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Last updated on March 1, 2024 by Ben Thompson

Glossary of Shipping Terms

Shipping Terms and Shipping Abbreviations

The International shipping and marine transport industry is full of unique shipping terms and shipping abbreviations. And these are used every day to describe everything from modes of transport, units of measure, pricing structures, IncoTerms and much more. Therefore, it’s important that importers, exporters and freight companies correctly communicate freight terms to avoid problems or disputes arising from misunderstanding them.

Download Shipping Glossary Chart PDF

We’ve put together this shipping glossary chart to help you navigate the international shipping. Certainly, you must understand them to be successful in shipping and global trade. Also, note that you can enter your freight terms and shipping abbreviations in the search bar at the top. You can also download the glossary table as a PDF chart.

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Ab Initio

From the beginning


The right a marine assured has to abandon property in order to establish a constructive total losstp. An underwriter is not obliged to accept abandonment, but if he does he accepts responsibility for the property and liabilities attaching thereto, in addition to being liable for the full sum insured.

ABC analysis

Classification of items in an inventory according to importance defined in terms of criteria such as sales volume and purchase volume.


A bill of exchange signed by the party upon whom it is drawn in token of acceptance of responsibility for its payment.


A carrier’s ability to provide service between an origin and a destination.

Accessorial charges

A carrier’s charge for accessorial services such as loading, unloading, pickup, and delivery.


The Automated Commercial Environment is the online web portal used to report data to the Automated Export System (AES).

Act of God

An inevitable event occurring without the intervention of man — such as flood, tempest, or death — operating in case of certain contracts, such as those of insurers or carriers.

Action message

An alert that an MRP or DRP system generates to inform the controller of a situation requiring his or her attention.

Active stock

Goods in active pick locations and ready for order filling.

Activity-Based Costing

A method of cost management that identifies business activities performed, accumulates costs associated with these activities, and uses various cost drivers to trace costs of activities to the products.

Actual Container Gross Weight

Total weight of a container, i.e. the weight of the payload plus empty container weight,together with any loose internal fittings.

Actual Pay Load

The difference between the actual gross weight and the gross tare weight of a container.

Actual Total Loss

This relates to an insurance policy and can occur in any of four ways – 1) The property is completely destroyed. 2) The owner is irretrievably deprived of the property. 3) Goods change their character to such a degree that they can be said to be no longer the thing insured by the policy. 4) The subject matter of the insurance, be it ship or goods on board the ship.

Ad Valorem

According to the value. For example, an import duty rate of 10% ad valorem means 10% of the value of the goods.

Advance Note

A draft on a shipowner for wages, given to a seaman on signing Articles of Agreement and redeemable after the ship has sailed with the seaman on board.

Advance Payment

Cash in Advance.

Advanced shipment notice

A list transmitted to a customer or consignor designating items shipped. May also include expected time of arrival.


The Automated Export System is the system used by the U.S. government to collect data on exports. This data is called Electronic Export Information (EEI) and in many cases exporters are legally required to file the EEI through AES for each shipment. The U.S. Census Bureau uses this data to calculate trade statistics such as gross domestic product (GDP), while U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses it to make sure that exporters are following U.S. export regulations.


A written declaration on oath.


An agreement by an ocean carrier to provide cargo space on a vessel at a specified time and for a specified price to accommodate an exporter or importer.

Agency Fee

A fee charged to the ship by the ship’s agent, representing payment for services while the ship was in port. Sometimes called attendance fee.

Agency tariff

A rate bureau publication that contains rates for many carriers.


An enterprise authorized to transact business for, or in the name of, another enterprise.


A net advantage a company gains by sharing a common location with other companies.

Aggregate shipment

Multiple shipments from different sellers to a single consignee that are consolidated by the carrier into a single shipment.

Aggregate tender rate

A reduced rate offered to a shipper who tenders two or more class-related shipments at one time and one place.

Air cargo

Freight that is moved by air transportation.

Air Carrier

An enterprise that offers transportation service via air.

Air taxi

An exempt for-hire air carrier that will fly anywhere on demand; air taxis are restricted to a maximum payload and passenger capacity per plane.

Air Waybill (AWB)

The document which covers transport by air. It is issued by the carrier, whether an airline or a freight forwarder, as a non-negotiable document serving as a receipt to the consignor for the goods, and containing the conditions of transport. It also shows the details of the consignee so that they can be contacted on arrival of the goods.

Aircargo Agent

An agent appointed by an airline to solicit and process international airfreight shipments.

Aircraft Container

A unit load device ( ULD ) which links directly with the airplane cargo handling and restraint system.

All Containership

Vessel designed to carry containers only and no other cargo.

All Risk

All Risks Coverage, a type of marine insurance, is the broadest kind of standard coverage, but excludes damage caused by war, strikes, and riots.

All Water

Term used when the transportation is completely by water.

All-cargo carrier

An air carrier that transports cargo only


An attachment to a bill of exchange for carrying additional endorsements after the back of the bill has been filled with names.


A term used to describe blocked space by airlines on behalf of forwarders/shippers.


Refers to the side of a ship. Goods delivered alongside are placed on the dock or barge within reach of the ship’s rigging so it can be easily loaded onto the ship. It’s used in the IncoTerm FAS.

Ambient Temperature

The temperature of a substance surrounding a body. Thus the ambient temperature of a container would be the temperature of the air to which it is exposed outside.

And arrival

A term relating to return of premiums on a hull policy. The ship must be safe at expiry of the policy; otherwise no return of premium will be paid.

Antidiversion Clause

To help ensure that U.S. exports go only to legally authorized destinations, the U.S. government generally requires a Destination Control Statement (DCS) on shipping documents. The DCS must be entered for items subject to the EAR, except for items designated EAR99 or that are eligible for certain license exceptions.

Antidumping Duty

Special duty imposed to offset the price effect of dumping that has been determined to be materially harmful to domestic producers.

Any-quantity rate

A rate that applies to any size shipment tendered to a carrier; no discount rate is available for large shipments.


Australian Port Charges Additional, the port charges passed on by shipping companies to importers for FCLs

Apparent good order

When freight appears to be free of damage after being assessed it is said to be in apparent good order.


The buyer who has requested his bank to arrange an L/C on his behalf. In some countries where the buyer may have trouble arranging an import license, the applicant may be a third party acting on behalf of the buyer.


The submitting of matters of controversy to judgment by persons selected by all parties to the dispute.


Process of resolving a dispute or a grievance outside of the court system by presenting it to an impartial third party or panel for a decision that may or may not be binding.


The detention of a vessel until the purpose of the arrest has been fulfilled.

Arrival notice

Notification provided by the carrier when a shipment has arrived to the consignee or notify party.


A person who officially estimates the value of goods for the purpose of apportioning the sum payable in the settlement of claims.


The transfer of rights, duties, responsibilities, and benefits of an agreement, contract, or financial instrument to a third party.


Can either mean behind a ship, or to move a ship in reverse direction.


Actual Time of Arrival, or Airport-To-Airport, or Air Transport Association of America.


Actual Time of Departure.


Stands for ‘Any Time Day or Night, Sundays and Holidays Included’. This refers to when a vessel will operate.


A direction across the width of a ship.


In reference to freight bills, the term audit is used to determine the accuracy of freight bills.


Determining the correct transportation charges due the carrier; auditing involves checking the freight bill for errors, correct rate, and weight.


The Australian Trade Commission – Australia’s export and investment facilitation agency, see

Automatic identification system (AIS)

A satellite system used by ships and vessel tracking service (VTS) to identify and locate ships.


Loss or damage at sea. The distribution of loss among underwriters.

Average (General)

Partial loss of the whole adventure deliberately made to prevent total loss of the whole adventure. It may be sacrifice of property or expenditure incurred to save the adventure. Parties who benefit from a general average loss are required to make good that loss by contributing in the proportion that the saved value of the party’s property bears to the saved value of all interest involved in the adventure.

Average (Particular)

A fortuitous partial loss of insured property proximately caused by an insured peril, but which is not a general average loss.

Average Adjuster

A person appointed by a shipowner to collect data, guarantees, etc. In relation to general aver age, and to calculate contributions due from the parties concerned to make good general average losses. The adjuster may also adjust claims on hull insurance policies on behalf of underwriters.

Average Bond

An agreement signed by all interested parties acknowledging their liability to pay a share of the loss under General Average.

Average cost

Total cost, fixed plus variable, divided by total output.

Average Disbursements

Expenditure incurred by the shipowner in connection with a general average act or an act of salvage. Such expenditure, when properly incurred, is recoverable from the G.A. or salvage fund created by the average adjuster, not from hull underwriters.


The right of an underwriter to avoid a contract of marine insurance. This can occur in the event of a breach of good faith by the assured or by his broker or, in the case of a voyage policy, where the voyage does not commence within a reason able time after acceptance of the risk by the underwriter.


The decision given by an arbitrator, to whom a matter in dispute has been referred. An arbitrator states only the effect of his decision, without reasons, thus differing from a judge, who usually states the grounds of his judgment.

Back Freight

Payment due to the shipowner for the carriage of goods beyond the contract port owing to circumstances beyond the control of the shipowner.

Back Haul

The return movement of a means of transport that has provided a transport service in one direction.

Back order

The process a company uses when a customer orders an item that is not in inventory; the company fills the order when the item becomes available.


The owners of a ship are entitled to payment as freight for merchandise returned through the fault of either the consignees or the consignors. Such payment, which is over and above the normal freight, is called backfreight.


Cargo carried on a return journey.


Bunker Adjustment Factor – an adjustment to shipping companies’ freight rates to take into account fluctuations in the cost of fuel oil (bunkers) for their ships.

Balance of Trade

The surplus or deficit which results from comparing a country’s exports and imports of merchandise only.


A large compressed, bound, and often wrapped bundle of a commodity, such as cotton or hay.

Balloon freight

Freight that is low weight but high volume (light but bulky.)

Bank Guarantee

A document issued by a bank acting as a guarantor for their customer. The bank’s guarantee is accepted because of their status and creditworthiness compared to that of their customer. Often used in conjunction with major projects, in the form of Bid Bonds, Performance Bonds and Warranty Bonds, commonly for 10% of the contract value, all of which provide the buyer with a measure of comfort should the seller not fulfil his obligations at various stages of the contract.

Banker’s Indemnity or Guarantee

A form which may be required in the following circumstances by a shipowner to be completed by the consignee and countersigned by the consignee’s bank: 1) When release of goods is required without production of the Bill of Lading (e.g. if the B/L has been lost). 2) When a clean B/L is called for on the Documentary Credit and the shipowner, for various reasons, wishes to clause the B/L. 3) By the Chamber of Commerce and Industry when issuing an ATA Carnet for goods to be temporarily exported from Australia.

Bare Boat Charter

Charterer hires a vessel for a long period, appoints the master and crew, and pays all running expenses.


The cargo-carrying vehicle which may or may not have its own propulsion mechanism for the purpose of transporting goods. Primarily used by Inland water carriers, basic barges have open tops, but there are covered barges for both dry and liquid cargoes. Barges can be lashed together and either pushed or pulled by tugs, carrying cargo of 60,000 tons or more. Small barges for carrying cargo between ship and shore are known as lighters.


An act committed by the master or mariners of a vessel, for some unlawful or fraudulent purpose, contrary to their duty to the owners, whereby the latter sustain injury. It may include negligence, if so gross as to evidence fraud.


The exchange of commodities or services for other commodities or services rather than the purchase of commodities or services with money.

Base Currency

The currency whose value is ‘one’, whenever a quote is made between two currencies.

Basic Service Charge (BSC)

Amount arrived at by the multiplication of freight in tonnes, by the Basic Service Rate (BSR).

Basic Service Rate (BSR)

Costs of ocean liner freight, wharfage and other port charges (at both port of departure and port of entry).

