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Glossary of Sea Freight Terms


If you are interested in knowing about the different terminologies that are related to transport of freight by sea, then this is the ideal website for you. The names of different documents, the charges that are levied, along-with the rules and regulations are defined below, with their specific names to make overseas trade through ocean transport much easier. You would find this to be an insightful and thorough list. Furthermore, the list is in alphabetical order, making it easy for you to find the word you are looking for.

ABS: This is an abbreviation for American Bureau of Shipping, which is based in United States, and sets the standards for merchant ships and other marine systems.

Addendum: This refers to the list of terms which are listed at the end of the charter party

Ad Valorem: This typically means the addition to the value. This means that the tax that is levied on the freight.

Agency Fee: Sometimes known as the Attendance fee, this particular amount is charged by the ship's agent to the ship, which represents the payment for the services during the time that the ship was in port.

AIMS: It is an abbreviation for the American Institute of Merchant Shipping

ASABOSA: This refers to the Association of Ships' Agents and Brokers

ASL: This is an abbreviation for the Association of Shipping Lines

BAF: This reflects the current cost of bunkers and stands for bunker adjustment factor

Bagged Cargo: Also referred to as breadbulk, this considers the different kinds of commodities which can be packed in sacks or bags, which includes milk powder, flour, onion, grain, cement and sugar amongst others.

Bareboat Charter: This refers to the vessel contract which ensures that the charterers take over the entire responsibility for the vessel and the expenses for a particular period of time. The charterers also appoint their own master and crew, and pay all the different kinds of running expenses

Barge: A barge refers to a boat which is flat-bottomed and is used for the carrying of cargo on different protected waterways. Usually, the boat does not have any engines or any kind of accommodations for the crew. Barges can be lashed together or pulled and pushed by tugs on Inland River, and are able to handle cargo worth 60,000 tones. Ships that are used for carrying cargo between the shore and the ship are known as lighters.

B/D: B/D refers to barrels per day (for production and use of petroleum)

Beam: The width and the breadth of the ship is known as a beam

Bill of Lading (B/L): This refers to a document that contains details about the goods that are being carried on the ship and contains the terms of the contract, and serves as a receipt for the merchandise.

BIMCO: Many ship-owners and brokers belong to the BIMCO, which is known as Baltic and International Maritime Council

B/L Ton: Also referred as Freight Ton, it means that the greater measurement or weight of goods where 1 tonne refers to either 1 cubic meter or 1000 kg.

B/P: B/P also known as the Balance of Payments, which is the balance of imported goods and services against the exported goods and services

Box: Commonly, this refers to the container that carries the cargo

Boxtime: This refers to the standardized charter time for container ships

Breakbulk Vessel: This refers to a cargo ship that is used for multi-purpose for it can carry cargoes that are of different sizes, and often loaded on pallets. This often results in loading and unloading that requires a wide quantity of labor.

Breakbulk Cargo: The cargo that is carried in the hold of the ships and not in containers is known as break-bulk cargo

Bulk: Bulk refers to the cargo that is of homogenous nature is shipped in a loose condition. Such cargo is either unpackaged or dry which includes ore and grain, or sometimes liquid products, such as petroleum. This is usually provided on specialized ships for the transportation of a specific commodity. You cannot avail bulk service on a scheduled basis.

Bulk Broker: This refers to a ship which is especially designed to transport large amounts of cargos which includes grain, wine, ore, chemicals, sugar, liquefied nature gas and coal etc. Please also see LNG Carrier, OBO Ship and Tanker

Bulkhead: Any vertical portion that separates one space from the other in a ship is known as bulkhead.

Cabotage: This refers to the transport of passengers or cargo where remuneration is taken at one point and then discharged at another point. However, this is done within the territory of one country.

Capesize: This refers to a kind of ship, which is usually too large to go through the canals, which is why it needs to the travel through the capes, which includes Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope. This is also known as wet or dry bulker.

Cargo Handling: Act of loading and unloading a cargo ship is known as cargo handling

Cargo Plan: This is a plan which includes the quantities and description of the different goods that are on the ship after the loading has taken place

Cargo Preference: It is the reserving of certain imports and exports to a vessel that has the nation's flag on it.

Carriers: Those transporters and owners of ships that provide services to shippers are known as carriers. This is also used to refer to vessels for example, oil carriers.

