A bulk carrier is ocean-going vessel used to transport bulk cargo items such as ore or food staples (rice, grain, etc.) and similar cargo. It can be recognized by the large box-like hatches on its deck, designed to slide outboard for loading. A bulk carrier could be either dry or wet. Most lakes are too small to accommodate bulk ships, but a large fleet of lake freighters has been plying the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway of North America for over a century.
Like other ships, bulk carriers have become bigger and more specialized in an effort to establish competitive and efficient cargo handling tools for specific industries and markets. But the economical movement of basic, unimproved commodities (which are the most common bulk cargoes) can only be accomplished with advanced, well-adapted technologies. In the past, moving bulk cargo was often inefficient and unwieldy.