Basing-point pricing

A pricing system that includes a transportation cost from a particular city or town in a zone or region even though the shipment does not originate at the basing point.

Batch picking

The picking of items from storage for more than one order at a time.


The width of a ship.

Beaufort Scale

A windscale and sea disturbance table by which mariners grade the force of wind and height of waves, thus communicating the general condition of the sea to others by the use of a wind force number.


The party that receives payment.


A bilateral agreement is one in which both parties agree to provide something for the other.

Bill of Exchange

An unconditional order in writing, issued by the seller (drawer) instructing the buyer (drawee) to pay the seller’s bank (payee) a specified amount (normally the full invoice value) on demand (at sight) or at a fixed or determinable future time. A suitable form can be obtained from the seller’s bank, or drawn up on a blank sheet of paper.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

The document which covers transport by sea. Signed by the carrier, whether a shipping line or a freight forwarder, it serves as a receipt to the consignor for the goods, as evidence of the contract of transport containing the conditions of transport, and as a document of title by which possession of the goods can be transferred. Typically a B/L is issued in a set of three signed originals or negotiables, one of which must be presented to claim the goods upon which the others become void.

Bill of Lading Number

The number assigned by the carrier to identify the bill of lading.

Bill of Lading, Through

A bill of lading to cover goods from point of origin to final destination when interchange or transfer from one carrier to another is necessary to complete the journey.

Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is a legal document made by a ‘seller’ to a purchaser, reporting that on a specific date, at a specific locality, and for a particular sum of money or other “value received”, the seller sold to the purchaser a specific item of personal, or parcel of real, property of which he had lawful possession. It is a written instrument which evidences the transfer of title to personal property from the vendor, seller, to the vendee, buyer.

Bill-to party

The party paying for goods or services in a transaction.


A carrier terminal activity that determines the proper rate and total charges for a shipment and issues a freight bill.


A strip of cardboard, thin wood, burlap, or similar material placed between layers of containers to hold a stack together.

Blanket rate

A rate that does not increase according to the distance a commodity is shipped.

Block stowage

Loading cargo close together to minimize movement of goods while in transit.

Blocking or bracing

Wood or metal supports used to secure cargo while in transit. Also called dunnage.


A piece of equipment attached to a chassis or railcar in order to secure the container.

BOM: Bill of Materials

A bill of materials or product structure is a list of the raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, parts, and the quantities of each needed to manufacture a product.

Bond port

The initial port of entry where a vessel transporting goods first arrives at a country.

Bond, In

Goods are held or transported In-Bond under customs control either until import duties or other charges are paid, or in order to avoid paying the duties or charges until a later date.

Bonded Goods

Imported goods deposited in a Government ware house until duty is paid.

Bonded Warehouse

The Customs Service authorizes bonded warehouses for storage or manufacture of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods enter the Customs Territory. The goods are not subject to duties if re-shipped to foreign points.

Bonding Company

An organization that is prepared to undertake an agreement to make good a financial guarantee on behalf of another responsible for such guarantee. Owners of vessels may obtain such a bond to satisfy a court and to obtain release of the vessel.


The act of requesting space and equipment aboard a vessel for cargo which is to be transported.

Booking Number

The number assigned to a certain space reservation by the carrier or the carrier’s agent.

Bottomry Bill or Bond

The pledge of a ship, or of her cargo, as security for repayment of money advanced to the master in an emergency, and of no avail if the ship be lost.


The front of a vessel.

Bow Thruster

A propeller used to provide a transverse thrust to the bow of a ship and to assist movement in confined spaces.


Colloquial term for a shipping container.


An enclosed railcar, typically forty to fifty feet long, used for packaged freight and some bulk commodities.


To secure a shipment inside a carrier’s vehicle to prevent damage.

Break Bulk Cargo

Cargo that is shipped as a unit or package (for example: palletized cargo, boxed cargo, large machinery, trucks) but is not containerized.

Breakbulk Vessel

A general cargo vessel designed to efficiently handle un-containerised cargo. Vessels are usually self-sustaining in that they have their own loading and unloading machinery.

Breaking Bulk

The initial opening of hatches on entering port and the commencement of discharge of cargo.

Broken stowage

Empty space in a container not occupied by cargo.


An agent employed (at a customary or an agreed rate of commission or remuneration) to buy or sell goods, merchandise or marketable securities, or to negotiate insurances, freight rates or other matters, for a principal; the sales of trans actions being negotiated not in his own name but in that of the principal.


Basic Service Rate Additional – the charge levied by shipping companies to importers for LCL cargo, including the port charges, transport to an unpacking depot (see CFS) subsequent sorting and storage of the goods and finally loading onto a vehicle collecting the goods for delivery to the buyer.

Buffer Stock

A quantity of goods or articles kept in storage to safeguard against unforeseen shortages or demands.


Cargo shipped in loose condition and of a homogeneous nature. Cargoes that are shipped unpackaged either dry, such as grain and ore, or liquid, such as petroleum products. Bulk service generally is not provided on a regularly scheduled basis, but rather as needed, on specialized ships, transporting a specific commodity.

Bulk area

A storage area for large items which at a minimum are most efficiently handled by the palletload.

Bulk cargo

Cargo that is shipped loose as opposed to being shipped in packages or containers. Grain and coal are examples of goods usually shipped as bulk cargo.

Bulk Terminals

Berths with facilities for mechanical loading or unloading of bulk products such as oil,grain, coal or mineral ores.

Bull ring

A device attached to the floor of a container which is used to secure cargo.


An occurrence where two or more products are combined into one transaction for a single price.

Business logistics

The process of planning, implementing, and controlling the efficient, effective flow and storage of goods, services, and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements.


An enterprise that arranges for the acquisition of goods or services and agrees to payment terms for such goods or services.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection established Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism in November 2001 as a voluntary partnership to help ensure supply chain security. Meeting C-TPAT standards enables faster processing through customs inspections and formalities.

C.T. Document

Means Combined Transport Document which is a document evidencing a contract for the performance and/or procurement of performance of combined transport of goods.

C.T.O. Combined Transport Operator

A person (including any corporation, company or legal entity) issuing a combined transport document.


Coastal navigation, also used for reservation of transport within a country to its own shipping.


Currency Adjustment Factor – an adjustment to shipping companies’ freight rates to take into account the effect over time of fluctuations in currency exchange rates.


(1) A secure enclosed area for storing highly valuable items, (2) a pallet-sized platform with sides that can be secured to the tines of a forklift and in which a person may ride to inventory items stored well above the warehouse floor.


Any goods being transported, regardless of the mode of transport.

Cargo manifest

A document detailing the cargo carried on a ship, often provided to a customs authority.

Cargo Shed/Warehouse

Holding sheds, next to shipping berths, where goods are held prior to or after loading.


A document, normally issued by a Chamber of Commerce which is a member of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to enable the holder to temporarily take merchandise into certain countries, as samples or for display purposes, without the need to pay import duty or pay a bond for the duty. The issuer will require the holder to give them security by way of a bank guarantee.

Carriage and Insurance

Paid To (CIP) Carriage and insurance paid for delivery to a named destination.

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991

Act of Commonwealth parliament which came into force in 1991, repealing the Sea Carriage of Goods Act 1924 and giving force to the Hague Rules as amended by the Visby and SDR (Special Drawing Rights) Protocols for export of goods by sea from Australia. The Act also makes provision for entry into force of the Hamburg Rules on a date to be proclaimed.

CIP – Carriage And Insurance Paid To

The seller has the same responsibilities as CPT, but they also contract for insurance cover against the buyer’s risk of loss of or damage to the goods during the carriage. The buyer should note that under CIP the seller is required to obtain insurance only on minimum cover. Should the buyer wish to have more insurance protection, it will need either to agree as much expressly with the seller or to make its own extra insurance arrangements.

CPT – Carriage Paid To

The seller delivers the goods to the carrier or another person nominated by the seller at an agreed place (if any such site is agreed between parties). The seller must contract for and pay the costs of carriage necessary to bring the goods to the named place of destination.


An enterprise engaged in the business of transporting goods.

Carrier’s Lien

The right to retain possession of goods pending payment of overdue freight charges.

Cars Knocked Down, completely Knocked Down (CKD)

Cars completely unassembled and packed into cases. Part knocked down (PKD) i.e. cars partly assembled and packed into cases.


Charge for pick-up and delivery of goods


An association of several independent national or international business organizations that regulates competition by controlling the prices, the production, or the marketing of a product or industry.


Customs form permitting in-bond cargo to be moved from one location to another under Customs control, within the same Customs district. Usually in motor carrier’s possession while draying cargo.

Cash Against Documents (CAD)

A method of payment for goods in which documents transferring title are given to the buyer upon payment of cash to an intermediary acting for the seller.

Cash In Advance

A method of payment for goods whereby the buyer pays the seller in advance of shipment of goods.

Cash on delivery (COD)

The sale of goods in which payment is made upon delivery rather than in advance.

Cash with Order

A method of payment for goods where cash is paid at the time of order, and the transaction becomes binding on both buyer and seller.

Causa Causans

The cause of a cause of loss.

Causa Proxima

Proximate cause.

CBP: Customs & Border Protection

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. It is charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs, and immigration. Other countries will have their own version of this.

CCC Mark

A label indicating cargo conforms to standards established by the Chinese government.


The Commerce Control List is a list of dual-use items (items that have both a commercial application as well as a potential military application) published as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Each item on the CCL is identified with an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN). Knowing the right ECCN for your product plays a role in determining if you need an export license.

CE Mark

A label indicating cargo conforms to standards established by the European Union.

Cellular Vessel

Ship specialised for container transport. The holds have vertical guides into which containers are lowered to form secure stacks restrained at all four corners.


A general term for any document issued by the seller or another party, certifying to some action having taken place or some fact about the goods.

Certificate of Conformity

Signed statement from a manufacturer attesting that a product meets certain technical standards.

Certificate of Free Sale

Signed statement from the producer or exporter attesting that a product has been commercially sold within the country of origin.

Certificate of inspection

A document certifying that merchandise is in good condition immediately prior to being shipped.

Certificate of Insurance

A negotiable document indicating that insurance has been secured under an open policy to cover loss or damage to a shipment while in transit.

Certificate Of Origin (C/O, COO)

A document certifying where goods were originally made, often abbreviated as COO. A COO specific to a particular free trade agreement may be used to claim preferential duty treatment. A generic certificate of origin may be requested by the customs authority of the country of import, in which case the COO must be stamped by a chamber of commerce.


The Code of Federal Regulations is the codification of rules and regulations published in the U.S. Federal Register.


Container Freight Station – place or depot where individual LCL cargo is loaded into, and unloaded from, containers.

Channel of Distribution

A means by which a manufacturer distributes products from the plant to the ultimate user, including warehouses, brokers, wholesalers, retailers, etc.

Chargeable Weight

The shipment weight used in determining freight charges. The chargeable weight may be the dimensional weight or, for container shipments, the gross weight of the shipment less the tare weight of the container.

Charter Party

A contractual agreement between a ship owner and a cargo owner, usually arranged by a broker, whereby a ship is chartered (hired) either for one voyage or a period of time.

Charter Rates

The tariff applied for chartering tonnage in a particular trade.


The person to whom is given the use of the whole of the carrying capacity of a ship for the transportation of cargo or passengers to a stated port for a specified time.


A written contract between a shipowner and a charterer who rents use of the ship or part of its freight capacity. A voyage charterparty is a contract covering transport of goods from one or more ports to one or more ports and will detail the costs and responsibilities involved.


The base frame of a wheeled vehicle, used to secure a container prior to movement.


Material (often wood) placed next to cargo to prevent excessive movement of the cargo during transit in order to avoid damage.

