What Is Bulk Shipping?

Thousands of tons of bulk goods are shipped around the world by commercial ships every day, and some daily activities (such as adding milk to grain, refueling vehicles, or pickling food) would be difficult without merchant ships transporting minerals, grains, and other products.

You may ask: Why should I care about this? If you run a B2B e-commerce business and regularly send bulk orders to your customers, bulk shipping is a great option for you. In this article, we will explain in detail what bulk shipping is, how bulk shipping works, factors that affect the cost of bulk shipping, and products that are suitable for bulk shipping.

What Is Bulk Shipping?

Bulk shipping is the transportation of large volumes of goods, which are usually loaded directly onto the vessel without packaging. Such commodities include grains, petroleum products, iron ore, etc. These types of cargo are called bulk cargoes.

How Does Bulk Shipping Work?

Bulk transportation is divided into three main steps: storage of goods, loading of goods, and unloading of goods.

Cargo storage: Once the ship arrives, the crane loads the containers with cargo onto the deck of the transport vessel. Typically, each merchant vessel can hold several thousand 20-foot containers.

Loading: Once the ship arrives, the crane will load the containers onto the deck of the transport vessel. Typically, each merchant vessel can hold several thousand 20-foot containers.

Unloading at the destination port: When your cargo arrives at the destination, your cargo is loaded onto a truck for the last mile of transportation.

bulk loading

What Are the Factors that Affect Bulk Shipping Rates?

The price of bulk shipping rate is influenced by four factors.

Size and Weight

Size and weight are two of the biggest factors that affect the cost of shipping. The larger and heavier your bulk shipment, the more expensive it will be. You must provide the exact weight and dimensions of your shipment, which will be assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number based on the weight and dimensions of each item being shipped.

Shipping Distance

Distance traveled can have an impact on bulk cargo shipments, but the cost usually does not increase on a per-mile basis. Most shipping companies will have a complex formula to calculate risk based on origin, destination, and type of cargo. Sometimes the cost may also decrease as the distance increases, depending on the cost of shipping and the mode of transportation.

Dimensional Weight

Dimensional Weight

Dimensional weight, also known as volumetric weight, is a pricing formula for commercial cargo shipments (including express and postal services) that calculates weight based on the length, width, and height of an item. For example, items that do not weigh much, but take up a lot of space, will be charged by dimensional weight.

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Shipping or Freight Class

Shipping or Freight Class

Freight class: This includes the value of the cargo, the fragility of the items, and the ease of loading. Higher-value products and fragile items have a higher cargo class because they are more demanding for merchant shipping companies.

What Goods Can Be Sent Via Bulk Shipping?

Many types of cargo can be transported in bulk. Often, cargoes are divided into solids and liquids because they are loaded and transported in different ways.

Dry Bulk Shipping

Dry bulk storage requires the use of cranes, conveyors or silos, etc. Materials are generally sent out from factories, fields, mines, etc. Solid bulk cargoes include grains (wheat, rice, barley, oats, etc.), minerals (bauxite, copper, limestone, etc.), chemicals (resins, plastic pellets, fertilizers, etc.), wood or coal, etc.

Liquid Bulk Shipping

Liquid bulk products include products such as liquid nitrogen, natural gas, oil, cooking oil, milk, and juice, which are transported in tanks designed to hold liquid materials. Although liquid cargoes take up less space, they are heavier than solid cargoes, so liquid bulk products are usually transported by the largest ships, which can hold cargoes weighing over 400,000 tons.

Tips about Bulk Shipping

When working with a bulk carrier, be sure to negotiate for the lowest possible price, many carriers will offer discounts based on volume.

You can determine your bulk shipping requirements by considering your shipment category and the weight of your order. Generally, higher-value products will have higher shipping prices. Compare quotes from different shipping companies to determine which one is more appropriate.

Is Bulk Shipping Suitable for Your Business?

Fragile products are not suitable for bulk transportation, as they can be easily damaged during transportation. Bulk shipping also places higher demands on the liquidity of your business, and if the market demand for a particular product drops, you need to make the necessary adjustments to your business in a timely manner. Many e-commerce businesses do not have much warehouse space, but bulk goods often require a lot of storage space, which equates to another increase in storage costs for e-commerce businesses.

In short, bulk shipping is a viable option only if your business has a large enough storage space and can afford the additional cost of adding it.

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