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Resources Glossary of Shipping Terms
Accessorial Charges
Charges in addition to the base tariff rate or base contract rate, e.g., bunkers, container, currency, destination/delivery.

Arrival Notice
A notification by carrier of ship's arrival to the consignee, the Notify Party.

Actual Time of Arrival

Bill of Lading (B/L or BOL)
A document that establishes the contract for shipment between a shipper and a transportation company. It serves as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods.

Blank Sailing (Void Sailing)
A blank or void sailing is a sailing that the vessel operating carrier has canceled. A carrier may cancel calls on specific ports, regions, or entire strings. When a sailing is blanked, cargo is rolled to the next available vessel.

Acceptable proof of financial responsibility to act as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary in the international ocean transportation of cargo, typically issued by a surety company.

Bonded Warehouse
A warehouse in which dutiable goods are deposited until duty is paid or the goods are cleared for export. There are nine different types or classes of Customs bonded warehouses authorized in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Regulations

Arrangements with a carrier for the acceptance and carriage of freight; i.e., a space reservation.

Booking Number
Reservation number used to secure equipment and act as a control number prior to completion of a Bill of Lading. Generally issued by a steamship line.

Slang term for shipping container.

Break Bulk
Denotes a system of transporting cargo as separate pieces rather than in containers; goods that must be loaded individually, and not in intermodal containers nor in bulk as with oil or grain.

Freight forwarder/broker compensation as specified by ocean tariff or contract.

Bulk Freight
Cargo that is transported unpackaged in large quantities. It refers to material in either liquid or granular, particulate form, as a mass of relatively small solids, such as petroleum, grain, coal, or gravel. This cargo is usually dropped or poured, with a spout or shovel bucket, into a bulk carrier ship's hold, railroad car, or tanker truck/trailer/semi-trailer body.

Bunker Adjustment Factor
A charge sometimes added to steamship freight rates; justified by higher fuel costs. Also known as Fuel Adjustment Factor (FAF) or Bunker Charge or Bunker Surcharge.

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA)
U.S. federal codification passed in 1936 which standardizes and sets limitations on a carrier's liability under carrier's bill of lading. U.S. enactment of The Hague Rules.

A frame with wheels and container locking devices in order to secure the container for movement. Not shipped on the vessel with the container.

Container On Flat Car. The movement of a container on a railroad flatcar. This movement is made without the container being mounted on a chassis.

Commercial Invoice
Represents a complete record of the transaction between exporter and importer with regard to the goods sold. Also reports the content of the shipment and serves as the basis for all other documents about the shipment.

Person or company to whom commodities are shipped.

Person or company shown on the bill of lading as the shipper.

A firm which groups together shipments from different companies into a single shipment.

A truck trailer body that can be detached from the chassis for loading into a vessel, a rail car or stacked in a container depot. Containers may be ventilated, insulated, refrigerated, flat rack, vehicle rack, open top, bulk liquid or equipped with interior devices. A container may be 20 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 48 feet or 53 feet in length, 8'0" or 8'6" in width, and 8'6" or 9'6" in height.

Country of Origin
The country of manufacture, production, or growth where an article or product comes from.

Customs Broker
A person or firm, licensed by the treasury department of their country when required, engaged in entering and clearing goods through Customs for a client (importer).

Cut-Off Time
The latest time cargo may be delivered to a terminal for loading to a scheduled train or ship. Additionally, for our purposes, the latest documents can be submitted to a steamship line without being subject to fines or not loading.

Container Yard. The location designated by the carrier for receiving, assembling, holding, storing, and delivering containers, and where containers may be picked up by shippers or redelivered by consignees.

Deadweight tonnage (DWT)
A measure of how much weight a ship is carrying or can safely carry. It is the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers, and crew.

A penalty charge against shippers for delaying a shipment/container at port of loading or destination beyond the allowed free time. At times used interchangeably with detention. Demurrage applies to cargo. Detention applies to equipment.

Department of Transportation (DOT)
A federal Cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation. It was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, and began operation on April 1, 1967. It is governed by the United States Secretary of Transportation.

Process in which a landed container is unsealed (usually in the presence of customs) and all its contents are taken out. Also called stripping or unstuffing of container.