CI: Commercial Invoice

When used in foreign trade, a commercial invoice is a customs document. It is used as a customs declaration provided by the person or corporation that is exporting an item across international borders.


Abbreviation for carload or containerload.


A claim is a demand made by a customer to a transportation company for payment in order to compensate for loss or damage of goods.

Classification Clause

A clause in a cargo insurance contract which specifies the minimum class of vessel required to carry the insured goods. If the carrying vessel is below the class specified, an additional premium is charged by underwriters for the additional risk involved.

Clean Bill of Lading (B/L)

A bill of lading indicating that the goods were received by the carrier in good order and condition, without any clauses declaring a defective condition in the goods and/or their packing

Clearance Label

Denotes that a vessel has complied with all the regulations for clearance outward. It is attached to the Victualling Bill by the Customs officer who clears the vessel, and is then known as Outward Clearance.

Clip-on-Unit (COU)

A separate refrigeration unit which can be clipped on to an insulated container.


The sharing of an insurance risk between two or more parties, other than a contract of reinsurance.

COC: Certificate of Conformity

Certificate of Conformity e.g., C.O.C. SASO. A Certificate of Conformity or CoC is a mandatory document which is necessary for Customs clearance of exports to many countries around the globe. Approval or Certificate of Conformity is granted to a product that meets a minimum set of regulatory, technical and safety requirements.

Collapsible Container

Container with hinged sides, top etc. designed to be folded down to a small proportion (mostly about one quarter) of its erected volume. The term may also denote freight container, the major components of which can be dissembled and later reassembled for use.

Collect Freight

Freight payable to the carrier at the port of discharge or ultimate destination. The consignee does not pay the freight charge if the cargo does not arrive at the destination.

Collective Paper

All documents (commercial invoices, bills of lading, etc.) submitted to a buyer for the purpose of receiving payment for a shipment.

Combi Aircraft

An aircraft configured to carry both passengers and cargo on the Main Deck .

Combi Ship

A ship designed to carry both conventional and containerised cargo.

Combined Transport

Means the carriage of goods by at least two different modes of transport, from a place at which the goods are taken in charge situated in one country to a place designated for delivery situated in a different country.

Combined Transport / Multimodal B/L

A B/L covering transport by shipping container from an inland place prior to the loading port, to an inland place beyond the destination port. Most freight forwarders and shipping companies title their B/Ls as “Bill of Lading for Combined Transport or Port-to-Port shipment” or similar.

Comite Maritime International (CMI)

The international agency of national maritime law associations, authors of the Hague Rules.

Commercial Bill

A fixed short term (up to 180 days) finance facility at a fixed interest rate. An alternative to floating rate overdraft finance.

Commercial Invoice

The Commercial Invoice confirms all of the details of the goods that have been shipped. This includes shipper & consignee’s details, product information, pricing, currency and IncoTerm.


A mixture of two or more cargoes which cannot be separated into the relevant consignments.


Any article exchanged in trade, most commonly used to refer to raw materials and agricultural products.


Any commercial good that is shipped.

Commodity Code

A code describing a commodity or a group of commodities pertaining to goods classification. This code can be carrier tariff or regulating in nature.

Common Carrier

One who carries any type of goods, other than a carrier of special goods.

Common law

Law that derives authority from precedent, custom and usage rather than from statutes, particularly regarding the laws of the United States, the United Kingdom, and countries formerly part of the British Empire.

Concealed Damage / Concealed Loss

Damage that is not evident from viewing the unopened package.


A group of vessel operators joined for the purpose of establishing freight rates.

Conference Carrier

An ocean carrier who is a member of an association known as a “conference.” The purpose of the conference is to standardize shipping practices, eliminate freight rate competition, and provide regularly scheduled service between specific ports.

Conference Ship

A ship operated by a signatory to a shipping conference agreement.


A letter of credit which has been further guaranteed by a local bank generally in the exporter’s country.

Confirming House

Company based in a foreign country that acts as a foreign buyer’s agent and places confirmed orders with U.S. exporters. The confirming house guarantees payment to the exporters.

Congen B/L

A standard form of bill of lading used in shipments by chartered ship.

Connecting carrier

A carrier which acts as an intermediary between two or more other carriers.


The party shown on the bill of lading or air waybill to whom the shipment is consigned. Need not always be the buyer, and in some countries will be the buyer’s bank. See also Bill of Lading – Order B/L and Notify Party.

Consignment – On

Delivery of merchandise to the buyer or distributor, whereby the latter agrees to sell it and only then pay the U.S. exporter. The seller retains ownership of the goods until they are sold but also carries all of the financial burden and risk.


A shipment of goods to a consignee.


The shipper of goods, or shipper of a transportation movement.


Where a freight forwarder groups, or consolidates, one or more shipments for one or more shippers to the one destination as one overall shipment.

Consolidation Point

The location where consolidation takes place.


An enterprise that provides services to group shipments, orders, and/or goods to facilitate movement.

Consolidator’s Bill of Lading

A bill of lading issued by a consolidator as a receipt for merchandise that will be grouped with cargo obtained from other shippers.


Number of shipping companies who have combined their vessel facilities and capital resources in order to offer a shipping service for the carriage of containers.

Constructive Total Loss

Right of marine assured to claim a total loss on the policy because of either: the property has been lost and recovery is unlikely; or an actual total loss appears to be unavoidable; or to prevent an actual total loss it would be necessary to incur an expenditure which would exceed the saved value of the property. To establish a claim for constructive total loss the assured must abandon what remains of the property to underwriters and give notice of his intention to do so.


A government official residing in a foreign country who represents the interests of their home country.

Consular Invoice

The seller’s commercial invoice certified, for a fee, in the exporting country by the consular representative of the importing country. Only required by some countries.

Consumption entry

When goods are imported into the United States without any time or use restrictions. The official U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website states that about 95% of all imports fall into this category.


A truck trailer loaded with cargo that can be detached for loading onto a vessel or railcar. Different types of containers exist for different shipping needs. For example, a container may be ventilated, refrigerated, insulated, dehumidified, or equipped with special devices used to secure certain types of cargo.

Container Chassis

A vehicle built for the purpose of transporting a container so that, when a container and chassis are assembled, the produced unit serves as a road trailer.

Container depot

The storage area for empty containers.

Container Freight Station

The location designated by carriers for receipt of cargo to be packed into containers/equipment by the carrier. At destination, CFS is the location designated by the carrier for unpacking of cargo from equipment/containers.

Container Freight Station (CFS)

Other names: container base; consolidation depot; depot;—where parcels of cargo are grouped and packedm into containers.

Container Freight Station Charge

The charge assessed for services performed at the loading or discharge location.

Container ID

An identifier assigned to a container by a carrier.

Container Load (CL)

A shipment sufficient in size to a container either by cubic measurement or weight, depending upon governing tariff to meet the provided minimums.

Container Manifest

Document showing contents and loading sequence of a container.

Container Part Load

Consignment which does not occupy the full capacity of a container nor equals the maximum payload and will, therefore, allow the inclusion of another or other part-loads.

Container Pooling

System whereby ship-owners, manufacturers or operators create a container pool for common use and maximum utilisation.

Container ship

Ship designed to take ISO (International Standards Organisation) containers in vertical cells within the ship’s holds as well as on the deck. These ships generally rely on infrastructure on the wharf to load and unload the containers.

Container Tanks

Specially constructed cylindrical container for the carriage of bulk liquids, powders or gases, being supported within a frame 8ft x 8ft lattice construction and in lengths 20, 30 and 40ft with corner castings and normally fitted with a bottom pick-up device.

Container Terminal (CT)

An area designated for the stowage of cargoes in container; usually accessible by truck, railroad and marine transportation. Here containers are picked up, dropped off, maintained and housed.

Container Vessels

Ship designed to carry ISO (International Standards Organisation) containers, in vertical cells within the holds. The container vessel is designed for maximum speed and efficiency,with a minimum of labour necessary for loading and unloading.

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.


The technique of using a boxlike device in which a number of packages are stored, protected, and handled as a single unit in transit.

Continuation Clause

A clause providing for the continuation of a hull policy beyond the natural expiry date.


Prohibited cargo such as illegal drugs or unauthorized weapons.


A legally binding agreement between two or more parties.

Contract System

An alternative to the Deferred Rebate System. Shippers sign a contract in advance, either for yearly or indefinite periods, in which they under take to confine all their shipments to Conference Line vessels.

Contributory Value

The value of property saved by a general salvage or salvage act, on which the contribution by each interest to the loss is calculated.

Conventional Berth

Berth suitable for conventional ships, either employing the ship’s own derricks or supplementing with shore-based equipment.

Conventional ship

Ship designed with holds which can load almost any type of loose cargo, such as drums, sacks, crates, pallets etc. These ships are designed with their own derricks for loading and unloading.

Conventional Vessel

Ship designed with its own on-board derricks for the loading of goods into the holds.

Convertible Currency

Any currency other than sterling, U.S. dollars or Canadian dollars.

CFR – Cost and Freight

The seller delivers the goods on board the vessel or procures the goods already so delivered. The risk of loss of or damage to the goods passes when the products are on board the vessel. The seller must contract for and pay the costs and freight necessary to bring the goods to the named port of destination.

CIF – Cost, Insurance and Freight

The seller delivers the goods on board the vessel or procures the goods already so delivered. The risk of loss of or damage to the goods passes when the products are on the ship. The seller must contract for and pay the costs and freight necessary to bring the goods to the named port of destination. The seller also contracts for insurance cover against the buyer’s risk of loss of or damage to the goods during the carriage. The buyer should note that under CIF the seller is required to obtain insurance only on minimum cover. Should the buyer wish to have more insurance protection, it will need either to agree as much expressly with the seller or to make its own extra insurance arrangements.

Counter Guarantee

An undertaking given by a cargo assured to an underwriter agreeing to reimburse the under writer in the event that the issue of the underwriter’s guarantee to pay a general average contribution results in payment in excess of the amount properly due under the policy.


A reciprocal trading agreement that includes a variety of transactions involving two or more parties.


Abbreviation for “cubic” used when describing measurements of volume.

Cube out

Refers to when a container or vessel has reached its volumetric capacity before reaching its weight capacity.

Cubic Capacity

The carrying capacity of a piece of equipment according to measurement in cubic feet.

Currency Adjustment Factor (CAF)

A charge levied by the Ocean Carrier over and above the ocean freight rate to cater for fluctuations over a period in actual currency exchange rates as compared to those exchange rates set by the conferences as applying to various sailings.

Current Domestic Value (CDV)

Price at which the supplier is prepared to supply to any purchaser for home consumption in the country of export and at the date of export, similar goods in the usual wholesale quantities.

Customary Deductions

New for old deductions made by an average adjuster from the cost of repairs for general average damage to a ship over 15 years old.


A government office where duties are paid and import and export paperwork are filed.


The government authorities designated to collect duties levied by a country on imports and exports.

Customs bonded warehouse

A warehouse authorized by customs to receive duty-free goods.

Customs Broker

A firm that represents importers/exporters in dealings with customs. Normally responsible for obtaining and submitting all documents for clearing merchandise through customs, arranging inland transport, and paying all charges related to these functions.

Customs Clearance

The act of obtaining permission to import merchandise from another country into the importing nation.

Customs Declaration

Document that traditionally accompanies exported goods bearing such information as the nature of the goods, their value, the consignee, and their ultimate destination. Required for statistical purposes, it accompanies all controlled goods being exported under the appropriate permit.

Customs Duty

A tax, duty or tariff levied at the time of import upon goods entering a country. Usually based on the value of the goods (ad valorem), on the physical nature of the goods such as quantity or weight, or on a combination of the value and other factors.

Customs entry

A document produced by an importer to declare incoming foreign goods after which the importer will typically pay any import duties. The customs entry statement is compared to the carrier’s vessel manifest to ensure the goods are accurately declared.

