Until vessels started to be built to carry specific cargoes, all vessels were simply general or dry cargo vessels, ie built to carry any and all cargoes either in drums and bales or on pallets. Such cargoes were put in general holds with no specialisation. The role of the general/dry cargo vessel began to wane with the arrival of bulkcarriers and tankers, but the decline of these general vessels has accelerated since the arrival of containerisation (in the 1960's). Not only are container ships able to carry greater volumes of cargo in standard shaped cargo containers, the time spent loading and discharging has been dramatically reduced. Whereas a dry cargo vessel may take 3 - 4 days to load or discharge, a container ship can achieve the same in a matter of hours. Although general/ dry cargo vessels remain as the largest (in pure numbers) of cargo carrying vessels, they are often smaller (rarely above 50,000 Gross tons) than the specialised vessels that are slowly replacing them.
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