Dock Receipt
A form used to acknowledge receipt of cargo and often serves as basis for preparation of the ocean bill of lading.

Through transportation of a container and its contents from consignor to consignee. Also known as House-to-House.

Entry or Entry Summary
Documentation required by importers that allows U.S. Customs to determine if products are legal to import. The entry summary describes and properly codes the imported merchandise.

Estimated Time of Arrival

Estimated Time of Sailing

Export Declaration
U.S. Customs form completed and submitted by an exporter at the port of export; it provides information on amount, nature, and value of exports to the statistical office for compilation of foreign trade data; and it serves as an export control document.

Express Bill of Lading
Non-negotiable B/L where there are no hard copies of originals printed.

Freight All Kinds. Carrier's tariff classification for various kinds of goods that are pooled and shipped together at one freight rate. Consolidated shipments are generally classified as FAK.

Federal Maritime Commission (FMC)
A federal agency in the United States that regulates ocean-going transportation and commerce between US organizations and foreign countries. Established in 1961, the Federal Maritime Commission is responsible for monitoring and licensing all ocean-based shipping and other business activities involving US companies or concerns.

Feeder Vessel
A short-sea vessel which transfers cargo between a central "hub" port and smaller "spoke" ports.

Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ)
Designated sites within the United States where foreign and domestic merchandise is considered to be outside the U.S. Customs territory, allowing companies to defer, alter or in some cases eliminate duties.

Forty-Foot Equivalent Units (FEU)
Refers to the standard container size of 40 feet. Two 20–foot containers or TEU's equal one FEU.

Free Time
That amount of time that a carrier's equipment may be used without incurring additional charges.

Freight Forwarder
A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of the shipper to arrange transportation services. A freight forwarder frequently makes the booking reservation. In the United States freight forwarders are licensed by the FMC as Ocean Transportation Intermediaries and are only designated freight forwarders for export shipments.

Full Container Load (FCL)
A container that is loaded and unloaded entirely under the risk and account of a single shipper or consignee.

General Rate Increase

Gross Weight
Entire weight of goods, packaging and freight car or container, ready for shipment. Generally, 80,000 pounds maximum container, cargo and tractor for highway transport.

See "Door-to-Door."

I.M.D.G. Code
International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. The regulations published by the IMO for transporting hazardous materials internationally.

In Bond
Cargo moving under Customs control where duty has not yet been paid.

In Gate(d)
The transaction or interchange that occurs at the time a container is received by a rail terminal or water port from another carrier.

"Incoterms" is a trademark of the International Chamber of Commerce. The recognized abbreviation for the International Chamber of Commerce Terms of Sale. A set of rules which define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers for the delivery of goods under sales contracts. They are published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and are widely used in commercial transactions.

Interchange Agreement
Contract which governs the interchange of intermodal equipment between ocean carriers, railroads, equipment leasing companies and intermodal trucking companies.

Used to denote movements of cargo containers interchangeably between transport modes, i.e., motor, water, and air carriers, and where the equipment is compatible within the multiple systems.

Intermodal Shipper Owned

2.2046 pounds

Loaded on board a vessel

Less Than Container Load (LCL)
The quantity of freight which is less than that required for the application of a full container load rate.

Letter of Credit
A document, issued by a bank per instructions by a buyer of goods, authorizing the seller to draw a specified sum of money under specified terms, usually the receipt by the bank of certain documents within a given time.

Document that lists in detail all the bills of lading issued by a carrier or its agent or master for a specific voyage. A detailed summary of the total cargo of a vessel. Used principally for Customs purposes.

Net weight
The total weight of the cargo only.

Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC)
A cargo consolidator in ocean trades that will buy space from a carrier and re-sell it to smaller shippers. The NVOCC issues bills of lading, publishes tariffs and otherwise conducts itself as an ocean common carrier, except that it will not provide the actual ocean or intermodal service.

Not Otherwise Specified

NVOCC Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier
NVOCCs are those who own their own containers but don't own and operate vessels. NVOCCs buy container space in vessels from vessel operators and in turn sell sea freight service to their customers

Ocean Bill of Lading
A contract for transportation between a shipper and a carrier. It also evidences receipt of the cargo by the carrier. A bill of lading shows ownership of the cargo and, if made negotiable, can be bought, sold or traded while the goods are in-transit.