Charter: Charter is the process whereby the owner of the ship hires out his ship for a particular time to another party

Charterer: Charterer refers to the individual or the group, which has chartered the ship for a specified period of time.

Charter Rates: It refers to the amount of money that is applied for chartering tonnage within a particular trade.

Charter Party: This refers to the agreement in the form of a contract between the ship owner and the cargo owner, which is usually mediated by a broker. This involves the chartering or hiring of the ship for a period of time or for a voyage.

Chemical Tanker: A tanker that is specifically designed to handle the transportation of chemicals.

C.I.F.: For this, refer to Incoterms

Clean Ship: This refers to a tanker, which has had its cargo tanks cleaned for traces of dark oil, which may have remained after the transport of heavy fuel or crude oil.

Coastal Service or Coastwise: This refers to the journey that is taken along a single coast domestically.

Code of Liner Conduct (UNCTAD): This refers to the convention which was drafted under the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. This includes the amount of percentages that have to be levied on the quantities of the shipments. The shipping traffic between two foreign countries is regulated if there is 40% for owners for the country of origin, same percentage for the owners of the country of origin, and 20% for the owners for the country which is neither the destination nor the origin.

COGSA: This is an abbreviation which means the Carriage of Goods by Sea.

Collier: This refers to the vessel that is used for the transport of coal

Consignee: This refers to the individual or the group to whom the cargo is consigned to. This is usually stated on the Bill of Lading

Consignor: This refers to the person or group who has shipped the goods to be received, as stated on the Bill of Lading

Container: A container is a box which is made from steel. It is available in different measurements and is used for the carriage of merchandise. It includes a standard container which is 20 feet or 40 feet, or a reefer container which is excellent for refrigerated merchandise, open top container type, or flatrack standard or collapsible container.

Container Ship: A container ship is a vessel that has been designed to handle the cargo that has been packed in containers. There is a full cellular container ship which does not have any cranes. It relies on cranes that are available on the shores for the loading and the unloading. There are specialized container ships which carry lighters or floating containers known as SeaBee and Lash, and then there are RoRo ships, which carry containers attached to truck trailers. The hulls of these ships are divided into cells through large hatches. The containers fit into them. .

COREBIS: This refers to the Contract Registration and Billing System, which was made by the SA Port Operations in April 2002. This is an electronic billing system.

COSMOS: Used at the SA container terminals, this is a Belgian computer logistic system

Cubic Capacity: This is considered to be the most fundamental commercial measurement where the intrinsic weight of the cargo is so low that without the cargo even being loaded to the cargo line, the ship becomes full. This is expressed in cubic feet or cubic meters.

Deadweight (DWT): Deadweight refers to the maximum carrying capacity of a particular ship which include the number of tonnes of cargo, the bunkers and the stores that the ship is able to transport. Deadweight also refers to the difference that occurs between the number of light tonnes that the vessel displaces and the number of tons that the vessel displaces when it is in the deep line. The cargo capacity of the ship is less than the total deadweight tonnage.

DEAT: This refers to the Department of Environment and Tourism

Deep Sea Trades: This refers to the route that is taken by vessels (both passenger and cargo) which take long voyages across deep seas

Deep Stowage: This refers to any kind of bagged and bulk cargo which can be stowed in single hold ships

Demurrage: The fee that is levied on the port or the supplier by the shipping company for not loading or unloading a vessel at the data that was agreed upon within the contract is known as Demurrage

Dry Cargo: This refers to all kinds of cargo except liquid which is carried in bulk

Dry Cargo Ship: A vessel that carries Dry cargo (see above) in huge quantities

Dunnage: Any loose wood or material which is used in the hold of the ship for the protection of cargo is known as Dunnage

DWT: This refers to the measurement of Deadweight tonnes

EEC: This term refers to the European Economic Community

EEU: The political union of the Europe or the European Economic Union is known as the EEU

FAK: This refers to the Freight of All kinds, which means that the charge is levied irrespective of the kinds of goods. The freight is generally charged according to the containers used.

Feeder Ship: The transshipped cargo from one port to the other is handled through a Feeder Ship

FEU: This is the measurement of containers that stands for forty foot equivalent Units

Fixture: An agreement that comes out as a conclusion of the shipbrokers' negotiation for the charter of the ship

Flags of Convenience (FOC): The registration of ships in the country that has favorable trade structures as well as trade regulations is known as Flags of Convenience. FOC states are able to offer low tax rates and their requirements concerning the maintenance and manning is not extremely strict.

