DP World: Pioneering breakbulk logistics globally
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DP World: Pioneering breakbulk logistics globally

DP World: Pioneering breakbulk logistics globally

In 2023, DP World’s Jebel Ali Port handled over 4.35 million tonnes of breakbulk cargo, adding to the 40 million tonnes handled over the last decade for local and international clients

Gulf Business
dp world - a leader in breakbulk

In the tightly choreographed ecosystem of global trade, containerised cargo reigns supreme. However, behind the neatly stacked Lego blocks of standardisation lies the niche yet vital sector of breakbulk cargo, which is mainly non-containerised.

It’s a world dominated by over-dimensional cargo (colossal wind turbine blades, massive oil rigs, huge propellers and gigantic earth-moving equipment) and unconventional demands, and it is expected to reach a staggering $20.8bn by 2026, according to Research and Markets’ Global Break Bulk Shipping Market 2023-2027 report.

How breakbulk works

Going beyond the technical terms, ‘breakbulk’ comes from the phrase ‘breaking bulk’, where part of a ship’s cargo is extracted or unloaded. A break-in-bulk point is a place where goods are transferred from one mode of transport to another, for example, docks where goods are transferred from ship to truck. This type of cargo is often too large or oddly shaped to fit into a standard shipping container, so it must be loaded directly onto the vessel.

It is usually transported in bags, boxes, crates, drums or barrels, or as unit loads secured to pallets or skids. Specialist breakbulk vessels come fitted with heavy-lift cranes that can manage heavy cargo safely and quicker than dockside cranes, which makes the process of loading/unloading faster and more efficient. The cargo must be securely lashed down to prevent it from shifting during transit and causing damage to the vessel or other cargo.

All this requires specialised expertise and handling, and state-of-the-art facilities and resources at ports like Jebel Ali in Dubai, the flagship port of DP World.

Industry critical sector

Breakbulk has become particularly relevant in current times. As global infrastructure continues to grow, so has the demand for large-scale projects. These mega-projects, from bridges to power plants, require massive, non-standardised equipment and parts.

The breakbulk industry is pivotal in ensuring these components reach their destinations.

On a regional level, the breakbulk industry is poised to play a key role with the momentum on infrastructure projects picking up this year and beyond. This development is aligned with the strategic ‘visions’ of different Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries focused on diversification and reduced dependency on oil.

According to a Kamco Invest report, the value of infrastructure projects awarded in the Gulf countries nearly doubled in 2023, reaching $209.8bn compared to $109.7bn in 2022.

This upward trend is expected to continue in 2024, with projections portending continuing growth. The World Bank Group’s latest Global Economic Prospects report presents an optimistic forecast for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The MENA region’s GDP is expected to grow 3.5 per cent in 2024. This is an upward revision from earlier predictions, mainly driven by the robust performance of oil-exporting countries and a resurgence in oil-related activities.

In particular, GCC countries are projected to experience a rise in growth to 3.6 per cent in 2024, followed by an increase to 3.8 per cent in 2025.

Growth sectors such as energy including renewables, tourism, transportation and urban development will drive the demand for breakbulk shipping in the region.

Another key factor that will support growth is the Middle East’s rising profile as a key global maritime hub. Geographically positioned at the crossroads of trade between East and West, the region has always been a critical hub for maritime commerce. This strategic location means ships that arrive to offload cargo also have the opportunity to take on new cargo for their return journeys, boosting breakbulk operations worldwide.

Additionally, the global and regional push to decarbonise energy production and improve energy security is supporting optimism in the breakbulk and project cargo logistics sector.

The DP World advantage

As one of the world’s leading port operators specialising in cargo and logistics, DP World’s pioneering breakbulk prowess, customer focus and extensive global network have positioned it as a leader in this field, particularly in the region.

In 2023, DP World’s Jebel Ali Port handled over 4.35 million tonnes of breakbulk cargo, adding to the 40 million tonnes handled over the last decade for local and international clients.

The port’s rapid growth has played a pivotal role in facilitating major projects in Dubai, including the Al Wasl Dome, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Dubai Harbour and Lighthouse.

The port has gained recognition for its purpose-built facilities and hydrodynamic marine structures, which have enhanced its capability to handle diverse cargoes, including breakbulk, bulk, project cargo and Ro-Ro (Roll-on/roll-off).

Jebel Ali Port’s infrastructure encompasses a total capacity of 22.4 million tonnes, facilitated by more than 100 berths spread across an extensive quay length of 25 kilometres. This vast expanse is a testament to the port’s ability to efficiently handle a significant cargo volume.

The General Cargo – Ro-Ro Terminal is specifically designed to manage large, oversized machinery catering to various industries. This terminal features a maximum depth of 15 metres and boasts a substantial storage facility, covering an area of over 1.4 million square metres. The terminal’s expansive capacity is highlighted by the fact that it has 27 berths.

Beyond Jebel Ali, the smaller Mina Al Hamriya port efficiently manages bulk and breakbulk cargo, accommodating various vessel types, including dhows, RoRo vessels, and breakbulk ships. This versatility in handling diverse trade types is yielding tangible benefits.

DP World’s expertise extends beyond the hardware. It has built strong relationships with shippers, airlines and other stakeholders, which is key to ensuring every step of the breakbulk journey is in sync.
Another advantage lies in the proximity of Jafza which provides facilities such as customisable manufacturing plots, light industrial units (LIUs), and other infrastructure to support value-added services including assembling, fabricating, and various manufacturing activities.

The port operator’s risk management expertise anticipates potential challenges and implements proactive solutions, minimising disruptions and safeguarding precious cargo.

DP World’s commitment to sustainability also extends to breakbulk cargo, with initiatives like green terminals and energy-efficient handling practices setting a responsible pace. Digitalisation in breakbulk transport has significantly aided the entire end-to-end logistics process. DP World is instrumental in this digital evolution, providing tools like SeaRates.com and CARGOES Flow to support and streamline processes.

This transparency and efficiency translate to a smoother breakbulk journey, where every step is meticulously planned and efficiently executed, making DP World a trusted partner for companies around the globe.


Benefits of breakbulk shipping

Oversized, heavy lift and out-of-gauge cargo: Equipment or goods that are tedious to break down or oversized can benefit from breakbulk shipping. Instead of breaking down the product to fit into a container or bin, the shipper can send the item in its entirety.

Typically, a breakbulk ship is equipped with high-capacity deck cranes and additional equipment necessary to load and unload these oversized or heavy goods. Additionally, high-deck strength barges are sometimes used to facilitate loading this cargo by rolling it on and off the vessel.

Affordable option: Cargo is transported to and from ports by land, which is usually an efficient option for shippers needing inland services. Otherwise, breaking products up into containers tends to be more expensive than wholly containerised goods.

Reduced deconsolidation and reconsolidation: Cargo on a breakbulk vessel, such as a barge or ship, doesn’t have to be deconstructed or separated into pieces. It can be a more affordable option for shippers with oversized cargo. Ultimately, this leads to a faster delivery time.

Smaller ports: Breakbulk is deliverable to most ports around the world. When loading and discharging goods at a port, equipment is already available on the ship, which saves time in transporting products.

Separated containers: Breakbulk doesn’t require that goods be separated into containers to be transported. Instead, heavy or oversized items are loaded with special equipment such as cranes to load the ship. This makes bulky items easier to transport.

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