Seaports Prepare for Additional Breakbulk Cargo

BREAKBULK \\\ By Peter Buxbaum

The breakbulk sector has been in the doldrums in recent years, facing challenges which include the downturn in the oil sector and competition from containers. Despite recent difficulties, wind energy cargoes have emerged as a new and growing segment for breakbulk.

been bright spots as well. China, a major source

of breakbulk imports, has been key to the growth in breakbulk that some ports have

experienced. Chinese

steel mills increased their exports in the first weeks of the pandemic as domestic demand plummeted. More

components. Port of Baltimore

The public terminals at the Port of Baltimore have made inroads in recent years with breakbulk cargoes, handling

wind turbines, transformers, locomotives, and refinery and energy production equipment, much of which is destined for sites in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The port, one of the most diverse in the U.S., has seen breakbulk

Issue 7 2020 - FBJNA

volumes increase by 17% this year, despite the negative impact of COVID in some other areas. “On the project cargo side,

we have started handling vessels carrying 15 General Electric heat recovery steam generators,” said Richard Scher, a port spokesperson. “These are direct moves from the ship right to Baltimore’s on-dock rail network. We are also now handling massive


385,000-pound Siemens transformers as well as 90,000-pound Elliot Turbo transformers.” In recent years, Baltimore

added two heavy-liſt cranes and enhanced on-dock rail capabilities that allow direct discharge on and off a ship. “Dundalk Marine Terminal sports three heavy-liſt pads with a capacity of 32.5 tons per axle per pad, which helps

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This year was to provide

relief to the beleaguered breakbulk sector, according to the maritime consultants at Drewry. At the beginning of 2020, the projected that the conclusion of the Phase One U.S.-China trade deal and the approval of the U.S.-Mexico- Canada Agreement would provide breakbulk a boost. Then, of course, COVID-19 happened. Some ports in the U.S. saw a decrease in breakbulk volumes thanks to the pandemic, but there have

Port Houston seeks to diversify its breakbulk portfolio by attracting heavy, high, and wide cargoes, machinery, and wind energy equipment. (Port Houston photo.)

Two new mobile harbor cranes acquired earlier this year by the Port of Brownsville mostly handle steel slabs. (Port of Brownsville photo.)

importantly, especially as U.S. ports are concerned, wind

turbine is on the increase

production as


Chinese economy has largely reopened, leading Drewry to conclude more recently that “there is clear momentum for most” breakbulk and project cargoes. That’s good news for

U.S. ports, many of which are targeting wind energy equipment as a breakbulk growth area. Several have recorded increases in the handling of wind energy

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