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Not to be confused with Capsize.
MV Berge Athene, a capesize bulk carrier of 225,200 DWT, built in 1979.

Capesize ships are the largest cargo ships; ships which are too large to transit the Suez Canal (Suezmax limits) or Panama Canal (Panamax limits),[1] and so have to pass either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn to traverse between oceans.

When the Suez was deepened in 2009, some ships previously unable to transit the canal and deemed capesize changed categories.

The Northwest Passage also has sections that are too shallow to accommodate capesize vessels.[2]


Post-deepening of the Suez Canal, a formerly capesize bulk carrier approaches the Suez Canal Bridge.
Capesize bulk carrier Cape Elise of 174,124 DWT at Inchgreen quay, Greenock, Scotland for repairs in March 2014 after being struck by a massive wave. At 289 metres long, it was the largest ship to dock at Greenock in 20 years.[3]

Capesize vessels are typically above 150,000 long tons deadweight (DWT), and ships in this class include bulk carriers transporting coal, ore, and other commodity raw materials. The term capesize is most commonly used to describe bulk carriers rather than tankers. A standard capesize bulker is around 175,000 DWT, although larger ships (normally dedicated to ore transportation) have been built, up to 400,000 DWT. The large dimensions and deep drafts of such vessels mean that only the largest deep water terminals can accommodate them.[4]

Capesize ships are commonly used in transportation of coal, iron ore and commodity raw materials. Because of this, they are often termed bulk carriers rather than tankers. Subcategories of capesize vessels include very large ore carriers (VLOC) and very large bulk carriers (VLBC) of above 200,000 DWT. These vessels are mainly designed to carry iron ore.


  1. ^ Clark, Iain J. (2014-02-19). Commodity Option Pricing: A Practitioner's Guide. Wiley. pp. 267–. ISBN 9781444362404. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "No to shipping ore through Northwest Passage - Baffinland CEO". Steel Guru. 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2013-10-21. Mr Tom Paddon CEO of Baffinland said that “In my opinion the Northwest Passage is not a transit route of any significance. One problem is the Northwest Passage’s depth, which prevents it from becoming a major trade route. Many commodities such as iron ore and coal are shipped on bulk carriers that need a depth of up to 19 meters, also known as capesize vessels. Much of the Northwest Passage is only 15 meters deep. So the iron ore business is not looking to move material from one side of the world to the other through the Northwest Passage unless somebody invents a different way to sail a boat.” 
  3. ^ STRICKEN Ship Will be Biggest At Inchgreen Berth For Decades, Inverclyde Now 28 February 2014
  4. ^ "Modern ship size definitions" (PDF). Lloyd's Register. Jan 3, 2014. Retrieved April 23, 2015. .

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