Customs Invoice

A document that contains a declaration by the seller, the shipper, or the agent as to the value of the shipment.

Customs of the port (COP)

A phrase referring to local rules and practices which may impact a shipment.

Customs Value

The value of the imported goods on which duties will be assessed.

Customs-Bonded Warehouse

Building or other secured area in which dutiable goods may be stored, may be manipulated, or may undergo manufacturing operations without payment of duty.

Cut-off time

The latest time cargo may be delivered to a terminal for loading.


Container Yard – place or depot where individual containers are held prior to loading on board a ship and after unloading from the ship. Can be inland or at the dock-side.


Abbreviation for “dangerous and hazardous” cargo.

Dangerous goods

A product may be considered a dangerous good if it is corrosive, flammable, poisonous, toxic, explosive, etc. Shipping dangerous goods may require special documentation or packaging to ensure safety.

Dangerous goods declaration

A dangerous goods declaration form is a document produced by an exporter providing details on the dangerous goods in their shipment. When shipping dangerous goods via air, a Dangerous Goods IATA Declaration form is required, and when shipping dangerous goods via sea, a Dangerous Goods IMO Declaration form is required.

Date Draft

Document used when the exporter extends credit to the buyer. It specifies a date on which payment is due, rather than a time period as with the time draft.


Stands for “doing business as,” used to specify that a company is doing business under a certain registered name.


Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) is the government agency within the U.S. Department of State tasked with enforcing the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which regulate the export of space- and defense-related products.

Dead Freight

Freight rate which is paid on empty space in the vessel when the charterer is responsible for the freight rate of a full cargo. It should be paid before sailing.

Deadweight Tonnage

This is the actual number of tons of cargo, bunkers, stores, etc., that can be put on board a ship to bring her down to her “marks”.


Lengths of timber between 5ft. and 30ft in length and between 2 inches and 9 inches thick.

DEC: District Export Council

The National Association of District Export Councils (NADEC, formerly known as National DEC) consists of 16 District Export Council (DEC) members who have been elected to the NADEC by District Export Council members from each of the eight U.S. Department of Commerce – U.S. Commercial Service Networks.

Deck Log

Ship’s log recording general details concerning the running of the ship including accidents concerned with ship or cargo.

Declared Value for Carriage

The value of the goods, declared by the shipper on a bill of lading, for the purpose of determining a freight rate or the limit of the carrier’s liability.

Deconsolidation point

Location where cargo is separated in preparation for delivery.


An enterprise that provides services to un-group shipments, orders, goods, etc., to facilitate distribution.

Deemed export

Transmission of controlled technology, source code, or information to a foreign national at home or abroad. Export regulations apply to deemed exports as well.

Defeasible Interest

An insurable interest that ceases during the transit of goods.

Deferred Account

A system allowing the shipowner to pay his annual premium by instalments.

Deferred Rebate

The return of a portion of the freight charges by a carrier or a conference shipper in exchange for the shipper giving all or most of his shipments to the carrier or conference over a specified period of time (usually six months).

DAP – Delivered At Place

The seller delivers when the goods are placed at the disposal of the buyer on the arriving means of transport ready for unloading at the named place of destination. The seller bears all risks involved in bringing the goods to the named place.

DAT – Delivered At Terminal

The seller delivers when the goods, once unloaded from the arriving means of transport, are placed at the disposal of the buyer at a named terminal at the designated port or place of destination. “Terminal” includes a place, whether covered or not, such as a quay, warehouse, container yard or road, rail or air cargo terminal. The seller bears all risks involved in bringing the goods to and unloading them at the terminal at the named port or place of destination.

DDP – Delivered Duty Paid

The seller delivers the goods when the goods are placed at the disposal of the buyer, cleared for import on the arriving means of transport ready for unloading at the named place of destination. The seller bears all the costs and risks involved in bringing the goods to the place of destination. They must clear the products not only for export but also for import, to pay any duty for both export and import and to carry out all customs formalities.

Delivery Instructions

A document issued to a carrier to pick up goods at a location and deliver them to another location.

Delivery Order

A document issued by the customs broker to the ocean carrier as authority to release the cargo to the appropriate party.

Delivery receipt

A document signed and dated by a consignee or their authorized agent confirming receipt of goods and stating the condition of the goods upon delivery.

Demise Charterparty

An agreement whereby the charterer takes over control costs and responsibilities of the vessel for an agreed period.


Demurrage is a charge to be paid by a shipper or consignee to the carrier as penalty for delaying the carrier’s cargo beyond the allowed free time. Detention is the same as demurrage except that instead of applying to delays in cargo, detention applies to delays in equipment.

Denied party screening

Also called restricted party screening or trade party screening, denied party screening is the process of screening potential customers, partners or vendors against denied party lists. These are lists of individuals or organizations that a government has identified as parties that one can’t do business with and that one may be penalized for doing business with.


A physical characteristic measuring a commodity’s mass per unit volume or pounds per cubic foot; an important factor in ratemaking, since density affects the utilization of a carrier’s vehicle.

Density rate

A rate based upon the density and shipment weight.

Deposit Receipt

A receipt given in respect of a general average deposit payment.


A vessel that has been abandoned by the crew but has not sunk.

Destination control statement

A legal statement put on a shipping document which specifies that the goods are to be transferred to the ultimate consignee and no other party. Diversion to other countries or parties without prior authorization is a violation of U.S. law.


Where demurrage is paid for an agreed number of days, any further delay is termed “Detention”.


Removal of contents from a container (some times called stripping or discharging).


Departure by a ship from the agreed customary route of the voyage, with the intention of returning to that route to complete the voyage. Where the ship deviates without lawful excuse the underwriter, unless the policy provides otherwise, is discharged from all liability from the time the vessel deviates, and insurance cover does not reattach if and when the vessel regains her original course.

DGN: Dangerous Goods Note

The Dangerous Goods Note (DGN) is a transport document that gives details about the contents of a consignment to carriers, receiving authorities and forwarders describing any goods that may be considered hazardous.

DGR: Dangerous Goods Regulations

Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) The IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) is the trusted source to help you prepare and document dangerous shipments. Recognized by the world’s airlines for almost 60 years, the DGR is the most complete, up-to-date, and user-friendly reference in the industry.

Dimensional Weight

Also called measurement weight. This is the size of consignment calculated by total square feet by 6000. Carrier charge for freight based on the dimensional weight or actual gross weight whichever is higher.

Direct Exporting

Sale by an exporter directly to an importer located in another country.

Direct Ship

Ship without consolidation and under one MAWB ie non- consolidation .

Dirty/Foul/Claused B/L

A bill of lading with any clauses declaring a defective condition in the goods and/or their packing. Almost invariably not acceptable to banks for presentation under L/Cs and almost always not acceptable to the buyer. (See also Clean Bill of Lading).


Expenses incurred by the shipowner in connection with running a ship.


When documents presented do not conform to the requirements of the letter of credit. Banks will not accept letters of credit which have discrepancies.

Dispatch Money

When so agreed in the charter-party, this is paid by the shipowner to the charterer as a result of the vessel completing loading or discharging before the stipulated time.

Displacement Tonnage

This term is chiefly used when referring to warships and is the actual weight of water displaced by the vessel when floating at her loaded draught.


A merchant in the foreign country who purchases goods from the exporter (often at a discount) and resells them for a profit. The foreign distributor generally provides support and service for the product, relieving the exporter of these responsibilities.


A change made to the route of a shipment or to the route of the entire vessel.


For road transportation, a platform from which trucks are loaded and unloaded. For sea transportation, a cargo handling area adjacent to the shoreline where a ship ties up.

Dock Receipt

Receipt issued by an ocean carrier to acknowledge receipt of a shipment at the carrier’s dock or warehouse facilities.

Documentary Collection

A method whereby the seller uses the services of his bank to ensure that the buyer only receives the shipping documents under conditions specified by the seller, ie upon payment, or upon acceptance, of the seller’s bill of exchange.

Documentary Credit

The officially correct term for Letter of Credit. The UCP600 only mentions “Documentary Credit” not “Letter of Credit”.

Documentary Letter of Credit/Documentary Draft

Document used to protect the interests of both buyer and seller. A letter of credit requires that payment be made on the basis of the presentation of documents to a lender conveying the title and indicating that specific steps have been taken. Letters of credit and drafts may be paid immediately or at a later date. Drafts that are paid on presentation are called sight drafts. Drafts that are to be paid at a later date, often after the buyer receives the goods, are called time drafts or date drafts.

Documents against Acceptance (D/A)

The shipper forwards shipping documents attached to a draft for the sum due, to a bank or agent at the port of destination to present to the consignee who, upon acceptance of the draft, receives the documents to obtain release of the goods before payment for them.

Documents Against Payment

D/P. An indication on a draft that the documents attached are to be released to the drawee only on payment.


U.S. Department of Transportation. A U.S. agency within the executive branch which oversees transportation in the U.S.

DPS: Denied Party Screening

Denied trade screening is the process of screening parties involved in an export transaction for complying with the safety standards of the U.S. Government. Effective trade screening not only includes denied parties but also controlled products and embargoed or sanctioned countries.


Drawback is a rebate by a government, in whole or in part, of customs duties assessed on imported merchandise that is subsequently exported. Drawback regulations and procedures vary among countries.


The buyer on the Bill of Exchange document.


The seller on the Bill of Exchange document.


The practice of selling goods in a foreign market at a price lower than which they would be sold at in the home market, to gain a competitive advantage over other suppliers. If this is shown to be injurious to locally-based suppliers in the foreign market, the government of that country may impose remedies by way of anti-dumping duties.

Dutiable value

The amount on which a customs duty is calculated.


Taxes collected on importing and exporting goods. Also called tariffs.


A tax imposed on imports by the customs authority of a country. Duties are generally based on the value of the goods, some other factors such as weight or quantity (specific duties), or a combination of value and other factors (compound duties).

Duty Drawback

If goods which have been imported, and upon which customs duty has been paid, are exported or have been used in the manufacture of goods which have been exported, then the exporter may be entitled to a refund of the original import duty paid.

EAR: Export Administration Regulations

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) are two important United States export control laws that affect the manufacturing, sales and distribution of technology. The legislation seeks to control access to specific types of technology and the associated data.


EAR99 is a classification for an item. It indicates that an item is subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), but not specifically described by an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) on the Commerce Control List (CCL). Items that fall under the jurisdiction of the EAR but are not found on the Commerce Control List (CCL).

ECCN: Export Control Classification Number

An Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) is an alphanumeric designation (i.e., 1A984 or 4A001) used in the Commerce Control List to identify items for export control purposes. An ECCN categorizes items based on the nature of the product, i.e. type of commodity, technology or software and its respective technical parameters.

Electronic data interchange (EDI)

EDI, Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transportation, is an international syntax used in the interchange of electronic data. Customs uses EDI to interchange data with the importing trade community.

Electronic Export Information (EEI)

Electronic export information is the data that exporters must report to the Automated Export System (AES) via the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) online web portal.


A prohibition upon exports or imports, either with specific products or specific countries.

EMCP: Export Management and Compliance Program

An Export Management and Compliance Program is required by the U.S. Government to ensure that companies comply with export control policy for dual-use commodities, software, and technology.

Eminent domain

The power of a sovereign government to take property for a necessary public use.

Empty repo

Stands for empty repositioning; refers to the movement of empty containers.


A legal signature that signals transfer of rights from one party to another.


Documents needed to clear an import shipment through customs.

Entry Form

The document that must be filed with Customs to obtain the release of imported goods and to allow collection of duties and statistics. Also called a Customs Entry Form or Entry.

EOR: Exporter of Record

The exporter of record (EOR) is noted as the owner or seller of merchandise being exported from an origin country location to a destination country. The EOR must be a registered entity in the receiving country.


