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Break Bulking

Break Bulking


This is the point at which a cargo is unloaded and broken up into smaller units prior to delivery, minimizing transport costs. This frequently happens at waterfront sites where imports are often processed to cut costs. 

  • A break-in-bulk point is a place where goods are transferred from one mode of transport to another, for example the docks where goods transfer from ship to truck.
  • Break Bulk Cargo: This is cargo, which is transported en masse, in large volumes, in specially constructed ships. The cargo may be dry, liquid or gas.

Methods of Handling Bulk Cargo


  • A grab is made up of a set of twin buckets similar to those fitted on earthmovers. 
  • The grab is connected to the crane by wire or chain. 
  • The buckets open to collect and close to retain the bulk cargo in the buckets. 
  • To disgorge the cargo, the two buckets open outward, releasing the bulk cargo. 
  • For example, grabs are used to handle most bulk grains and cereals.


Methods of Handling Bulk Cargo

Magnetic grabs: 

  • This method is used for handling bulk steel scrap metal. 
  • The system consists of a solid steel plate fitted on a crane hook. 
  • The crane driver magnetizes the steel plate by flicking a switch located inside the crane cabin. 
  • The magnetized grab attracts and retains the steel scrap. 
  • To discharge the scrap metal, the driver once again flicks the switch thereby de-energizing the steel plate and releasing the steel scrap.


  • The types of cargoes handled using evacuators include cereals and grains. 
  • Evacuators use vacuum generators situated along the pipeline to suck cargo from the ship’s hold, pressurize it through a system of pipes or along conveyor belts into storage facilities ashore or from storage silos ashore into the ships. 
  • Cargo sucked from the ships holds can also be pressurized through pipelines or along conveyor belts into vehicles or rail wagons waiting at ships side. 
  • At Mombasa and Dar-es-salaam ports, grain and cereal imports discharged from ships by evacuators are usually bagged on board before discharge and in other cases; the bagging is done ashore on the quayside.

Conveyor belts

  • Conveyors are sets of inter-linked belts, powered by motors, used to convey cargo from storage ashore directly to the ships hold and vice versa. 
  • At Mombasa port, the Magadi Soda Ash Company uses conveyors to convey the cargo from storage ashore directly into ships. 
  • Similarly, Grain Bulk Handlers use evacuators and a system of conveyor belts to suck grains and cereals from importing ships into storage silos located outside the port.

Learning Activities

A milling company imports 150 tons of bulk wheat to be loaded onto trucks and to transported from port of Mombasa to Kampala Uganda. 


Discuss various methods that will be used and the equipment for loading cargo onto the awaiting trucks.


Which cargo handling method would you used to remove bulk maize from the port to a silo which is located outside the port?