Cargo planning

The history shows that the humanity have relied more on oceans, lakes, and rivers for the purpose of transporting goods from one place to another. About 90% of the international trade depends upon shipping industry as it forms the cheapest form of transportation. According to the review of United Nations conference on trade and development, the world merchant fleet (2008) has expanded of impressive 7.2% to reach up to 1.12 DWT. The shipping industry shows an increasing trend for the last two decades as a result it is relevant from the part of ship owners to form efficient cargo planning procedures for the easy handling of goods.

Cargo Planning

The cargo plan of a ship shows the distribution of overall cargo parcels boarded on a vessel for that particular voyage which reveals the quantity, weight and the port of discharge relating to the plan. The ship’s cargo officer forms the plan and indicates the special loads involving hazardous cargoes and valuable cargoes, heavy lifts and all other commodities involved in that particular voyage. Cargo plan provides a perfect outline of ship’s cargo carrying spaces (David J. House’s, Cargo work (7th edition). The main purpose for which the cargo plan is used has been mentioned as follows:

  • To plan the stowage pattern
  • Recording the Position of cargo
  • Make aware of stevedores in loading and unloading of cargo

A cargo plan is meant to ensure that the valuable goods and various other cargoes loaded on a ship reach safely to their destinations without causing any damages. An average sized ship has a capacity of more than thousand tons of cargo as a result the goods cannot simply dump in to the vessel. It has to be stowed in an orderly manner which will avoid further mishaps. This is done because of several reasons as follows:

Ship stability

The safety of the ship and its crew members must be given due consideration. An unplanned stowage pattern may lead the ship to be unstable in rough seas around the world. This situation must be avoided with immediate effects depending up on the cargo which is to be loaded. To site an example, in case of solid cargo the heavy objects must be placed at the bottom portion where as the lighter one’s comes above it. The liquid cargo must compartmentalize so as to reduce the free surface affect of the cargo which may otherwise lead to instability during the voyage.

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Structural safety:

Other than stability, it is important to have a close look at the structural safety of the ships where it maintains weight limits of the structural parts such as decks and so forth. Extreme care should be taken in managing the weight limit of the ship’s decks which may cause hazardous effects on the ship’s voyage.

Dangerous goods codes:

Safety codes are provided by IMO (International maritime organisation) or other regulatory bodies for dangerous cargoes such as explosives, gases, inflammable liquids or solids, radioactive substances and so on. The ship owners are advised to maintain specific code of conduct which ensures the safety of the ship and the people who handles the goods.( William V Packard’s Sea Trading Vol2)

Profit Maximisation:

The main objective of a ship owner is to maximise their profit by properly utilising the available cargo space which will enable them to load more quantity in a single voyage itself. An efficient cargo plan perfectly utilise the shipping space where it does not overload the ships at the same time.


When the cargoes are loaded on a ship for an Ocean voyage, it has the chances for damages where the cargo that shipped may be adversely affected. A perfect stowage pattern ensures the safety of the cargo removing many if the possible damages. Fiberboxes and wood crates which are used for packaging must be able to handle the weight of the cargo up to 70% of vertical stacking weight pressure. Heavy cargoes such as machinery, cargoes of different size or dimensions should be boxed or permitted with skids for easy handling and compact stowage.


Weight limitations

The weight limitation must be given due consideration where the weight must not exceed as per the regulations as per square foot of floor load. It is relevant to check the highway weight axle limitations in the both sides of the voyage where some containers exceed local limits of their total capacity.

Ease of Unloading

The cargoes must be loaded in such a way that the goods which is to be unloaded in the next destination have to come in the chronological order. This will facilitate easy handling of goods without any shortcomings. It must be verified that the forklifts openings in pallets must face the doors and avoid jamming of a cargo in a container.