The rolling stock carriers use to facilitate the transportation services that they provide, including containers, trucks, chassis, vessels, and airplanes, among others.

Equipment interchange receipt (EIR)

A document used when transferring a container from one carrier to another, or from one terminal to another.


Estimated Time of Arrival.


Estimated Time of Completion.


Estimated Time of Departure.


Estimated Time of Readiness.


Estimated Time of Sailing.


A delivery in which the driver or recipient notes a problem on the delivery receipt before signing it is referred to as an exception. An exception is usually related to shortage or damage of goods.

Exception Rate

A deviation from the class rate; changes (exceptions) made to the classification.

Exchange Rate

The price of one currency in the terms of another.

Exclusive Patronage Agreements

A shipper agrees to use only a conference’s member liner firms in return for a 10 to 15 percent rate reduction.

Exclusive use

A shipper may pay a premium rate in order to obtain exclusive use of a trailer. This means that the container will only be filled with the shipper’s goods and not those of any other party, even if there is additional space on the trailer.


Determining where an in-transit shipment is and attempting to speed up its delivery.


Shipment of goods out of a country. Opposite of import.

Export Broker

An enterprise that brings together buyer and seller for a fee, then eventually withdraws from the transaction.

Export license

A government-issued permit that authorizes a shipper to export a certain good or to export to a certain country or party.

Export Management Company (EMC)

Company that performs the functions that would be typically performed by the export department or the international sales department of manufacturers and suppliers. EMCs develop personalized services promoting their clients’ products to international buyers and distributors.

Export Processing Zone (EPZ)

Site in a foreign country established to encourage and facilitate international trade. EPZs include free trade zones, special economic zones, bonded warehouses, free ports, and customs zones. EPZs have evolved from initial assembly and simple processing activities to include high-tech and science parks, finance zones, logistics centers, and even tourist resorts.

Export Quotas

Specific restrictions or ceilings imposed by an exporting country on the value or volume of certain exports designed, for example, to protect domestic producers and consumers from temporary shortages of the goods affected or to bolster their prices in world markets.

Export Sales Contract

The initial document in any international transaction; it details the specifics of the sales agreement between the buyer and seller.

Export Subsidies

Government payments or other financially quantifiable benefits provided to domestic producers or exporters contingent on the export of their goods and services.

Export Trading Company (ETC)

Company that acts as an independent distributor, creating transactions by linking domestic producers and foreign buyers. As opposed to representing a given manufacturer in a foreign market, the ETC determines what U.S. products are desired in a given market and then works with U.S. producers to satisfy the demand.

EXW – Ex-Works or Ex-Warehouse

Ex works is when the seller places the goods at the disposal of the buyer at the seller’s premises or at another named place (i.e., works, factory, warehouse, etc.). The seller does not need to load the goods on any collecting vehicle. Nor does it need to clear them for export, where such clearance is applicable.

Fair Return

A profit level that enables a carrier to realize a rate of return on investment or property value that the regulatory agencies deem acceptable for that level of risk.

Fair Value

The value of the carrier’s property; the calculation basis has included original cost minus depreciation, replacement cost, and market value.


Abbreviation for “freight all kinds.” Typically refers to a full container loaded with mixed cargo.

False billing

Misrepresenting freight information on shipping documents.


Full Container Load, also known as CY . CY is the abbreviation of Container Yard. When the term CY to CY , it means full container load all the way from origin to destination.

Federal Maritime Commission (FMC)

The agency within the U.S. federal government tasked with enforcing laws related to transport of goods by sea.

Federal Register

The Federal Register, sometimes abbreviated as Fed. Reg., FedReg, or FR, is the official journal of the U.S. government where new rules and regulations are published.


A grain container or reservoir constructed around the hatchway between two decks of a ship which when filled with grain automatically feeds or fills in the vacant areas in the lower holds.

Feeder Service

Cargo to/from regional ports are transferred to/from a central hub port for a long-haul ocean voyage.

Feeder Vessel

A short-sea vessel which transfers cargo between a central hub port and smaller “spoke” ports.

Freight Forwarder (FF)

A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution

Field Warehouse

A warehouse that stores goods on the goods’ owner’s property while the goods are under a bona fide public warehouse manager’s custody. The owner uses the public warehouse receipts as collateral for a loan.

Fill Rate

The percentage of order items that the picking operation actually found.

Fixed Costs

Costs that do not fluctuate with the business volume in the short run.

Fixed Quantity Inventory Model

A setup wherein a company orders the same(fixed) quantity each time it places an order for an item.

Flat Rack Containers

Especially for heavy loads and over-dimensional cargo. Containers do not have sides or a top. This allows easy fork-lift and crane access.

Flexible-Path Equipment

Materials handling devices that include hand trucks and forklifts.

Flow Rack

A storage method where product is presented to picking operations at one end of a rack and replenished from the opposite end.

For-Hire Carrier

A carrier that provides transportation service to the public on a fee basis.

Force majeure

A common clause included in contracts which exempts parties for not fulfilling their obligations due to events beyond their control, such as natural disasters or war.

Fore and aft

The direction on a ship parallel to the center line.

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

A U.S. Department of Agriculture bureau with programs related to market development, international trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection of statistics and market information. It also administers the USDA’s export credit guarantee and food aid programs, and helps increase income and food availability in developing nations.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

Act making it unlawful for persons or companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction to offer, pay, or promise to pay money or anything of value to any foreign official for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. It is also unlawful to make a payment to any person while knowing that all or a portion of the payment will be offered, given, or promised, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official for the purposes of assisting the company in obtaining or retaining business. “Knowing” includes the concepts of “conscious disregard” and “willful blindness.” The FCPA also covers foreign persons or companies that commit acts in furtherance of such bribery in the territory of the United States. U.S. persons or companies, or covered foreign persons or companies, should consult an attorney when confronted with FCPA issues.

Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ)

A special port in which merchandise may be stored without being subject to import regulations. Also called a free trade zone or free port.

Forklift Truck

A machine-powered device used to raise and lower freight and to move freight to different warehouse locations.

Forty-Foot Equivalent Unit (FEU)

FEU is a measure of a ship’s cargo-carrying capacity. One FEU measures forty feet by eight feet by eight feet — the dimensions of a standard forty-foot container. An FEU equals two TEUs.


Foreign principal party of interest is the party to whom final delivery of the goods will be made; typically the foreign buyer.

Free In and Out

Pricing term that indicates that the charterer of the vessel is responsible for the cost of loading and unloading goods from the vessel.

FAS – Free Alongside Ship

The seller delivers when the goods are placed alongside the vessel (e.g., on a quay or a barge) nominated by the buyer at the named port of shipment. The risk of loss of or damage to the goods passes when the products are alongside the ship. The buyer bears all costs from that moment onwards.

FCA – Free to Carrier

The seller delivers the goods to the carrier or another person nominated by the buyer at the seller’s premises or another named place. The parties are well advised to specify as explicitly as possible the point within the named place of delivery, as the risk passes to the buyer at that point.

FOB – Free On Board

The seller delivers the goods on board the vessel nominated by the buyer at the named port of shipment or procures the goods already so delivered. The risk of loss of or damage to the goods passes when the products are on board the vessel. The buyer bears all costs from that moment onwards.

Free Time

The period of time allowed for the removal or accumulation of cargo before charges become applicable.

Free Trade Zone

A port designated by the government of a country for duty-free entry of any non-prohibited goods. Merchandise may be stored, displayed, used for manufacturing, etc., within the zone and re-exported without duties.


Goods being transported from one place to another.

Freight Bill

The carriers invoice for payment of transport services rendered.

Freight broker

A person who arranges transportation on behalf of a shipper. Typically a freight broker will connect small shippers to carriers who can move their goods.

Freight Charge

The rate established for transporting freight.

Freight Collect

The freight and charges to be paid by the consignee.

Freight for All Kinds ( FAK )

FAK is a shipping classification. Goods classified FAK are usually charged higher rates than those marked with a specific classification and are frequently in a container which includes various classes of cargo.

Freight Forwarder

An independent business which handles export shipments for compensation. At the request of the shipper, the forwarder makes the actual arrangements and provides the necessary services for expediting the shipment to its overseas destination. The forwarder takes care of all documentation needed to move the shipment from origin to destination, making up and assembling the necessary documentation for submission to the bank in the exporter’s name. The forwarder arranges for cargo insurance, makes the necessary overseas communications, and advises the shipper on overseas requirements of marking and labeling.

Freight Prepaid

The freight and charges to be paid by the consignor.

Freight Quotation

A quotation from a carrier or forwarder covering the cost of transport between two specified locations.

FSB Notification

Federal Security Bureau (FSB). The international legislation of the Customs Union provides the restriction of special equipment, including products with encryption or cryptography into Russia. Product must be notified on the FSB database before the legal import of such goods into the Russian Federation.

FTA: Free Trade Agreement

Treaty (such as FTAA or NAFTA) between two or more countries to establish a free trade area where commerce in goods and services can be conducted across their common borders, without tariffs or hindrances but (in contrast to a common market) capital or labour may not move freely. Member countries usually impose a uniform tariff (called common external tariff) on trade with non-member countries

FTR: Foreign Trade Regulations

Trade regulation is a field of law, often bracketed with antitrust (as in the phrase “antitrust and trade regulation law”), including government regulation of unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive business acts or practices.

Full truckload (FTL)

A full truckload carrier is a carrier that contracts the entirety of a truck’s carrying capacity to a single customer. Often referred to as simply a truckload carrier.


A group of stevedores, usually four to five members, with a supervisor assigned to a hold or portion of the vessel being loaded or unloaded.


A narrow portable platform used as a passage, by persons entering or leaving a vessel moored alongside a pier or quay.


In the context of travel activities, gateway refers to a major airport or seaport. Internationally, gateway can also mean the port where customs clearance takes place.

General order

When U.S. Customs orders shipments without entries to be kept in their custody.

General-Commodities Carrier

A common motor carrier that has operating authority to transport general commodities, or all commodities not listed as special commodities.

General-Merchandise Warehouse

A warehouse used to store goods that are readily handled, are packaged, and do not require a controlled environment.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The total value of all goods and services produced by a country.

Gross Registered Tons

A common measurement of the internal volume of a ship with certain spaces excluded. One ton equals 100 cubic feet; the total of all the enclosed spaces within a ship expressed in tons each of which is equivalent to 100 cubic feet.

Gross vehicle weight (GVW)

The total weight of a vehicle including the weight of the vehicle itself and any attached containers.

Gross Weight

The total weight of a shipment of goods, including their packaging such as crates, pallets etc.


Goods and Service Tax, GST


A place at which ships stop to resupply and load or unload cargo.

Harbour master

An official responsible for overseeing the operations of a harbour.

Harmonised System

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (or Harmonized System, HS) is a system for classifying goods in international trade, developed under the auspices of the Customs Cooperation Council. Beginning on January 1, 1989, the new HS numbers replaced previously adhered-to schedules in over 50 countries, including the United States.


The opening on the deck of a ship which gives access to the cargo hold.


The inland transport service which is offered by the carrier under the terms and conditions of the tariff and of the relative transport document.


House AWB issued by a freight forwarder acting as a carrier.

Hazardous Goods

Certain cargoes, as prescribed by the UN, such as explosive, radioactive, poisonous and flammable goods etc, which must be declared to the carrier before being loaded onto ships or aircraft. The penalties for mis-declaring or failing to declare hazardous or dangerous cargo are extremely high.

