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What Types of Cargo are Loaded on Ships?

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 6/5/2009

We mainly know that ships carry oil and crude but there are dozens of other commonly carried cargoes as well. Learn about these types of cargoes in this article

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    We learnt about basic cargo plans for a ship in a previous article and now we will proceed to learn more about this topic and learn about the properties of some commonly used cargoes which are transported using various types of ships.

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    Types of Cargoes

    Ores/concentrates - these are high-density cargoes and are usually loaded in large quantities on a ship. The main danger from these cargoes is that they could give rise to toxic vapours that could make the atmosphere of the tank depleted in oxygen. Hence care should be taken while entering such cargo spaces and these cargoes should be kept separate from other moist cargoes lest they develop a flow state.

    Leather Hides -leather can be a very unpleasant cargo to carry on board a ship and it gives out a very strong smell which is literally unbearable especially in enclosed spaces. When the hides are soaked with salt they give out a large amount of brine, so this type of cargo has to be kept in isolation from other cargoes.

    Foodgrains - ships are used to transport large amounts of food grain from one place to another and these include grains such as rice, wheat, seeds and so forth. Needless to say such a cargo needs to be stored in very sanitized conditions and there is no question of a there been any contact between such cargoes and other cargoes mentioned previously such as leather. Apart from foodgrains ships can also carry other types of eatables and these may well require refrigeration to keep them fresh throughout the voyage.

    Fragile items - this type of cargo could include items which are easily breakable such as glassware, earthenware, sanitary ware and so on. Such items should be stored on the topmost level with the appropriate packaging to prevent any possible damage to the goods.

    Combustible materials - there are several types of cargo which could ignite spontaneously and lead to a fire on board the ship. This includes a wide variety of stuff ranging from cotton, jute, straw, oilseeds and even products made of fish. Each of these cargoes should be handled in a way so as to minimise the risk of spontaneous combustion.

    Dangerous cargoes - this category of cargoes includes materials which are dangers for human beings such as asbestos and hence must be handled in the proper manner.

    Animal products - these cargoes could include animal bones or other types of bonemeal and such cargoes usually have a pungent smell similar to leather and hence should be properly isolated from other cargoes which can get affected.

    Heavy equipment - machines and equipment are normally shipped packed in wooden crates depending on their shape and geometry. The heavy machines should be stowed at the bottom while the lighter components stay above.

    Of course the above-mentioned list is just indicative of the wide variety of products and materials which are transported across the oceans via ships of various types. This list is by no means exhaustive but should be sufficient to give a clear idea to the reader about the complexity faced by a navigation officer while preparing a thorough cargo plan, which ensures safety of the ship and its crew during the voyage. In the next article we will take a look at an actual cargo plan and how it works.