How Goods Are Shipped on Oceanic Vessels

All ships are built according to the way they transport goods. This article will discuss the three most popular ways of transporting goods by ship.

Container Shipping

Today, most international shipping is done using containers. There are many advantages to be gained by using containers for shipping.

  • Being able to ship the container door to door
  • Containers are easy to load and unload. They stack just like Lego’s
  • Containers provide an added security benefit. Thieves cannot see what is in the container.
  • It is easy to transport containers from one location to another (by rail or by road).

Containers come in two sizes even though there are over 20 different internationally standardized types of containers. A container can be refrigerated or open top but still must be one of the two basic sizes:

  • 20ft: 589cm (l) x 235cm (w) x 239cm (h) – volume 33.2 cubic meters
  • 40ft: 1,203cm (l) x 235cm (w) x 239cm (h) – volume 67.7 cubic meters

A large container ship can transport more than 8,000 20ft containers.


Break-bulk translates into any non-bulk cargo that is not packaged. For example goods that come in crates, drums, on pallets, or even in sacks will be shipped break bulk. Break-bulk is usually used for the transport of products such as fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also the preferred mode of transportation when the port of destination is not able to handle compartmentalized goods.

The problem with break bulk transport is that the goods are easily damaged as they are carried freely on the ship. Damaged can be reduced by surrounding the cargo with soft packing materials in order to absorb any blows while in transport.

Bulk Shipping

Certain commodities such as coal, ore and oil, which are usually shipped in very large amounts, will be carried in bulk cargo ships.