• Introduction to basic shipping terms

    Break bulk means coffee is stowed in the ship’s hold in bags – the cargo is loose. Sometimes the bags are left in the loading slings to speed up discharge at destination, at the expense though of less freight capacity per cubic metre. The disadvantages of break bulk shipping are numerous: the goods can be exposed to the weather during loading and discharge; the bags can be torn; there is a risk of contamination from other cargo during the voyage; and bags may be lost or mixed with other shipments. Marine insurance is usually higher for break bulk cargo.

    Containerized cargo (both in bags and in bulk) remains in the container throughout the journey, often to the final inland destination. Most if not nearly all coffee today (late 2007) travels in containers and break bulk services are no longer on regular offer. As a result, shipping small (less than container load) parcels has become a problem (discussed later in this chapter).

    Container transit is faster, more efficient and more secure than break bulk. Modern container vessels spend only short periods in port as all cargo is assembled before arrival, and container handling can proceed irrespective of weather conditions. Strict schedules can be maintained, and turnaround times are shorter. Ro-ro (roll-on roll-off) vessels carry containers on trailers thatwhich are simply driven on and off the ships. This does away with the need for gantry cranes. Ro-ro vessels are mostly used between smaller ports, for example in Europe.

    To note that nowadays (2011) most if not all coffee is shipped internationally in containers with break bulk possibly only occurring on some coastal stretches, for example from ports that lack the required lifting equipment or that use lighters to transfer cargo to coasters waiting offshore. But such cargo (coffee in bags) would then be containerized at the port where transfer to the ocean going vessel takes place.

    NB: For an extensive glossary of shipping and shipping-related terminology go to www.safmarine.com and look for ‘Glossary of Terms’ under Support.
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