Avoidance of cosmetic damages

The external appearance of a commodity is essential from the customer’s point of view. Any damages occurred in the external packing constitutes the cosmetic damages. This will in turn reflects the lower brand loyalty of the product and the repacking of these goods will be really expensive. So it is relevant from the part of shipping companies to take effective remedies to control the level of damages of this kind.

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Completion of stowage

The cargoes can be well stowed with various items such as Fibreboard boxes, Lumber, Plywood, Inflatable, and metal strapping. These will facilitate efficient stowing of cargoes which does not results in any mishandlings. The stowage procedure can be completed by providing partitions in the cargo to prevent it from get in to contact with the door and to make sure that it won’t fall down when the door is open. It must be ensured that there won’t be any damages out of moisture where the cargo adjacent to the door must be covered with plastic or water proof sheets. The doors must be locked and sealed so as to record seal number and enter on shipping documents.

Preparation of cargo plan

An example is shown as follows how the following goods can be loaded into the ship in relation to its capacity. The specifications of the assumed ship are as follows:

  • Cold chamber port side with specific of 317.m.sq
  • Specialised cargo locker with a volume of 106.6 m.sq
  • Cold chamber starboard side with a volume of 313.1 m.sq
  • Tween deck having dimensions 22 X 7 X 3 m
  • Lower hold having dimensions 22 X 18 X 8 m

The goods which is to be loaded includes meat (175 tonnes), tea leaves (220 tonnes), heavy earth moving equipment ( 4 X 2.5 X 2.5 m), machinery (750 tonnes), animal bones (500 tonnes), frozen sea food ( 160 tonnes), special cargoes ( 350 tonnes).

The cargo plans came in to due course when the navigating officer of the ship confirms about the quantity and types of goods which is to be loaded. The officer arranges the cargo in relation to the specifications of the goods involved. In the given example meat cargo and frozen sea food must be placed in the refrigerator compartments otherwise there are more chances for spoilage during the voyage. The tea leaves and animal bone cargoes must not be placed together, as the extreme smell of the animal bone may affect the quality of the tea leaves. The port of discharge also must be taken in to consideration so as to arrange the goods for ease of unloading the goods in the future ports. The following table shows the allocation of the cargo in relation to this assumed example. (Fenandes, E. (1993) Cargo Work. Mumbai: Marinez Enterprises)

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Efficiency of port management

The efficiency of port management and the quality of the material handling equipments also must be taken in to consideration for the ease of loading and unloading the goods effectively. The giant vessels always put strain on the port capacity where a major ports equips five modern container cranes to discharge 3600 boxes in 24 hour circle. Clearing of around 8000 containers may take more than 2 days in the ideal conditions and more in case of machine breakdowns or mishandling. It is relevant from the part of port management to see the shortcoming and implement efficient manpower, material handling equipments so as to facilitate speedy processing of cargoes.

One of the perfect examples for the efficient part management is the Dubai ports owned Jebel Ali port in UAE. They recently launched fully automated platform for the new port management system called as ‘promis’. This system is has been put in to action for the maritime operations department at Jebal Ali port. It efficiently links the various departments through integrated control and co-ordination centre. This enables the management for effective control of shipping, export or import and all activities carried out in the Jebel Ali port.

So it is relevant from the part of port management to adopt effective technologies for the speedy transfer of cargoes which will gain more in international trade.


The cargo planning plays an integral part in international trade where it maximises the profit level of the shipping companies by efficient placement of cargo removing all free spaces available. It provides stability towards the easy voyage of the ships without any minor chances for damages or mishaps. So it is evident from the part of ship owners to adopt efficient cargo plans so as to receive various benefits out of it.



  • David J. House’s,(2005) Cargo work (7th edition), Copy righted by David house, Pages-2-3
  • Fenandes, E. (1993) Cargo Work. Mumbai: Marinez Enterprises
  • (Accessed on 5th December)

  • William V Packard’s, sea trading volume 2 ( 1998), published by Fairplay publication Ltd, pages- 137-138


  • Stoving cargo(PDF) (Accessed on 3rd December)

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