Hazardous materials (HazMat)

May be used interchangeably with the term “dangerous goods,” hazardous materials (or HazMat for short) are goods which may pose a threat to safety because they are poisonous, toxic, corrosive, explosive, flammable, etc. More precisely, hazardous materials are defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation in accordance with the Federal Hazardous Material Law. It is more common to see the term “hazardous materials” used when shipping domestically within the U.S., whereas the term “dangerous goods” is used more often when shipping internationally. Shipping hazardous materials may require special documentation or packaging to ensure safety.

High Cube (Hi Cube, HQ)

Any container exceeding 102 inches in height.

House Bill of Lading (B/L)

A bill of lading issued by a freight forwarder acting as a carrier. The terms and conditions of the contract may well be different to the terms and conditions contained on the shipping company’s B/L, which can in extraordinary circumstances lead to legal complications should a dispute arise.

HS: Harmonized System

The Harmonized System is an internationally accepted system used to classify products. The first six digits of an HS code are universal across all countries, but each country will add additional digits to further specify products. HS codes play a role in determining import and export controls as well as duty rates.

HTS: Harmonized Tariff Schedule

An HS or HTS code stands for Harmonised System or Harmonised Tariff Schedule. Developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the codes are used to classify and define internationally traded goods.

IATA: International Air Transport Association

International Air Transport Association ( IATA ), established in 1945, is a trade association serving airlines, passengers, shippers, travel agents, and governments. The association promotes safety, standardization in forms (baggage checks, tickets, weigh bills), and aids in establishing international airfares. IATA headquarter is in Geneva, Switzerland.

IATA Designator

Two-character Airline identification assigned by IATA in accordance with provisions of Resolution 762. It is for use in reservations, timetables, tickets, tariffs as well as air waybill .


Pallets and containers used in air transportation; the igloo shape fits the internal wall contours of a narrow-body airplane.


International Maritime Dangerous Goods code; the regulations established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the international transport of dangerous goods.


Shipment of goods into a country. Opposite of export.

Import Certificate

The import certificate is a means by which the government of the country of ultimate destination exercises legal control over the internal channeling of the commodities covered by the import certificate .

Import License

A document required and issued by some national governments authorizing the importation of goods.Also referred as import permit. With such documentation, customs clearance can be conducted.

Import Restrictions

Import restriction, applied by a country with an adverse trade balance (or for other reasons), reflect a desire to control the volume of goods coming into the country from other countries may include the imposition of tariffs or import quotas, restrictions on the amount of foreign currency available to cover imports, a requirement for import deposits, the imposition of import surcharges, or the prohibition of various categories of imports.

In bond

An import or export shipment that has not yet cleared customs is referred to as in bond.

In Gate

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


Incoterms are universal trade terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC.) They consist of three-letter codes that are intended to clearly communicate the tasks, costs and risks associated with the transportation and delivery of goods in an international transaction. They describe how responsibility is allocated between the seller and the buyer for different parts of the transaction.

Indirect Exporting

Sale by the exporter to the buyer through a domestically located intermediary, such as an export management company or an export trading company.

Inland Bill of Lading

The carriage contract used in transport from a shipping point overland to the exporter’s international carrier location.

Inland Carrier

An enterprise that offers overland service to or from a point of export.

Inspection Certificate

A document certifying that merchandise (such as perishable goods) was in good condition immediately prior to shipment.


A process whereby someone with a risk of something happening to their financial detriment (the assured) pays someone else (an underwriter) a fee (premium) to bear that risk on their behalf.

Insurance Certificate

Document prepared by the exporter or freight forwarder to provide evidence that insurance against loss or damage has been obtained for the goods.

Integrated Carriers

Carriers that have both air and ground fleets; or other combinations, such as sea, rail, and truck. Since they usually handle thousands of small parcels an hour, they are less expensive and offer more diverse services than regular carriers.

Intellectual Property (IP)

Collective term used to refer to new ideas, inventions, designs, writings, films, and so on that are protected by a copyright, patent, or trademark.

Interchange point

A location where freight is transferred from one carrier to another.

Intermediate Consignee

An intermediate consignee is the bank, forwarding agent, or other intermediary (if any) that acts in a foreign country as an agent for the exporter, the purchaser, or the ultimate consignee , for the purpose of effecting delivery of the export to the ultimate consignee .


Intermodal transportation is the movement of goods via more than one type of transportation (e.g. air, rail, sea, truck, etc.) An intermodal container is one that can be used in different modes of transport without having to unload the goods and reload them at each point at which the mode of transport changes. In the context of international trade, intermodal container is usually synonymous with container.

Intermodal transportation

The use of two or more transportation modes to transport freight; for example, rail to ship to truck.

International Buyer Program (IBP)

U.S. Department of Commerce program that matches U.S. exhibitors at select U.S. trade shows with foreign buyers.

International Trade Administration (ITA)

A U.S. Department of Commerce bureau responsible for export promotion programs.


A detailed statement showing goods sold or shipped and amounts for each. The invoice is prepared by the seller and acts as the document that the buyer will use to make payment.

Inward foreign manifest (IFM)

A document listing all cargo entering a country. Required by all world ports and is the primary source from which import duties are assigned.

Importer of Record (IOR)

The importer of record (IOR) is officially noted by many governments as the owner or purchaser of merchandise being imported into a destination country.

Irrevocable Letter of Credit

A credit which cannot be revoked, cancelled or amended unless the beneficiary agrees. All L/Cs issued under UCP600.


“International Standard Banking Practice for the Examination of Documents under Documentary Credit”, International Chamber of Commerce publication 745 – a companion to the UCP600 which as its name suggests reflects international banking practice in regards to L/Cs.


The International Ship and Port Facility Code adopted by an IMO Diplomatic Conference in December 2002. Measure is designed to strengthen maritime security.

Issuing Carrier

The carrier whose name is printed on the bill of lading and with whom the contract of carriage exists.


The International Traffic in Arms Regulations regulate the export of space- or defense-related products and are enforced by the U.S. Department of State.

ITN: Internal Transaction Number

The Internal Transaction Number (ITN) is the AES generated number assigned to a shipment confirming that the EEI was accepted and is on file in the AES.


Abbreviation for just in time. A method of inventory control which minimizes warehousing and in which the container itself acts as a movable warehouse and arriving on schedule is crucial.

Joint Rate

A rate applicable from a point on one transportation line to a point on another line, made by agreement and published in a single tariff by all transportation lines over which the rate applies.

Joint Venture

Independent business formed cooperatively by two or more parent companies. This type of partnership is often used to avoid restrictions on foreign ownership and for longer term arrangements that require joint product development, manufacturing, and marketing.

Known Loss

A loss discovered before or at the time of delivery of a shipment.


Loaded aboard a vessel.

Landed Cost

The total cost which an importer pays to have goods delivered to their premises. This typically includes the costs of the goods, currency exchange, international transport, insurance premium, port charges, customs duties, delivery charges, documentation fees, bank charges etc.


Less than Container Load, a small amount of cargo insufficient to on its own be economically shipped as FCL. It will be combined with other LCL cargo from other shippers going to the same destination port, into an FAK FCL.


Lower deck type 3 container. This is the most commonly used container in passenger aircraft.

Less-than-truckload, less-than-load (LTL)

A medium shipment, typically between 150 pounds and 20,000 pounds. An LTL carrier mixes freight from several customers in a single truckload. May also be called less-than-container (LCL).

Letter of Credit (LoC, L/C)

Instrument issued by a bank on behalf of an importer that guarantees an exporter payment for goods or services, provided that the terms of the credit are met. A letter of credit issued by a foreign bank is sometimes confirmed by a U.S. bank. This confirmation means that the U.S. bank (the confirming bank) adds its promise to pay to that of the foreign bank (the issuing bank). A letter of credit may be either irrevocable, in which case it cannot be changed unless both parties agree, or revocable, in which case either party may unilaterally make changes. A revocable letter of credit is inadvisable as it carries many risks for the exporter.

License exception

Certain criteria may be met that allow an exporter to export a product without an export license in cases where an export license would normally be required. These criteria are called license exceptions.


Arrangement in which a company sells the rights to use its products or services but retains some control. Although not usually considered to be a form of partnership, licensing can lead to partnerships.

Liner terms

Freight rates which include loading/unloading charges, generally with a regular shipping lines.

Liquidated damages

The penalty a seller must pay the buyer if a project does not meet the standards or deadline outlined in the sales contract.


The amount that a vessel tilts from the vertical, measured in degrees.


The management of the flow of products as they are transported from the point of origin to their final destination. A logistics company is a general term for a company that provides logistics services, which may include freight forwarding, customs brokerage, and/or consulting services.


A port employee tasked with loading and unloading ships.

Lower Deck

The compartment below the Main Deck (also synonymous with lower hold and lower lobe).

Main Deck

The deck on which the major portion of payload is carried, normally known as Upper Deck of an airplane. The full cargo freighter aircraft has it entire upper deck equipped for main deck type of containers/pallets while Combi aircraft uses it rear part of the upper deck for cargo loading. There is no upper deck or main deck type of container/pallet at passenger aircraft.


In the context of shipping, malpractice refers to situations in which a carrier illegally gives preference to a customer in order to attract their business.


A list of all cargoes that pertain to a specific shipment, grouping of shipments, or piece of equipment. Ocean carriers will prepare a manifest will prepare a manifest per container, etc.

Marine insurance

Insurance covering the international, and often local, transport of goods. Generally covers “all risks” plus war and strikes risks, and is taken out for 110% of the CIF/CIP value of the goods.


Relating to transport by sea.

Market Survey

Report that provides a narrative description and assessment of a particular market along with relevant statistics. The reports are often based on original research conducted in the countries studied and may include specific information on both buyers and competitors.


Letters, numbers, or other symbols placed on packaging used for identification purposes.

Master B/L

The term used for the B/L issued by a shipping company to a freight forwarder for all of the goods covered by one or more House B/Ls on the one ship going from one loading port to one destination port.


The term used for the AWB issued on airline’s stationery to a freight forwarder for all of the goods covered by one or more House AWBs on the one flight going from one loading airport to one destination airport.

Measurement ton

Forty cubic feet; used in water transportation ratemaking.

Modal split

The relative use that companies make of transportation modes; the statistics include ton-miles, passenger-miles, and revenue.

Multilateral Development Bank (MDB)

An institution created by a group of countries to provide development-related financing and professional advising.

NAFTA Certificate of Origin

Used by NAFTA signatories (i.e. Canada, Mexico, and the United States) to determine if goods imported into their countries receive reduced or eliminated duty.


The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America is an organization representing the interests of customs brokers and freight forwarders in the U.S. They publish guidelines on best practices.


Not elsewhere classified, not elsewhere specified.

Net weight

The weight of goods not including the weight of their packaging.

NLR: No License Required

NLR may be used for either EAR99 items, or items on the CCL that do not require a license for the destination. However, exports of an EAR99 item to an embargoed country, an end-user of concern or in support of a prohibited end-use may require an export license.

Non-dumping certificate

Required by some countries to ensure protection against dumping of certain products.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Trade agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico featuring duty-free entry and other benefits for goods that qualify.

Notify Party

The abbreviation of the name of an organization that should be notified when a shipment reaches its destination.


No Value Declared.


A non-vessel operating common carrier behaves like a carrier except it doesn’t provide the actual transportation service itself. Instead, an NVOCC buys space from carriers and sells this space to shippers.

Ocean Bill of Lading (B/L)

A B/L covering port-to-port shipment. Typically banks continue to use this term on L/Cs even though the majority of international shipments are containerised (See also Multimodal B/L).

Ocean Waybill

A document, issued by a shipping line to a shipper which serves as a receipt for the goods and evidence of the contract carriage.

Off-hire Clause

In a time charter, the owner is entitled to a limited time for his vessel to be off hire until such time as the vessel may be repaired or dry-docked.


Discharge of cargo from a ship.

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

U.S. government agency responsible for negotiating trade agreements.

