tramp shipping

Tramps, known also as general-service ships, maintain neither regular routes nor regular service. Usually tramps carry shipload lots of the same commodity for a single shipper. Such cargoes generally consist of bulk raw or low-value material, such as grain, ore, or coal, for which inexpensive transportation is required. About 30 percent of U.S. foreign commerce is carried in tramps.

Tramps are classified on the basis of employment rather than of ship design. The typical tramp operates under a charter party, that is, a contract for the use of the vessel.

The center of the chartering business is the Baltic Exchange in London, where brokers representing shippers meet with shipowners or their representatives to arrange the agreements. Freight rates fluctuate according to supply and demand: When cargoes are fewer than ships, rates are low. Charter rates are also affected by various other circumstances, such as crop failures and political crises.

Charter parties are of three kinds, namely, the voyage charter, the time charter, and the bareboat charter. The voyage charter, the most common of the three, provides transport for a single voyage, and designated cargo between two ports in consideration of an agreed fee. The charterer provides all loading and discharging berths and port agents to handle the ship, and the shipowner is responsible for providing the crew, operating the ship, and assuming all costs in connection with the voyage, unless an agreement is made to the contrary. The time charter provides for lease of the ship and crew for an agreed period of time. The time charter does not specify the cargo to be carried but places the ship at the disposal of the charterer, who must assume the cost of fuel and port fees. The bareboat charter provides for the lease of the ship to a charterer who has the operating organization for complete management of the ship. The bareboat charter transfers the ship, in all but legal title, to the charterer, who provides the crew and becomes responsible for all aspects of its operation.

The leading tramp-owning and tramp-operating nations of the world are Norway, Britain, the Netherlands, and Greece. The carrying capacity of a typical, modern, well-designed tramp ship is about 12,000 dwt, and its speed is about 15 knots. The recent trend is toward tramps of 30,000 dwt, without much increase in speed.