Breakbulk cargo today (2011)
The traditional general cargo shipping has been pronounced dead since many years, but in various trading areas it is still in much demand, however today the ships are called MPV (Multi Purpose Vessel), MPC (Multi Purpose Container) or MPP (Multi Purpose & Project).
An important trading area for these vessels is West Africa, because a large part of the available cargo cannot be transported by pure container vessels, for example pipes for the oil industry.
Further there are customers, who prefer to transport their cargoes as break bulk, even if the cargoes could be carried in containers.
So-called project cargo is mainly used for the oil and gas industry, but also for the mining and other industries. The trend is to fabricate parts for technical plants, such as oil refineries, drilling rigs, manufacturing plants etc. in as big modules as possible, thereby reducing assembling time and simplify works on the building site. Therefore these modules very often are larger and cannot fit into container's, also their weight may be considerable.
Further all kinds of vehicles, such as trucks, construction machines and cars are loaded. Many used cars are shipped to Africa, many of them stuffed with old refrigerators, cooking ranges and many other used household items.
From Africa agricultural products, such as coffee, cacao etc. are loaded, for this reason these ships are also fitted with an efficient cargo hold ventilation system to prevent deterioration of the cargoes.
Timber is also carried, partly as trunks, but now more often as sawed timber (as part of the industrialisation, the African countries wish to process the timber in their own saw mills).
Eucalyptus wood from Pointe Noire
The cargo holds are rectangular or box shaped and the dimensions are chosen to accommodate as many containers as possible. On the sides ballast tanks are arranged. The hatches are extremely large and have the same dimensions as the cargo holds, therefore the whole area of the cargo holds can be reached by crane. The cargo hatch covers are usually of the pontoon type, but also hydraulically operated hatch covers are used.
To carry general cargo tween decks are fitted, either hydraulically operated or of the pontoon type. In order to carry bulk cargo, such as grain, the pontoon tween deck covers can be used to erect longitudinal bulkheads. The pontoon covers of the tween deck and of the weather deck hatch covers are handled by the ship's cranes and are stowed on the covers not used for cargo work. The tween deck and the weather deck covers are of very strong construction and usually permit a load of about 3.5 mt/m2, therefore on these covers containers, vehicles and other cargo can be stowed.
Even today, the ports in countries, such as West Africa are still poorly equipped and therefore MP-vessels have to be equipped with strong cranes for discharging and loading, but also to handle the heavy pontoon hatch covers. On present vessels, in almost all cases the cranes are located on the sides to obtain large unobstructed cargo hatches. The lifting capacity of the cranes is about 80 mt and the cranes can be used also in tandem mode, thereby doubling the lifting capacity.
The ballast system is designed to quickly compensate any list, when lifting heavy collies, using high-capacity anti-heeling pumps.
Today the stowing plans are still worked out on board by the crew under the supervision of the chief officer, however assistance is rendered by the shore staff of the shipping company.
The vessels of Enzian, sailing in the Africa service are employed by Safmarine Antwerp, which is operating many liner services around the world and has the necessary infrastructure and expert personnel in the ports.
HPS; Enzian; SwissShips, July 2011