FOB (FREE ON BOARD): This is generally an export term which means that the price mentioned by the exporter does not take into account the costs of the transport in the ocean, but includes the loading on the board of the ship

Force Majeure: This is a clause which limits responsibilities of shippers, charterers and receiver of cargo.

Freight Forwarder: The company that represents the cargo owner and arranges for the shipment of the cargo

Freight Rate: The charge that is levied for the transportation of freight is known as freight charge

Freight Tonne: A form of measurement or weight of goods where 1 tonne is equal to 1 cubic meter or 1000 kg

Gas Tanker: A tanker is a kind of vessel which is designed specifically for the transport of condensed gases. These gases include LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), ammonia and ethylene, LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas), such as propane and butane.

GATF: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is known as GATF

GATT: This refers to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is an international agreement that embodies a set of rules that govern fair trade and commerce globally. The headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.

GDP: This stands for Gross Domestic Products, which is basically the value of goods that are produced by a country over one year.

General Cargo: The non-bulk cargo which is imposed on miscellaneous group is known as General Cargo

GNP: GNP refers to Gross National Product, which consists of GDP with net income from foreign sources

Great Lakes Ports: The ports that are present in USA and/or Canada for the shipment of grain are known as Great Lakes Ports. This also refers to the ports which are on the Great Lakes of East Africa.

Great Lakes Ship: A cargo ship that is developed for carrying raw materials and manufactured goods on the Great lakes is known as the Great Lakes Ship. Most carry bulk cargos such as coal, iron ore and grain.

Gross & Net Tonnage (GT and NT): Gross Tonnage forms the basis on which the safety regulations and manning rules are applied, as well as the application of the registration fees. Port fees are also collected on the basis of GT and NT. These figures are calculated through formulas which consider the volume of the vessel's enclosed spaces (GT) and volume of its holds (NT) among other things

Gross Registered Tons: This is a common measurement which takes into account the internal volume of a ship with certain spaces being excluded.

Hague Rules: These rules are a codification of the minimum conditions that have to be met for the carriage of cargo under a particular bill of lading.

Hague Visby Rules: The 1968 revision of the Hague Rules are known as Hague Visby Rules

Handysize Bulk Broker: The bulk carrier that carries between 10,000 and 40,000 deadweight tonnes is known as handysize bulk broker

Hazardous Cargo: This is a cargo which has substances that toxic, inflammable or has an otherwise dangerous nature.

Hoisting Rope: A hoisting rope is made from a flexible wire which is used for landing purposes.

Hold: A hold refers to the large compartments which are below the main deck which are made for the storing the general cargo.

IAPH: This is an abbreviation for the International Association of Ports and Harbors

IHMA: This refers to the International Harbor Masters Association

IMDG: This refers to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.

INCOTERMS: These refer to a codification of rules which interpret the terms of trade by defining the obligations and rights of sellers and buyers in international transactions. There are numerous terms which are codified under INCOTERMS.

Inflammable Liquids: These are liquids which can combust spontaneously, which may give off inflammable vapors at or below 80 degrees F. This includes ethyl, benzene, gasoline, enamels, paints, carbon disulfide and ether etc.

INMARSAT: This is an abbreviation for the International Maritime Satellite System

ICS: This is an abbreviation for the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers

Intermodalism: This refers to the concept of transportation as a door-to-door service rather than that of port-to-port. It can be used in different forms of transport, such road, ships and trains but a single carrier is used.

ITF: This abbreviation refers to the International Transport Workers Federation

LCL - LESS THAN CONTAINER LOAD: This is a consignment of merchandise which is not enough to fill a whole shipping container. It is grouped with other consignments which are headed to other destinations in a container at the freight station.

Lighter: This refers to a flat-bottomed board, which is used for the transport of cargo between the vessel and the shore. The difference between a barge and lighter is in the way that the two are used rather than in the equipment. The lighter refers to a short haul which is used for the loading and unloading of the operations of vessels in harbor. However, barge is used when the consignment is being carried over a long distance to its destination.

Lighter Aboard Ship: This ship sails in the ocean and carries barges and lighters. The barges have cargo loaded onto them, at different locations, which are towed to the ocean ship. The ocean ship is known as the mother ship. Once the destination is reached, the barges are unloaded and then towed to different destinations. This system has been designed to reduce the need for specialized port equipment and avoid transshipment along with the extra cost that is attached to it.