OIEL: Open Individual Export License

UK HMRC Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) are one type of export licence. Specifically, they are a concessionary form of licencing. OIELs are potentially available to individual exporters who have a track record in applying for export licences or who can otherwise demonstrate a business case. OIELs cover multiple shipments of specific controlled goods to named destinations.

On board

A notation on a bill of lading indicating that cargo has been loaded on a ship.

On Board / Shipped On Board

A notation on a bill of lading, indicating that not only did the carrier receive the goods in good order and condition, but they were also placed on board the ship.

On deck

A notation on a bill of lading indicating that cargo has been stowed on the open deck of a ship.

Open account

A transaction in which goods are shipped to a foreign buyer without guarantee of payment.

Open Rates

Pricing systems that are flexible and not subject to conference approval. Usually applied to products in which tramps are substituted for liners.

Open Registry

A term used in place of “flag of convenience” or “flag of necessity” to denote registry in a country which offers favorable tax, regulatory, and other incentives to ship owners from other nations.

Open Top Container

A container fitted with a solid removable roof, or with a tarpaulin roof so the container can be loaded or unloaded from the top.

Operating ratio

A measure of operating efficiency based on a comparison between a carrier’s operating expenses and its net sales.

Order Bill of Lading (B/L)

A negotiable B/L, in which the goods are consigned “to order of” a particular party, often theshipper in which case the consignee is mostly shown simply as “to order”.

Order Confirmation

In some cases the supplier may also issue an additional Order Confirmation document. This is used to re-confirm the details of goods that have been ordered.


Origin can mean the location where a shipment starts its journey, or the country where the goods were originally manufactured.


When the number of units received is greater than the quantity stated on the export documents. Opposite of shortage.


A situation where there are too many ships generally or in a particular trade for the level of available cargoes.

Packing Declaration ISPM15

An export packing declaration states the type of packing materials that were used to pack the goods inside the shipment. It’s purpose is to ensure that any timber packaging that has been used is ISPM15 compliant. This is to protect the spread of insects and diseases that can be hiding away in timber packing materials such as pallets, crates and dunnages.

Packing List

A Packing List is a detailed document stating how all of the products have been packaged inside the shipment. The document includes packaging types, quantities, sizes and weights of all packages included inside the shipment.


A platform on which packages may be loaded. Facilitates easier handling by a lift truck.

Pallet wrapping machine

A machine that wraps a pallet’s contents in stretch-wrap to ensure safe shipment.

Parcel/package/small parcel/small package

A small shipment, typically below 150 pounds.

Partial Containerships

Multipurpose containerships where one or more but not all compartments are fitted with permanent container cells. Remaining compartments are used for other types of cargo.


Right that entitles the patent holder, within the country that granted or recognizes the patent, to prevent all others, for a set period of time, from using, making, or selling the subject matter of the patent.


The party paid in a transaction; the seller.


The party paying money in a transaction; the buyer.

Payment terms

Terms that describe how money will be paid in a transaction. Typically, the shipper is responsible for payment for prepaid shipments, while the consignee is responsible for payment for collect shipments, unless a third party is indicated as the payor on the shipping documents.

Phytosanitary Certificate

A document issued by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, for exports from Australia of plants or plant products.

Phytosanitary inspection certificate

A document issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which certifies that a shipment has been inspected and is free from harmful pests and plant diseases. Used to meet import requirements of other countries.


A structure perpendicular to the shoreline to which a ship is secured in order to load or unload cargo.

Piggyback Marketing

Arrangement in which one manufacturer or service company distributes a second company’s product or service. The most common piggybacking situation is when a U.S. company has a contract with an overseas buyer to provide a wide range of products or services. Often this first company does not produce all of the products it is under contract to provide, and it turns to other U.S. companies to provide the remaining products.

Place of delivery

Location where cargo leaves the custody of a carrier.

Place of receipt

Location where cargo enters the custody of a carrier.

POA: Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor (of the power). The one authorized to act is the agent or, in some common law jurisdictions, the attorney-in-fact.


Proof Of Delivery, or a cargo/package receipt with the signature of recipient. This term has been widely used in courier and express industry and also gaining more attention and implementation at air cargo industry..


Port Of Discharge, Port Of Destination, Proof Of Delivery

Point of origin

The location where a shipment is transferred from a shipper to a carrier.


Port Of Loading (or can also be known as Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants)


May refer to 1) A harbour with piers or docks; 2) The left side of a ship (when facing forward; opposite of starboard); or 3) An opening in the side of a ship used for handling freight.

Port charges

Charges incurred with movements of cargo from vessels, through the ports. Refer APCA, BSRA and PSC.

Port of call

Port where a ship discharges or receives traffic.

Port of entry

Port where cargo is unloaded and enters a country.

Port of exit

Port where cargo is loaded and leaves a country.

Port State Control

The inspection of foreign ships in national ports for the purpose of verifying that the condition of a ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of international conventions and that the vessel is manned and operated in compliance with applicable international law.


Principal party of interest. See FPPI and USPPI.


The buyer pays the seller for the goods prior to shipment.


Freight charges paid by a shipper prior to release of bills of lading by the carrier.

Proforma Invoice

The seller will send an official Proforma Invoice document to reconfirm the details of the goods to be supplied.

Project Cargo

This is a term normal referred to when shipping cargo air or sea, which does not fall within standard methods. Ie over-height, or oversize cargo which requires special equipment and handle.


Port Service Charge, similar to APCA.

Purchase Order

The buyer will send an official Purchase Order document to the ssupplier. This will confirm all product and pricing details, generally as stated in the supplier’s Quotation.


A restriction placed on an operation in order to protect public health and safety.


The quantity of goods that may be imported without restrictions over a set period of time.


The exporter will send a detailed quotation document for the products offered for sale. This document will include product specifications, pricing, currency, packing sizes, Incoterm, payment details, port of loading, port of discharge and shipping method.

Rail Waybill

The bill of lading issued by rail carriers to their customers.

Rate basis

The formula of specific factors that play a role in determining freight rates.

Rate basis point

The major shipping point in a local area; carriers consider all points in the local area to be the rate basis point.


Under ICC and common law, the requirement that a freight rate not be higher than what is necessary to reimburse the carrier and allow a fair profit.


A carrier service that permits a shipper to change the destination and/or consignee after the shipment has reached its originally billed destination and to still pay the through rate from origin to final destination.


A container with a self-contained refrigeration unit, used for the transportation of perishable cargo.

Regional Value Content (RVC)

A technique used to determine whether a product meets a rule of origin.


The transfer of containers from one ship to another when both ships are controlled by the same carrier.

Release Approval

Document to advise that goods are available for further movement or action.


Export agent or merchant who purchases products directly from the manufacturer, packing and marking the products according to his or her own specifications. Remarketers then sell these products overseas through their contacts in their own names and assume all risks.


Funds sent by one person to another as payment.

Return Cargo

A cargo which enables a ship to return loaded to the port or area where her previous cargo was loaded.


Payment received by a carrier for transporting goods.

Revenue Ton

A ton on which the shipment is freighted.


Request for proposal, request for quotation.


A “roll-on/roll-off” ship, where loaded transport vehicles are driven onto it, such as a car ferry, or where containerised and other cargo is loaded into it by forklifts or similar.

Ro-Ro Ship

Freight ship or ferry with facilities for vehicles to drive on and off (roll-on roll-off); a system of loading and discharging a ship whereby the cargo is driven on and off on ramps. Equipped with large openings at bow and stern and sometimes also in the side, the ship permits rapid loading and discharge with hydraulically operated ramps providing easy access. Fully loaded trucks or trailers carrying containers are accommodated on the deck.

Rolling Cargo

Cargo which is on wheels, such as truck or trailers, and which can be driven or towed on to a ship.

RPS: Restricted Party Screening

The United States government and its export regulations restrict or prohibit U.S. individuals and companies from exporting or providing services of any kind to any party contained in U.S. government export denial, debarment, and blocked persons lists.

S.A.S.O: Certificate of Conformity (Specific to Saudi Arabia)

All products require a Certificate of Conformity also referred to as a SASO CoC to enable them to be cleared through Saudi Customs. The Saudi Arabia Conformity Assessment Programme, which covers all goods, has several key objectives: Protection of public health.

Safety stock

The inventory a company holds beyond normal needs as a buffer against delays in receipt of orders or changes in customer buying patterns.

Sales Representative

Representative who uses your company’s product literature and samples to present the product to potential buyers. An overseas sales representative is the equivalent of a manufacturer’s representative in the United States. The sales representative usually works on a commission basis, assumes no risk or responsibility, and is under contract for a definite period of time.

Salvage material

Unused material that has a market value and can be sold.


An embargo enforced by a government against another country.


Standard Carrier Alpha Codes are codes developed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association which are used to identify inland carriers in the U.S.

Schedule B

Schedule B codes are used specifically for exporting out of the U.S. They are based on HS codes and used by the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate trade statistics and by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that exporters are following U.S. export regulations.

Scrap material

Unusable material that has no market value.

SDN: Specially Designated National

Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) Human Readable Lists. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called “Specially Designated Nationals” or “SDNs.” Their assets are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

Sea Waybill

Transport document which is not a document of title/negotiable document. The sea waybill indicates the “on board” loading of the goods and can be used in cases where no ocean bill of lading, i.e. no document of title is required. For receipt of the goods, presentation of the sea waybill by the consignee named therein is not required, which can speed up processing at the port of destination.

Secondary Market Research

Collection of data from various sources, such as trade statistics for a country or a product. Working with secondary sources is less expensive and helps your company focus its marketing efforts. Although secondary data sources are critical to market research, they do have limitations. The most recent statistics for some countries may be more than 2 years old, and the data may be too broad to be of much value to your company.

SED: Shipper’s Export Declaration

A U.S. Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) was a standard United States government form required for all U.S. exports with commodities valued at US$2,500 or higher. The EEI is used by the U.S. Census Bureau to compile trade statistics and exert export controls.

Separable cost

A cost that a company can directly assign to a particular segment of the business.


The defined, regular pattern of calls made by a carrier in the pick up and discharge of cargo.

Service Contract

A contract between a shipper and an ocean carrier or conference, in which the shipper makes a commitment to provide a minimum quantity of cargo over a fixed time period. The ocean carrier or conference also commits to a rate or rate schedule as well as a defined service level, such as space, transit item, port rotation, or other features.

Ship agent

A liner company or tramp ship operator representative who facilitates ship arrival, clearance, loading and unloading, and fee payment while at a specific port.

Ship broker

A firm that serves as a go-between for the tramp ship owner and the chartering consignor or consignee.

Ship’s tackle

Equipment such as rigging or cranes used on a ship for loading or unloading cargo.


A shipment is a user-defined unit containing goods (single or multiple units) and requires transportation from one location to another. A shipment becomes a shipment when it leaves the consignor’s location. A shipment is complete when it arrives at the consignee’s destination.

Shipment Point

A specific location from where goods will depart for movement.


In the context of international trade, shipper is a term typically used to identify the company selling the goods to a foreign market. The shipper may also be called the exporter or consignor in this case.

Shipper’s agent

A firm that primarily matches up small shipments, especially single-traffic piggyback loads, to permit shippers to use twin-trailer piggyback rates.

Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI)

A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI), or Interim Receipt is a very important legal document. It is the shipper’s detailed document that gives full instructions to the agent that is arranging the export shipment (this is usually the freight forwarding company). This document will state all specific instructions so the agent can correctly arrange the logistics of the cargo.

Shipping Documents

Paperwork that accompanies a shipment as it makes its way to the final destination. This includes sets of documents such as Bill of Lading, Commercial Invoice, Packing List and any other required documentation.

Shipping Marks

Specific markings on packages to identify them apart from other packages and to identify them on the relevant documents.

