Transporting special cargo around the world doesn’t come without its complications. Unlike traditional container shipping, special cargo comes in unpredictable shapes and sizes and requires custom-made loading solutions, and given the typically high-value and sensitive nature of these items, these solutions must be faultless.

If cargo isn’t loaded correctly and damages occur, the ripple effects can be devastating. For example, whether it’s a 118-tonne propeller or an 18-tonne digger, damage could see overwhelming delays at the destination job site and lead to a completion date mismatch – resulting in potentially hefty penalties and fines.

It’s why customers in the segment seek an experienced, reliable and trusted partner who has a thorough understanding of special cargo complexities and can deliver a personalised experience every step of the way.

Types of special cargo

In gauge

In gauge

The dimensions of the cargo are smaller than or equal to those of the flat rack or open top container. For example, machinery or steel structures.

Out of gauge

Out of gauge

The dimensions of the cargo exceed the flat rack or open top container by length, width or height, but can still be unitised in containers. For example, propellers, flanges or trucks.



Cargo vastly exceeds the size and/or weight of a standard container and is normally placed on a bed of flat racks with a large number of lashing points. For example, yachts, masts, industrial machines or train carriages.

Adding a bespoke touch to special cargo logistics gives customers peace of mind knowing that their shipments are secure and will arrive at their destination in perfect condition. Maersk’s team of experts work hand in hand with customers to find tailor-made solutions for all types of special cargo across transport modes on a market-leading global network, looking to overcome any potential challenges.

Click here to read how Maersk recently transported 44-tonne industrial chillers for a customer from India to Puerto Rico.

Demand for special cargo has been growing since 2020, and this, coupled with Maersk’s vision to provide end-to-end logistics services, has seen the company support ocean solutions for special cargo as well as inland solutions through truck and rail.

Every aspect of special cargo logistics requires meticulous planning to suit customers’ business needs, making sure all equipment and resources are in the right place at the right time for a smooth-running supply chain. Add specialised customs and clearance services to the equation, and customers can benefit from a truly end-to-end service, all through one point of contact.

As the demand for special cargo transport increases, it’s crucial to have multi-carrier solutions in place across the network – which is why we have focused heavily on alternative modes of transport to ocean for oversized or heavy cargo in recent years. Our experience with special cargo and unparalleled global network means the tools are firmly in place to seamlessly deliver special cargo to any part of the world and keep customer supply chains moving with confidence. We have identified a number of interesting market trends since 2020 and are moving with them, laying the foundations to cater to more and more special cargo as its importance to carriers continues to grow.

Henrik Lindahl
Henrik Lindahl,
Maersk Special Cargo Logistics Lead

Remarkable shipments

Container pickup pictogram
Longest Maersk breakbulk cargo: 46-metre crane from Rotterdam to Busan.
Cargo Based
Heaviest Maersk breakbulk cargo: 350-tonne tugboat from Rotterdam to Singapore.
Dry 20
Tallest Maersk breakbulk cargo: 16.5-metre-tall skid from Rotterdam to Busan.

With Maersk, customers can also reap the benefits of the company’s sustainability efforts, in line with their own goals for greener operations. Maersk ECO Delivery is available on special cargo shipments, while recent efforts for inland special cargo development can further benefit a supply chain’s carbon footprint.

As demand continues to grow worldwide for special cargo, Maersk will ensure it has the tools in place to cater to all customer needs and keep moving supply chains forward as seamlessly as possible.

By building custom-made solutions for customers’ special cargo requirements, Maersk provides customers with peace of mind knowing that their cargo is perfectly safe and handled by a trusted and experienced team, all the way.

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