Lighterage: This is the charge for the transport of cargo by barges and lighters.

Lien: The retention of property until the debt is paid off is known as Lien

Liner: This refers to a passenger-carrying ship which operates between advertised, scheduled ports of loading and unloading on a regular basis.

Liner Service: These are the vessels which operate on fixed and regular schedules, and have pre-established rates available to all the shippers. However, the freight rates are levied upon the tariff of the shipping company or if the company is part of the liner conference.

Lloyd's Register of Shipping: The classification society in Britain which is quite well-known is Lloyd's Register of Shipping.

LNG: LNG stands for Liquefied Natural Gas

LNG Carrier: It is a kind of ship that carries LNG. This is considered to be the most advanced of all the different commercial ships because the tanks are made of special aluminum alloys and are insulated heavily to take natural gas at a temperature of -2850F. This costs around twice as much as the oil tanker.

Loaded Leg: The subdivision of a ship's voyage when the ship is actually carrying the cargo is known as loaded leg.

LOI: This is an abbreviation for the Letters of Indemnity

Longshoreman: This is an individual who has been employed to work on the cargo

Lo-Lo: This stands for lift on and lift off, which are cranes on a container that allow for loading and unloading

Long Ton (LT): This equals to a measurement of 2240 pounds or 1016.5 kg.

LPG: This refers to the carrier of Liquefied Petroleum Gas

Lumpsum Freight: This refers to the money that is paid by the shipper for the charter of the entire or portion of the ship which is up to a particular limit irrespective of the amount of cargo that one has.

Manifest: This document contains a whole list of the ship cargo's which is taken from the Bill of Lading

Maritime Lien: This is a claim which is attached to any vessel, ship or freight

MLA: This is an abbreviation which refers to the Maritime Law Association

MOA: This refers to the Memorandum of Agreement, used for variety of purposes.

M/T: This is a measurement that refers to metric tonnes weight 2250 lbs.

Multipurpose Ship: This is a ship which is capable of carrying different kinds of cargo even if they require different methods of training. There are different ships that actually fall into this category. Ships that have roll on/roll off cargo that has containers with them. There are ships that are able to carry loose and dry cargo and different cargos in containers.

Neobulk: These are shipments that contain one particular kind of cargo, which may be cars, scrap metals or lumber

Non-conference Line: This refers to a shipping line which is operated on a route which is served by a particular liner conference. However, the shipping line is not a part of the conference itself.

NVO: This refers to the non-vessel operating common carrier or a ships agent which actually conducts the business for the ship but is not the owner

NVOCC: This refers to the Non Vessel Operating Common container Carriers, which is a carrier that issues the bill of lading for the carriage of cargo even though the person neither owns nor operates the ship

OBO Ship: This refers to a multi-purpose ship which is able to carry heavy dry bulk goods, oil and ore. Even though it is quite expensive to build, it becomes more economical because it is able to make return journeys with cargo instead of making these journeys empty.

Ocean Waybill: This refers to the document which has issued to a shipper by a shipping line which serves as the receipt for the consignment and evidence of the carriage based on contract.

Ore Carrier: This refers to a large ship which has been designed specifically for the carriage of ore. Since the density of the ore is high, these carriers have a high center of gravity so that they can be prevented for rolling heavily at sea which can put stress to the hull.

Pallet: This consists of a flat tray which is generally made of wood but sometimes of steel, on which the goods especially those that are in bags, cartons or boxes can be placed. The purpose of the pallet is to facilitate the movement of these goods, which is done mostly by the use of forklift trucks.

Per Container Rate: These refer to the charges on the shipments which are transported in trailers or containers. They are mainly rated on the category of the trailer or the container.

P & I: This refers to the Protection and Indemnity Insurance

Pooling: This generally refers to the sharing of cargo, profit or loss from the freight by the members within a liner conference. However, this does not exist at all times.

Products Tanker: This vessel is able to carry refined petroleum products in a huge bulk quantity

Propane Carrier: This refers to the ship that has been specifically designed to carry propane in its liquefied form. The liquid forms exist because of the refrigeration and pressure process. These ships can also carry butane.

Reefer: This refers to a refrigerated ship, which has been designed to carry goods which need refrigeration such as fruit and meat. This shop also has insulated holds so that the cold air can pass in the temperature that is suitable for the kinds of goods that are being carried.