Ocean Transportation Intermediary License
A document issued by the Federal Maritime Commission indicating that a person or company has authorization to act as a Freight Forwarder or Non-Vessel-Operating-Common-Carrier, has established proof of financial responsibility in the form of a bond for its transportation activities, and, if acting as a common carrier, has published a tariff containing its rates and charges.

On Board
A notation on a bill of lading that cargo has been loaded on board a vessel. Used to satisfy the requirements of a letter of credit, in the absence of an express requirement to the contrary.

Original Bill of Lading
Non-negotiable bill of lading used in taking delivery of a shipment, or filing a claim on a damaged or lost shipment. All other copies of a B/L are for recording purposes only. Typically, 3 rated or unrated B/Ls, 3 rated and 3 unrated copy non-negotiable b/ls are issued. Cargo cannot be claimed without the presentation of original bills of lading in a shipment requiring originals.

A platform with or without sides, on which a number of packages or pieces may be loaded to facilitate handling by a lift truck. Also known as a Skid.

Per Diem
Charge, based on a fixed daily rate.

Place of Delivery
Place where cargo leaves the care and custody of carrier.

Place of Receipt
Location where cargo enters the care and custody of carrier.

Port of discharge

Port of loading

Refrigerated Container (Reefer)
A shipping container used in intermodal freight transport that is refrigerated for the transportation of temperature sensitive cargo.

Seaway Bill
This document serves to provide the terms and conditions of carriage and acts as a receipt of goods tendered to the carrier. However, unlike a bill of lading, a seaway bill is not a document of title.

Shipper's Export Declaration (SED)
A U.S. Commerce Department document. As provided in the Shipping Act of 1984, a contract between a shipper (or a shippers association) and an ocean common carrier (or conference) in which the shipper makes a commitment to provide a certain minimum quantity of cargo or freight revenue over a fixed time period, and the ocean common carrier or conference commits to a certain rate or rate schedule as well as a defined service level (such as assured space, transit time, port rotation or similar service features). The contract may also specify provisions in the event of nonperformance on the part of either party.

The consumer or business providing goods for shipment. A NVOCC also is a shipper in relationship to a VOCC.

Shipper's Export Declaration
A joint Bureau of the Census' International Trade Administration form used for compiling U.S. exports. It is completed by a shipper and shows the value, weight, destination, etc., of export shipments as well as Schedule B commodity code.

Shipper's Load & Count (SL&C)
Shipments loaded and sealed by shippers and not checked or verified by the carriers. Also known as shipper's load, stow and count.

Steamship Line Bill of Lading
See "Ocean Bill of Lading"

A person employed, or a contractor engaged, at a dock to load and unload cargo from ships.

An extra or additional charge.

Tare Weight
Sometimes called unladen weight, is the weight of an empty vehicle or container.

A publication setting forth the charges, rates and rules of transportation companies. NVOCCs and VOCCs must publish and maintain tariffs. To locate a tariff please visit:

Telex Release
A Telex release is the industry term for the release of cargo at one port when the original bill of lading has been surrendered at another. Seen most frequently with NSCSA and MSC. (NSCSA will only telex release)

Terminal Handling Charge (THC)
A charge made for a service performed in a carrier's terminal area.

Trailer Interchange Receipt (TIR)
Interchange receipt between trucker and carrier; document showing condition of container/equipment at the time of interchange.

Transit Time
The approximate number of days cargo will be in transit

To transfer goods from one transportation line to another, or from one ship to another.

Twenty-Foot Equivalent (TEU)
The standard measurement of containerized cargo. One TEU generally represents a single container measuring 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet high.

Vessel Operating Common Carrier (VOCC)
A common carrier that operates, for all or part of its common carrier service, a vessel in a service between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country.

War Risk
Insurance coverage for loss of goods resulting from any act of war.

See "Bill of Lading"

Charge assessed by a pier or dock owner against freight handled over the pier or dock or against a steamship company using the pier or dock.