By Keith Norbury

What’s the difference between breakbulk and project cargo?

Not much, says Wolfgang Spillner, President of Albacor Shipping Inc. of Toronto. “I wouldn’t make a distinction,” said he said. “Breakbulk is to me anything that has to be handled as a piece with a crane and cannot be put in a container.”

The 2009 online Marine Dictionary defines break-bulk, with a hyphen, as follows: “Packages of hazardous materials that are handled individually, palletized, or unitized for purposes of transportation as opposed to bulk and containerized freight.” Unfortunately, the dictionary doesn’t have a definition for “project cargo.”

Wikipedia does have a definition for project cargo: “a term used to broadly describe the national or international transportation of large, heavy, high value or critical pieces of equipment. Also commonly referred to as Heavy lift.”

For the sake of argument, the articles in this edition of Canadian Sailings make the following distinction between project cargo and breakbulk: project cargo refers to pieces or components of manufactured equipment that are too large or heavy to fit in a container; breakbulk refers to raw materials, such as logs, or semi-processed materials, like steel pipes or ingots, that cannot fit in a container, and that do not consist of bulk cargo.

While Mr. Spillner agrees that one could make that distinction, it doesn’t alter his opinion that breakbulk is also project cargo and vice versa. “We have, for example, just finished five charter vessels from China to Brazil for steel, which we consider project because if you move a whole ship, that is a project to us,” he said. “The cargo is breakbulk, if you like, but the move is a project because it is steel for a certain project.”