Meta Title: Pipe Cargo - Bulk Carriers vs. Container Ships

Meta Description: Depending on how they package and carry their cargo, water-based pipe transport vessels may be classified into container ships and bulk carriers. And they

Waterways are the cheapest and most practical way to ferry pipes for transport across long distances. Depending on the way they package and carry their cargo, water-based pipe transport vessels may be classified into two categories:

  • Bulk Carriers
  • Container Ships

Bulk Carriers

What are Bulk Carriers?

Regarding cost-effectiveness and general expenditure management, bulk carriers are the ideal way to transport pipes. Typically used to carry cargo like grains and ores, these are ships that specialize in transporting load unpacked bulk cargo.

Unlike regular cargo vessels, bulk carriers do not have a middle deck separating cargo from the upper holds. In place of such a partition, these ships have a wide cargo hold that holds more goods than an average ship with a separate middle deck. This partition-free design allows these vessels to carry larger loads, helping save on transport costs. 

Bulk Carrier Design

Bulk carriers are generally constructed with a more extensive design framework to carry more cargo. These vessels are designed for carrying goods and do not require the specialized tech usually found in passenger and high-grade ships. Their larger design makes them great in pipe transport. Because they do not contain many specific technologies, bulk carrier construction is carried out worldwide.

However, the large size of bulk carriers also means that the demands for these ships are inconstant. To hire such a vessel without incurring a loss, pipe exporters would have to import huge amounts of product, which is impossible to fulfill each time. To cover maintenance and running costs, most bulk carriers thus operate on a different schedule than other transport vessels. 

Most ships follow a schedule, traveling along specific routes, and meeting prespecified port calls. However, bulk carriers have a flexible schedule and mostly run based on orders and demands. These ships sometimes do not have a regular schedule or a fixed route - for this reason, they are also called tramp liners. 

Pipe-carrying bulk carriers are dry cargo vessels - unlike their liquid counterpart, these ships carry dry goods in their holds. On the other hand, vessels carrying gas or oil cargo are called liquid cargo ships. 

Type of Bulk Carriers

However, bulk carriers are primarily segregated by their scale and cargo-carrying capacity rather than cargo specifications. The latter refers to these vessels' DWT or the Dead Weight Tonnage - a crucial factor for all bulk carriers. 

DWT is important as it is the most commercially important tonnage standard implemented in vessel trade. This scale helps calculate the charterage by highlighting the maximum loading capacity of the bulk carrier. Based on this factor, these vessels can be categorized into 

  1. Capesize
  • The largest dry cargo bulk carriers fall under this category. 
  • These ships have a DWT of 100,000 to 180,000 tonnes.
  • These carriers represent 9% of the world’s bulk carrier fleet.

*Ships with DWT between 180,000 to 200,000 are referred to as Supersize Bulk Carrier VLOC

**Ships with DWT 400,000 and above are called ChinaMax, as they typically trade with Chinese and Brazilian harbors. 

  1. Panamax
  • These ships are so named because they pass through the Panama Canal.
  • Consists of 19% 0f the bulk carrier fleet.
  • Recommended draught for these ships is between 40ft to 50 ft. 
  • These vessels have a DWT ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 tonnes.
  1. Handymax
  • Draught requirements for these vessels are 30 to 35 ft.
  • Represents 24% of the world’s bulk carrier fleet.
  • Ship size ranges between Panama and Handy.
  • Typically has loading equipment loaded on deck like a crane to load/drop cargo.
  • DWT is between 44,000 to 55,000 tonnes.

*Supramax vessels with DWT of 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes may be considered an extension of Handymax class ships. 

  1. Handysize
  • Most commonly used fleets - 48% of the world’s bulk carrier fleet.
  • Lower DWT, typically between 10,000 to 40,000 tonnes. 
  • Versatile size - can enter and leave almost any port in the world.  

Container Ships

What are Container Ships?

Also called a box ship, a container ship is a mode of transport relying on intermodal steel boxes. This is an appropriate option for standard-sized pipe orders as this system uses truck-size containers to ferry non-bulk cargo. 

Also called containerization, the method of using specialized steel boxes to seal and transport goods (pipes) was first introduced by American businessman Malcolm Mclean; steel was the material for the initial designer. The early containers were made from a fluted corrugated sheet of metal lined against another flat sheet. 

The versatility of these containers is one of the prime reasons behind their enduring appeal. More than any other mode of transport for pipes, this method represents a contracted delivery time and ease of delivery. Containers are well-suited for intermodal freight transport. 

Container Ship Design

Intermodal freight systems may involve trucks, freight trains, and sea-faring vessels. This system is unique to containers because it involves transporting pipes across multiple delivery systems. 

Once the pipes are installed inside these boxes and sealed, they are carried across sea and land. In spite of these varying modes, the cargo within remains untouched and undamaged. Unlike dated designs, these containers are made from more sophisticated materials nowadays. Manufacturers use steel alloys as the base materials for these boxes due to their durability. 

These alloys can withstand high amounts of force and weather-corrosive elements. These properties are crucial as these containers have to produce the pipe cargo from brute force and damage during transport.

Containers are available in standard sizes and use special seals, which help that no corrosive reaches the pipes during sea or land transport. To ensure optimum hardiness, manufacturers prefer Corten steel over other alloys.

Pipes, when being shipped in containers, fall under the break bulk cargo designation. These are primarily manufactured goods packed onto and sealed in these steel boxes. This method helps reduce the shipping time as pipes can be packed and loaded all at once.

Up to 1000 to 3000 cubic feet of pipes can be stored in these containers simultaneously. The average weight of each box also equals 64,000 pounds. Up to 90% of break bulk cargo depends on containers as this method reduces shipping time by more than 80% and costs by 34%.

Types of Container Ships

Container standards used in these vessels include boxes of 

  • 10 feet
  • 20 feet
  • 40 feet
  • 45 feet
  • Open Top
  • High Cube
  •  Flat Racks
  • Refrigerated containers.

Compared to bulk carriers, container ships are highly automated with sophisticated engines and loading/unloading mechanisms. Automated cranes are one of the most prominent examples of this. 

A general container cargo ship will likely have this equipment to load/unload cargo. Depending on their loading form, these ships may be categorized into full container ships and semi-container ships. The former carries only containers on board, while the latter also includes general cargo with the boxes. In addition, a LO/LO container ship is a vessel that loads/unloads cargo using an onboard crane. These are typically full container ships.