Bulk carries are single deck vessels which transport single commodity cargoes such as grain, sugar and ores in bulk. The cargo carrying section of the ship is divided into holds or tanks which may have any number of arrangements, depending on the range of cargoes to be carried. Combination carriers are bulk carriers designed for flexibility of operations and able to transport any one of several bulk cargoes on any one voyage.
In the general purpose bulk carrier, usually only the central hold section is used for cargo. Some of the double-bottom tanks may be used for fuel oil and fresh water. Large hatches are a feature of all bulk carriers, to facilitate rapid and simple cargo handling. A large proportion of bulk carriers do not cargo-handling equipment, because they trade between special terminals which have particular equipment for loading and unloading bulk commodities.
Deadweight capacities range from small to 150 000 tonnes depending upon the type of cargo, etc. Speeds are in the range 12-16 knots.