A Reefer Box: This refers to an insulated shipping container which has been designed specifically to carry cargoes that need temperature control. Generally, these are fitted with a refrigeration unit, which has to be connected to the electrical supply in the ship.

Return Cargo: This refers to the cargo which allows a loaded ship to return to the port where the previous cargo was loaded

Reversible Time: This refers to the option which is provided for charterers to add together the entire time which is allowed for loading and unloaded in a way that is relative to the terms of a specific charter party.

Rolling Cargo: The cargo which is on wheels, and that can be towed or driven on the ship is known as rolling cargo.

Ro-Ro Ship: A freight ship of ferry which has facilities for vehicles to roll on and roll off is known as a RO-RO ship. This also means a way of loading and unloading a ship in which the cargo is basically driven on and off from the ships through ramps. There are large openings on the bow as well as at sides sometimes, which gives easy access.

Seabee: A barge carrier which has a similar design to LASH, but which has rollers for the movement of barges abroad the ship. They are considerably larger than those loaded on LASH ships.

Self-Geared Ship: This has a ship that has its own gear along with crane for the loading and the unloading of the shipping cargo which includes containers. This enables the ship to be adequate for ports that do not have the appropriate lifting equipment.

Self-Trimming Ship: It is a ship in which the holders are shaped in such a way that the cargo is able to level itself.

Semi-submersible: This is a ship that is able to submerge part of it to facilitate the loading or the discharging of cargo which can be floated on and off. These are heavy-duty vessels most of the times.

Ship's Agent: This refers to an individual or firm who is able to do all the business for the ship on behalf of the charterer or the owner of the ship

Shipper: This is an individual or a business that is able to tender the goods or cargo for the transport. This is the cargo owner or the representatives of the cargo owner.

Short Ton: Short ton is a form of measurement that equals 2000 pounds.

SIU: This is an abbreviation that refers to Seafarers International Union

Spot (Voyage): This is a charter for a particular ship in order to move a single cargo between the loading port and discharged port within a particular time. The spot rate known as the contract rate covers the expenses of the operation which includes port chargers, canal tolls, bunkers, insurance repairs, crews' wages and food. The owner of the cargo takes care of this expense along with any expenses that are specifically charged against the cargo.

S.S.: This refers to a Steam Ship

S/T: This refers to the Short Ton weighing around 2000 lbs.

Stevedore: This is an individual who is employed in the handling of the ship cargo. Stevedore is also known as longshoreman (see above).

Stowage: The placement of goods in a ship in such a way that the stability and the safety of the ship is not only maintained on the ocean or sea journey but also when the goods are being loaded and unloaded.

Stowage Factor: This refers to the cubic space which is the measurement tons which is occupied by one tonne of cargo.

Stuffing (or Stripping): This is the process that includes the unpacking of the cargo.

Tank-Barge: A river barge which is designed in a way that it can carry liquid bulk cargoes is known as Tank-Barge

Tanker: This refers to a bulk carrier which has been made in a way to carry liquid cargo; usually petroleum goods. The oil tankers vary in their size, which means that they can be small coastal vessels that have 1000 tons of deadweight or medium sized ship of 60,000 tons along with giant VLCCs (very large crude carriers).

Tariff: This is the terms and conditions along with the charges on a particular cargo

TEU: This abbreviation stands for Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, which measures the capacity of a ship to carry cargo. This normally refers to a container size which is 20 feet in length. A 40 ft container would be measured as being 2 TEU. s

THC: This refers to the Terminal Handling Charge which is raised at the port terminals for handling

Time Bar: It is the time after which there will be no legal procedures entertained

Ton Mile: Used in the economics of transportation, ton mile is a measurement which designates one ton being moved per mile. The distance is involved in the calculation to move a commodity so it is quite useful for the shipper.

Tonnage: This is the quantity of cargo which is expressed as number of tons

ULCC: This refers to the Ultra Large Crude Carriers that have deadweight of more than 300,000

VLCC: This abbreviation refers to Very Large Crude Carriers, where the deadweight is between 200,000 and 300,000

VLCS: This abbreviation stands for Very Large Container Ship, which is able to carry around 8000 and more of TEU (see above).

Posted by: Murad on Feb 15 2014

Tags: Sea Freight Terms Sea Freight Terminology Sea Freight Glossary Glossary Of Freight Terms Sea Cargo Glossary International Freight Terms Basics Of Import Export Ocean Freight Terms Ocean Freight Glossary

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