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The First Appearance of Bulk Carriers

A bulk carrier is a merchant ship specially designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo such as grains, coal, ore, steel coils and cement, in its cargo holds. The first specialized bulk carrier was built in 1852 and economy in costs have dictated the continued development of these ships, resulting in increased size and sophistication. Today’s bulk carriers are specially designed to maximize capacity, safety, efficiency, and durability.

Specialized bulk carriers began to appear as steam powered ships became more and more popular.  The first steam ship recognized as a bulk carrier was the British coal carrier SS John Bowes in 1852. She featured a metal hull, a steam engine, and a ballasting system which used seawater instead of sandbags These features helped her succeed in the competitive British coal market  The first self unloader was the lake freighter Hennepin in 1902 on the Great Lakes. This greatly decreased the unloading time of bulk carriers by using a conveyor belt to move the cargo. The first bulk carriers with diesel propulsion began to appear around 1910.