Dede Law And Business Series: A Brief Comparison On Liner Ship And Tramp Ship Operations (2)

By Foluke Akinmoladun

The main differences between Liner and Tramp could be noted in the type of contract of carriage and Bill of Lading used; type of cargo they generally carry and the schedule for delivery. In the case of a Liner, generally the shipping line operating the liner service will have their own pre-printed bill of lading or use a BIMCO ConLineBill, whereas in the case of a Tramp service (which may be covered by a Charter Party), a bill of lading like the BIMCO ConGenBill will be used depending on the cargo, charter party etc.

Liners convey general cargo in a container or trailer/truck or as break bulk (loose cargo). The vessel sails whether she is full or not. Liners have incorporated the development of combined transport that involves inland distribution by road/rail through the use of a combined transport bill of lading involving a through-rate door-to-door from warehouse to warehouse.

This has made the liner ideal for carriage of cargo of manufactured and semi manufactured goods such as cars, mechanical equipment and medical equipment. The fact that deliveries can be done door to door (from manufacturer to final consumer) also allows for direct delivery to homes, factories and hospitals amongst others.

Tramp ships are used to transport bulk cargoes and break-bulk cargoes of low value that do not require fast delivery. The transportation of cargoes that are picked up or dropped off along the way plays a large role in tramp shipping. Tramp ships are slow and can thus transport a variety of cargoes.

Tramps are best suited for bulk cargo such as steel, coal, grain, timber, sugar, ores, fertilizers, copra, etc., which are carried in complete shiploads. They are also ideal for seasonal cargoes. The tramp companies are much smaller than their liner cargo counterparts, and their business demands an intimate knowledge of market conditions. Today the tramp trade includes all types of vessels, from bulk carriers to tankers.

Each can be used for a specific market, or ships can be combined like the oil, bulk, ore carriers (OBOs as mentioned in part 1 of this write up) to accommodate many different markets depending on where the ship is located and the supply and demand of the area. Tramp ships often carry with them their own gear (booms, cranes, derricks) in case the next port lacks the proper equipment for loading or discharging cargo.

Liner services is made up of vessels carrying cargo on fixed schedule. Tramp services on the other hand are engaged on a more ad hoc basis dependent on the demand for the vessel, its capacity and the kind of cargo it carries. For all ships, ship and port design determines the type of cargo to be carried and the ports of loading and discharge. Liners are better suited for manufactured and semi manufactured goods transported by containers. Tramps are however better suited for non-containerised cargo, dry bulk cargo, wet bulk cargos and may be engaged on a charter party basis.

Foluke Akinmoladun is a lawyer, accountant, mediator and arbitrator. She is the Managing Solicitor of Trizon Law Chambers and can be reached at: