What is Baby Capesize Bulk Carrier?

A “Baby Capesize” bulk carrier is a term used in the shipping industry to refer to a particular type of bulk cargo vessel that is smaller than a traditional Capesize vessel but larger than a Panamax bulk carrier.

“Bulk carrier” refers to a type of ship that carries unpackaged bulk cargo, such as grains, coal, ore, or cement in its cargo holds. The term “Capesize” originally signified a vessel too large to transit through the Suez or Panama canals, meaning they had to travel around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn.

However, the definition of “Capesize” has evolved over time. In modern terms, a Capesize vessel typically has a deadweight tonnage (DWT) of about 150,000 tons or more.

So, a “Baby Capesize” would be a ship smaller than this, but still larger than a Panamax vessel, which is designed to fit through the Panama Canal and typically has a DWT of around 65,000 to 80,000 tons.

The exact size of a Baby Capesize Bulk Carrier can vary, but generally, it might be in the range of 100,000 to 130,000 DWT. Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers can offer more flexibility in terms of the ports they can access compared to larger Capesize bulk carriers, while still providing significant cargo capacity.

Please note that the terminology and classifications in the shipping industry can vary and evolve over time, and different sources may use terms like “Baby Capesize” in slightly different ways.

  • Capesize Bulk Carrier: 100,000 – 200,000 DWT
  • Baby Capesize Bulk Carrier: 100,000 – 130,000 DWT


Baby Capesize Bulk Carrier Specifications

  1. Length: Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers are typically between 230-270 meters long.
  2. Beam (Width): The width can range from 32-45 meters.
  3. Draft (Depth): Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers usually have a draft of about 15-18 meters.
  4. DWT (Deadweight tonnage): Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers typically have a deadweight tonnage between 100,000 and 130,000 DWT.
  5. Cargo Capacity: Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers are usually used to transport large quantities of bulk cargo, typically ranging from 100,000 metric tons up to around 130,000 metric tons, though this can vary based on the specific vessel and cargo.
  6. Engine Power: The engine power of a Capesize vessel can range from around 10,000 kW to 15,000 kW.
  7. Speed: Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers usually have a cruising speed of around 13-15 knots.
  8. Crew: The crew size on a Baby Capesize Bulk Carriers can vary, but typically ranges from 23-28 people.



More Detailed Bulk Carrier Ship Sizes:

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