Stories about dry bulk carriers

11 curious facts about Dry Bulk carriers

We are sure you enjoyed the astonishing facts about tankers in a previous article, therefore we looked for some exciting facts in the dry industry as well, which we describe in today’s article.

1. Have you ever dreamed of transporting gold?

Every Shipowner would dream to load and carry gold on his vessels and get paid by this gold as well. However, this is not a dream but a real story which happened in 2012 during the transportation of gold ore. The Russian-registered vessel, Amuraskaya, was enroute from the port of Kiran to the port of Okhotsk and loaded with 700 tons of gold ore, when was magically disappeared in the Sea of Okhotsk on 28 October 2012. In the area there was stormy weather and the vessel sent Mayday signals which were picked up by coastguards. However, due to the very valuable cargo, there was some intrigue that the ship may not had sunk, but the cargo had been stolen. A few days later, scuba divers found the wreck of the Amurskaya in the Sea of Okhotsk.

2. Do you remember the movie “Lord of War”? “The first and most important rule of gun-running is never get shot with your own merchandise.”

Further to loading gold products, another cargo which pays very well is the cargo of weapons or similar hazardous products. Loading weapons and other such cargoes in bulk carriers and container ships is not very common and it always requires strict documentation and specific licenses. Of course not always the rules are followed and there are many cases where such cargoes are loaded illegally, without the necessary documents, in which case the Shipowner’s profit is much higher.

Illegal shipping of weapons

On February 2016, Greek authorities arrested a vessel called “Kukui Boy” for carrying thousands of weapons, ammunition, and explosives. The vessel had departed from a Turkish port heading to Lebanon as well as the southeastern African coast. In September the Greek coast guard had seized a Bolivian flagged ship, the “Haddad 1”, carrying weapons which were reportedly traveling from Turkey to Libya. The Turkish foreign ministry claimed that the receiver of all the weapons was the Sudanese police and that they were documented. Documentation on the ship showed it was destined for Misrata, Libya which was controlled by Libya Dawn. Therefore, it was suspected, at that time, that local Libya Dawn rivals affiliated with Islamic State to be the final recipients

3. Everyone likes gifts. But did you know the story of the bulker which was fully loaded with gifts? Not from Santa Claus, but from Spanish Government.

The Cabo Santa Maria was a Spanish bulk carrier which was carrying a number of gifts from the government to be given to those who had supported the country both economically and politically during the economic crisis that Spain had passed - on board were cars, food, medicine, machines, clothes etc. On 01 Sept 1968 Cabo Santa Maria ran aground near Cape Verde, while heading to South America. Local authorities tried to pull the ship with the assistance of a tug, but without success.

Cabo Santa Maria in Boa Vista

Well, what happened to cargo? It was a boon for the local people, who were able to capture all these goods while the crew unharmed, quickly left the island. Removing the cargo took about 1 year with the use of a major part of the population of Boa Vista, as well as public employees and machine operators from other islands. Since then, the wreckage of the Cabo de Santa Maria has become a local symbol and attraction of Boa Vista and Cape Verde.

4. Are the unmanned bulkers myth or reality?

During the 1980s when shipping rates highly dropped and bunker costs soared, there was a Japanese project to produce an unmanned ship. The program took about 5 years during which a range of automatic and remote controlled equipments were developed and a 20,000-ton bulker was fitted out for a remote controlled voyage. The test voyage took place across the north Pacific from Japan to a West Coast US port by remote control and the unmanned vessel was accompanied at some distance by the command ship which was able to monitor all the systems of the unmanned vessel, control her speed and direction, and keep her clear of any other vessels. However, after the test voyage the project was abandoned since the technology was not yet efficient at that time, the owners found that it was simpler to hire cheaper foreign crews and bunker prices dropped again.

At present time, a Rolls-Royce division, located in Alesund (Norway), has recently invested in the creation of the so called "unmanned" bulkers or “automated ships”. Creation of such vessels, according to the developers, is going to be the revolution in shipping during the next 10 years, while initially their operation will be limited in the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, the European Union has funded a similar project called MUNIN (Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks) with $ 4.8 million.

Some of the advantages of the automated ships are - a 5% weight reduction (due to decrease of the constants) leaving more capacity for cargo and a 12-15% reduction in fuel consumption. In addition, the operating expenses will be substantially decreased by more than 40% since it will not be necessary to pay the crew members, while the captain will be located at the shore at a specially equipped command post.

5. Have you recently seen any bulker with sails? Back to the future!

This wind-propulsion system is based on large towing kites that can be installed on new ships or retrofitted on most of the secondhand ships.

Kite technology for cargo ships

The technology offers a solution that can make a major environmental impact by reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of the world’s fleet. Three cargo ships are currently equipped with such propulsion system, with more ship expected to add the technology soon. With this wind propulsion technology with the kites, a ship’s fuel consumption and emissions can be reduced by up to 30%, depending on the wind conditions. This system has a maximum propulsion power of more than 2 Megawatts, which approximates at about 2,700 horsepower and is equivalent to a ship’s engine.

6. The first bulker, pioneer in using renewable & alternative energy.

This wind-propulsion system is based on large towing kites that can be installed on new ships or retrofitted on most of the secondhand ships. The technology offers a solution that can make a major environmental impact by reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of the world’s fleet. Three cargo ships are currently equipped with such propulsion system, with more ship expected to add the technology soon. With this wind propulsion technology with the kites, a ship’s fuel consumption and emissions can be reduced by up to 30%, depending on the wind conditions. This system has a maximum propulsion power of more than 2 Megawatts, which approximates at about 2,700 horsepower and is equivalent to a ship’s engine.