Shipping Weight

Shipping weight represents the gross weight in kilograms of shipments, including the weight of moisture content, wrappings, crates, boxes, and containers (other than cargo vans and similar substantial outer containers).


When the number of units received is less than the quantity stated on the shipping documents. Opposite of overage.

SIEL: Single Individual Export License

A SIEL is a form of UK export licence for controlled goods, specific to one exporter and one consignee. Refer to OIEL.

Sight Draft

Document used when the exporter wishes to retain title to the shipment until it reaches its destination and payment is made. Before the shipment can be released to the buyer, the original “order” ocean bill of lading (the document that evidences title) must be properly endorsed by the buyer and surrendered to the carrier. It is important to note that air waybills do not need to be presented in order for the buyer to claim the goods. Thus, risk increases when a sight draft is being used with an air shipment.


Devices placed beneath boxes or packages in order to raise them off the floor to permit access by a forklift.


Safety of Life at Sea Convention is enforced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Under SOLAS, exporters are required to provide a verified weight of the goods before they are loaded onto a ship for transport.

Special Customs Invoice

In addition to a commercial invoice, some countries require a special customs invoice designed to facilitate the clearance of goods and the assessment of customs duties in that country.

Spot Voyage

A charter for a particular vessel to move a single cargo between specified loading port(s) and discharge port(s) in the immediate future. Contract rate (“spot” rate) covers total operating expenses, i.e., bunkers, port charges, canal tolls, crew’s wages and food, insurance and repairs. Cargo owner absorbs, in addition, any expenses specifically levied against the cargo.


Placing a container in a position from which it can be loaded or unloaded.

STA: Strategic Trade Authorization

A part of the ongoing Export Control Reform is the licence exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA). This type of U.S. Government authorization allows a controlled item to be exported under defined conditions without a transaction-specific licence.


The right side of a ship (when facing forward.) Opposite of port.


Said to contain, often placed before the description of goods on a bill of lading because the carrier does not know the nature or quantity of goods actually placed in the packages or the containers.


The backside of a ship. Opposite of bow.


Individual or company that employs longshoremen and contracts for the loading and unloading of ships.


The placing of goods in a ship in such a way as to ensure the safety and stability of the ship not only on a sea or ocean passage but also in between ports when parts of the cargo have been loaded or discharged.

Straight Bill of Lading (B/L)

A non-negotiable B/L in which the goods are consigned directly to a named consignee.


Removing cargo from a container.


Putting cargo into a container.


Said to weigh.

Supply chain

A system of interconnected organizations and activities involved in the movement of goods from a supplier to a customer.


An extra or additional charge.


An extra or additional tax.


Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunications, whereby banks can electronically transfer funds, issue L/Cs, etc.


Telegraphic transfer, an electronic means of transferring funds between banks, generally using SWIFT.


TACT stands for The Air Cargo Tariff. It is published by IAP — International Airlines Publications, an IATA company.


Backside of a container or trailer. Opposite of front or nose.


The weight of packaging or a container without the goods.

Tare weight

The weight of a container while empty.


Tax imposed on a product when it is imported into a country. Some foreign countries apply tariffs to exports.

Technology Licensing

Contractual arrangement in which the licenser’s patents, trademarks, service marks, copyrights, trade secrets, or other intellectual property may be sold or made available to a licensee for compensation that is negotiated in advance between the parties. U.S. companies frequently license their technology to foreign companies that then use it to manufacture and sell products in a country or group of countries defined in the licensing agreement. A technology licensing agreement usually enables a company to enter a foreign market quickly and poses fewer financial and legal risks than owning and operating a foreign manufacturing facility or participating in an overseas joint venture.

Temporary Importation under Bond

When an importer makes entry of articles and claimed to be exempt from duty under Chapter 98, Subchapter XIII, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, a bond is posted with Customs which guarantees that these items will be exported within a specified time frame (usually within one year from the date of importation). Failure to export these items makes the importer liable for the payment of liquidated damages for breach of the bond conditions.


The period of time before a bill of exchange falls due for payment.

Term Draft

A bill of exchange drawn for a period other than at sight or on demand.


Also called a container terminal, a location where containers are picked up, dropped off, maintained and kept.

Terminal charge

A charge for a service carried out in a carrier’s terminal area.

Terms of Sale

Terms that define the obligations, risks, and costs of the buyer and seller involving the delivery of goods that comprise the export transaction. These terms are commonly known as Incoterms.


Twenty-foot equivalent unit, the means of describing the carrying capacity of a train or ship. For example, a 40 foot container takes up the space of two TEUs.


Terminal handling charge, levied by CY and CFS operators for goods passing through their operations.

Third party logistics (3PL)

A company that provides logistics services to other companies, such as warehousing and transportation.

Through Bill of Lading

A single bill of lading covering receipt of the cargo at the point of origin for delivery to the ultimate consignee , using two or more modes of transportation.

Time Draft

Document used when the exporter extends credit to the buyer. The draft states that payment is due by a specific time after the buyer accepts the time draft and receives the goods. By signing and writing “accepted” on the draft, the buyer is formally obligated to pay within the stated time.


In the United States the certificate of title for a vehicle or boat(also known as a car title or pink slip; or pinks in the plural) is a legal form, establishing a person or business as the legal owner of a vehicle.


Trailer load.

To Order

Refer Bill of Lading, Order B/L.


A freight transportation output measure that reflects the shipment’s weight and the distance the carrier hauls it; a multiplication of tons hauled and distance traveled.


Deadweight, gross, net, displacement; a quantity of cargo normally expressed as a number of tons.


Determining a shipment’s location during the course of a move.


A carrier’s system of recording movement intervals of shipments from origins to destinations.

Trade Fair Certification Program (TFC)

A U.S. Department of Commerce program that certifies international trade events so U.S. companies can know ahead of time if an event is high quality and offers opportunities.

Trade Statistics

Data that indicate total exports or imports by country and by product. They allow you to compare the size of the market for a product in various countries. By looking at statistics over several years, you can determine which markets are growing and which markets are shrinking.


Word, symbol, name, slogan, or combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of sponsorship of goods and may serve as an index of quality of a particular product.

Trading House

Company specializing in the exporting and importing of goods produced or provided by other companies.


A container attached to the back end of a truck.

Tramp Service

Vessels operating without a fixed itinerary or schedule or charter contract.


Goods are transferred from one ship to another at an intermediate port. Can also refer to goods being transferred from one method of transport to another.

Transit time

The total time that elapses between a shipment’s delivery and its pickup.

Transmittal Letter

A letter from the shipper to its agent that lists the particulars of a shipment, the documents being transmitted, and instructions for the disposition of those documents.


The transfer of cargo from one carrier to another or from one vehicle to another at an intermediate point during the goods’ journey to the final destination.

Truck tonnage

The weight (in tons) of a shipment transported by truck.


A term used in marine transportation, referring to the time it takes between the arrival of a ship and its departure.

Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit ( TEU )

TEU is a measure of a ship’s cargo-carrying capacity. One TEU measures twenty feet by eight feet by eight feet — the dimensions of a standard twenty-foot container. An FEU equals two TEUs.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

U.S. government agency that procures goods and services from U.S. companies for use in developing countries.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

U.S. government agency tasked with gathering intelligence and statistics. Publishes the World Factbook, an important market research resource.

U.S. Commercial Service (CS)

The trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

U.S. government department responsible for developing and executing federal government policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food.

U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)

U.S. government department responsible for promoting domestic economic growth and handling other commerce related responsibilities.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

U.S. government agency that manages programs for U.S. exporters, including finance programs.

U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)

U.S. government agency that provides grants for feasibility studies in developing countries.


Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits, International Chamber of Commerce publication 600, which lays out guidelines for banks to follow when dealing with L/Cs.


Unit Load Device, Any type of container, container with integral pallet, aircraft container or aircraft pallet.


The space not filled with liquid in a drum or tank.

Ultimate Consignee

The ultimate consignee is the person located abroad who is the true party in interest, receiving the export for the designated end-use.

Under Reserve

Where documents with discrepancy/ies are nevertheless negotiated against an L/C, and the negotiating bank reserves the right to take back the funds from the exporter if the discrepancy is not acceptable to either the buyer or the L/C issuing bank.

UN number

An internationally recognized four-digit code used to identify dangerous goods.

Unclaimed freight

Freight that has not been called for or picked up by the owner or ultimate consignee.

Unit load

Packages loaded onto a pallet, in a crate, or in some other way that allows for the goods to be handled as a single unit. This process is called unitization.


Uniform Rules for Collections, International Chamber of Commerce publication 522, which lays out guidelines for banks to follow when handling Collections.


The United States Munitions List is a list of space- and defense-related products which are controlled by the U.S. Department of State under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).


United States principal party of interest. The party that receives the primary benefit from an export transaction, monetary or otherwise. Usually the seller of the goods.

Valuation Charges

Transportation charges to shippers who declare a value of goods higher than the value of the carriers’ limits of liability.

Value for Customs Purposes Only

The value for customs purposes of imported merchandise should be based on the actual value of the imported merchandise on which duty is assessed, or of like merchandise, and should not be based on the value of merchandise of national origin or on arbitrary or fictitious values.

Value for Duty

The value of an import declared to the customs upon which customs duty will be calculated. In Australia, the value of the goods at the time of export from the exporting country, thus generally the FOB value and using the exchange rate at the date of export. Many other countries use the CIF value at the time or declaration in the importing country.

Variable cost

Costs that vary directly with the level of activity within a short time. Examples include costs of moving cargo inland on trains or trucks, stevedoring in some ports, and short-term equipment leases. For business analysis, all costs are either defined as variable or fixed. For a business to break even, all fixed costs must be covered. To make a profit, all variable and fixed costs must be recovered plus some extra amount.

Verified Gross Mass Declaration (VGM)

A Verified Gross Mass document is only required if the goods are being shipped as a full container (FCL cargo). It is a very important document that states the shipper’s verified gross mass of cargo. Shippers must ensure that shipping containers are correctly weighed and verified within important weight limitations.


A seafaring vehicle; a boat or ship.

Vessel manifest

A document listing details regarding the crew and cargo onboard a vessel.

Vessel traffic service (VTS)

A traffic monitoring system used by harbour or port authorities used to monitor ships, similar to air traffic control used to monitor aircraft.


A notional or calculated weight for bulky goods sent by air. Generally stated as 6000cm3 = 1 kg, meaning that the total volume in cubic centimetres is divided by 6000 to give an equivalent weight in kgs. The airline or forwarder will charge whichever is the greater of the actual weight and volumetric weight. Also shown sometimes as 167 kg = 1 cbm.

Voyage Charter

A contract whereby the shipowner places the vessel at the disposal of the charterer for one or more voyages, the shipowner being responsible for the operation of the vessel.

War risk

Insurance coverage for losses resulting from an act of war.

War/Strike Clause

An insurance provision that covers loss due to war and/or strike.


A place for the storage, consolidation and distribution of cargo. Warehousing is the storage of cargo.

Warehouse Receipt

Receipt identifying the commodities deposited in a recognized warehouse. It is used to transfer accountability when the domestic carrier moves the export item to the port of embarkation and leaves it with the ship line for export.


A non-negotiable document prepared by or on behalf of the carrier at the point of shipment origin. The document shows point of origin, destination, route, consignor, consignee, description of shipment, and amount charged for the transport service.


A structure built on the shore of a harbour which facilitates the docking of ships.


A charge assessed by a pier or dock owner for handling incoming or outgoing cargo.

Without Reserve

A term indicating that a shipper’s agent or representative is empowered to make definitive decisions and adjustments abroad without approval of the group or individual represented.

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Glossary of Shipping Terms

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Glossary of Shipping Terms

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Export Manager's Guide to Remote Working

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Download a Proforma Invoice Template PDF

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Unit Load Device ULD Air Container Specifications

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