7. What is going to be the fuel of the future?

Marine industry passes to LNG fuel. Dry Bulk Carriers are not an exception. Shipyard Ferus Smit Westerbroek Yard launched the Greenland which is the world's first fully LNG powered bulker. The ceremony took place on October 31, 2015 in the city of Vesterbroek, Netherlands. Greenland is actually a cement carrier, built for the JT Cement joint venture, between Erik Thun AB and KG Jebsen Cement (KGJ) from Norway. Sailing on LNG, the vessel will meet the highest standard emission criteria, as well as any new requirements that might be in place for environmental sensitive areas in future. The vessel is equipped with an automatic loading / unloading system based on the principle of fluidized cement by means of compressed air. The system is completely sealed and does not miss dust during cargo operations. In the meantime, during 2015 the Finnish shipowner ESL Shipping Ltd ordered two LNG dual-fuelled handysize bulk carriers which will be designed by Delta Marine and constructed by the Chinese Qingshan Shipyard while on 19 March 2016 Ferus Smit Westerbroek Yard launched the second LNG bulker.

8. How global warming helps to utilise new shipping routes?

In September 2007 The European Space Agency said that, according to satellite observations, the Arctic Sea ice area has decreased to its lowest level since the last 30 years. This fact has made the Northwest Passage navigable.

Bulker Nordic Oreon

The Northwest Passage in the Arctic Ocean can link and shortend the distances between the North Pacific and the Northern Europe. However due to the very heavy climatic conditions in the area and the ice, the Passage was inactive until recently when the M/V Nordic Orion made the first transit, in 2013. The Nordic Orion, a bulker operated by Nordic Bulk Carriers, left the Canadian Pacific port of Vancouver on Sept. 6 2013 loaded with a cargo of 73,500 MT coal to discharge at the Finish port of Pori. For the first time ever, a bulk carrier used the North West Passage as a transit trading pattern, when transporting coal from Vancouver in Canada to Finland. This historic transit is shorter than the traditional shipping routes and will save time, fuel and CO2, but also increase the load of cargo with 25% compared to the draft restricted Panama Canal. The transit of Arctic is a challenging task that requires experience, navigational skills and modern well equipped ships and not many vessels can make this transit. The North West Passage is expected to be open for transit for about two months per year depending on the weather and ice conditions.

9. The crane of a typical bulk carrier can lift about 35 MT of cargo. But how much is the greatest lifting capacity of an existing dry bulk carrier?

The M/V Jumbo Kinetic and the M/V Fairmaster which are both operated by Jumbo shipping of Rotterdam are equipped with two cranes, which can lift 1500 MT each, giving a maximum lifting capacity of 3000 MT for each vessel, while the typical lifting capacity of a bulker is about 140 MT (4 x 35MT).

Jumbo bulk carrier

Both these vessels built in 2014 and 2015 accordingly and they are specialized Heavy lift ships, utilized in specific trades only. Jumbo Kinetic and Fairmaster are larger and stronger than their predecessors -the Fairplayer, Fairpartner, Jumbo Jubilee and Jumbo Javelin which had a maximum total lifting capacity of 1800 MT-, and they are also Ice class certified giving them additional versatility.

10. What is the name of biggest bulk carrier in the world?

Many people think that it is still the Berge Stahl, which was holding the palm for 24 years. Nowadays the largest bulker ship in the world is the Vale Brasil which is mainly used for the transportation of iron ore from Brasil to China. The vessel has a deadweight of 402,347 tons, it was launched in 2010 built by the Korean shipyard Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. Vale Brasil has a length of 362 meters and 65 meters width and a draft of 23 meters. Valemax class bulk carriers carrying a record amount of ore per trip. With the steel maked from such quantity of iron ore, you can build 3 bridges with the size of the famous Golden Bridge in San Francisco, while a bulk carrier of this size can load ore in an amount sufficient for the construction of 4,383 Eiffel Towers. All bulk carriers of this type are owned or chartered by Brazilian company Vale S.A.

11. After all, when were the first bulkers appeared?

Inscriptions which were found in Mesopotamian Archeological sites indicate that traders from the Ancient Indus Valley Civilization were active in Mesopotamia by 2300 BCE during the reign of Sargon of Akkad. They were involved in bulk-shipping of Timber, copper, ivory and other luxury items like lapis lazuli, gold and pearls.

Until 1852 cargo transportation was effected by sailing ships. In that year was built the revolutionary ship. It was the steamship John Bowes, which had a length of 150 feet and deflated by Charles Palmer in the river Thun of Scotland. The main feature that allowed the ship to successfully compete with much cheaper sailing ships, was the use of the ballast water system. When a sailing collier arrived at the Thames and unloaded, she had to take on board ballast in form of sand or gravel. Otherwise, the stability of the ship would be risky, and she could not safely sail in stormy northern waters.

The ship was waiting her turn for loading ballast, pay for it and upon arrival at her destination she had to get rid of this ballast, a practice which cost extra time and money. While sailing ships were waiting their turn for ballast, John Bowes quickly loaded its metal water tanks with sea water ballast and departed. After the John Bowes the whole fleet of coasters carrying coal and other cargoes in London, was upgraded - dozens of similar vessels, which were servicing the coastal trade, pushed sailing ships out of the coastal waters of England

Steamship John Bowes

John Bowes traded for over 81 years before sinking in a storm off Spain. The first self-unloader was the Hennepin in 1902 on the Great Lakes. This greatly decreased the unloading time of bulkers by using a system with a conveyor belt to discharge the cargo. The first bulkers with diesel propulsion were delivered in 1911.

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