Terms and Definitions

4 Way Pallet –  A pallet designed to be picked up by a fork lift from any of its four sides.  Also used in describing a type of container loading style of turning alternating pallets 90 degrees (4-way) in order to maximize the number of pallets that can fit in a container. 

Agent (Agt.)
 –  A person authorized to transact business for and in the name of another person or company. Types of agent are:  
– Brokers (Custom House or Freight Forwarders), 
– Commission merchants, 
– Resident buyers, 
– Sales agents, 
– Manufacturer’s representatives,
– Destination agents,
– Steamship line agents

AES –  All cargo with a value over $2500 that leaves the country must be filed with the U.S. Government through a form called a Shippers Export Declaration (SED).  This is the responsibility of the shipper.  Many times, the shipper does not know how, or may not want to do this work.  They must then sign a limited power of attorney form, that authorizes the carrier to file on their behalf.  New regulations state filing must now be submitted electronically through Automated Electronic Shipper export declaration (AES).  Also, this must be filed 24 hours before time of sailing. Because of this rule, some of the ship lines are making documentation cuts very early, to make sure they are in compliance. 

All In
 –  The total price to move cargo from origin to destination, inclusive of all charges. 

B/L –  Abbreviation for “Bill of Lading.” 

BAF –  Abbreviation for “Bunker Adjustment Factor.” Used to compensate steamship lines for fluctuating fuel costs. Sometimes called “Fuel Adjustment Factor” or FAF. 

Base Rate –  A tariff term referring to the ocean rate less accessorial charges, or simply the base tariff rate. 

Bill of Lading:  
– B/L Terms & Conditions: the fine print on B/L; defines what the carrier can and cannot do, including the carrier’s liabilities and contractual agreements.  
– Express B/L: Non-negotiable B/L where there are no hard copies of originals printed.  
– Negotiable B/L: The B/L is a title document to the goods, issued “to the order of” a party, usually the shipper, whose endorsement is required to effect its negotiation.  Thus, a shipper’s order (negotiable) B/L can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit and is commonly used for letter-of-credit transactions.   The buyer must submit the original B/L to the carrier in order to take possession of the goods.  
– Non-Negotiable B/L: Sometimes means a file copy of a B/L.  See Straight B/L.
– Original B/L: The part of the B/L set that has value, especially when negotiable; rest of set are only informational file copies. Originals must be presented for the consignee to receive cargo.  Abbreviated as OBL.
– Straight B/L –  A non-negotiable bill of lading which states a specific identity to whom the goods should be delivered. 

Blocking or Bracing –  Wood or metal supports (Dunnage) to keep shipments in place to prevent cargo from shifting. 

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

Booking Number –  Reservation number used to secure equipment and act as a control number prior to completion of a B/L.  Confirmation of a booking.

Break Bulk:
– To unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car, container, or trailer.  
– Loose, non-containerized cargo. 

Broker –  A person who arranges for transportation of loads for a percentage of the revenue from the load.  See Customhouse broker.

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

Bulk Cargo –  Not in packages or containers; shipped loose in the hold of a ship without mark and count. Grain, coal and sulfur are usually bulk freight. 

Bunker Charge –  An accessory charge sometimes added to freight rates to account for fuel costs.

Cargo N.O.S. –  Cargo Not Otherwise Specified. Usually the rate entry in a tariff that can apply to commodities not covered under a specific item or sub item in the applicable tariff.  Also used in hazardous material descriptions.

Carrier –  Any person or entity who, in a contract of carriage, undertakes to perform or to procure the performance of carriage by rail, road, sea, air, inland waterway or by a combination of such modes. 

Cartage –  See Drayage

CBM (CM)–  Abbreviation for “Cubic Meter.” 

Certificate of Origin –  A certified document showing the origin of goods; used in international commerce.

CF –  Abbreviation “Cubic Feet”. 

CFS –  Abbreviation for “Container Freight Station.” 

Chassis –  A frame with wheels and container locking devices in order to secure the container for movement. 

COGSA –  Carriage of Goods by Sea Act. U.S. federal codification passed in 1936 which standardizes carrier’s liability under carrier’s bill of lading. U.S. enactment of The Hague Rules.

Collect: Freight charges paid by the consignee prior to the release of the bills of lading by the carrier. 

Commercial Invoice –  Represents a complete record of the transaction between exporter and importer with regard to the goods sold. Also reports the content of the shipment and serves as the basis for all other documents about the shipment.  Some countries require original commercial invoices in order to clear customs at destination.  

Commodity –  Article shipped, description.  Different commodities can sometimes have different rates.  For dangerous and hazardous cargo, the correct commodity identification is critical. 

Consignee –  A person or company to whom commodities are shipped to.    

Consolidation–  Containers with multiple shippers and/or consignees.  Multiple LCL shipments loaded on a single container.

Consolidator –  A person or firm performing a consolidation service for others. The consolidator is able to receive shipments destined for one consignee from multiple suppliers, consolidating them to ship together.   

Container –  A truck trailer body that can be detached from the chassis for loading into a vessel, a rail car or stacked in a container depot. Containers may be ventilated, insulated, refrigerated, flat rack, vehicle rack, open top, bulk liquid or equipped with interior devices. A container may be 20 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 48 feet or 53 feet in length, 7’8” in width, and 8’6″ or 9’6″ in height.   See Container Specifications

Container Freight Station –   A shipping dock where cargo is loaded (“stuffed” (cont stuffing)) into or unloaded (“stripped“) from containers. Generally, this involves less than container load shipments (LCL), although small shipments destined to same consignee are often consolidated. Container reloading from/to rail or motor carrier equipment is a typical activity.

Container Terminal –  An area designated for the stowage of containers; usually accessible by truck, railroad and marine transportation. Here containers are picked up, dropped off, maintained and housed.  Container Terminals located on an “off pier” premise can be referred to as container yards.

Contraband –  Cargo that is prohibited. 

Cubic Foot –  1,728 cubic inches.  A volume contained in a space measuring one foot high, one foot wide and one foot long. 

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

Customs Bonded Warehouse –  A warehouse authorized by Customs to receive duty-free merchandise. 

Cut-Off Time –  The latest time cargo may be delivered to a terminal for loading to a scheduled train or ship. 

CWT. –  Hundred weight (United States, 100 pounds: U.K.,112) 

CY –  Abbreviation for Container Yard.  

D.B.A. –  Abbreviation for “Doing Business As.” A legal term for conducting business under a registered name. 

Deconsolidation Point –  Place where loose (LCL) or other non-containerized cargo is ungrouped for delivery. 

Delivery Instructions –  Order to pick up or deliver goods at a named place and deliver the cargo or empty container to a pier. Also known as shipping delivery order. 

Demurrage –  A penalty charge against shippers or consignees for delaying the carrier’s equipment beyond the allowed free time. The free time and demurrage charges are set forth in the charter party or freight tariff.  – See also Detention and Per Diem

Detention –  A penalty charge against shippers or consignees for delaying carrier’s equipment beyond allowed time. Demurrage applies to cargo; detention applies to equipment. See Per Diem. 

Direct Service –  Denotes that the container stays on the same vessel from port of loading to port of discharge.  In contrast to Relay Service

–  For ships, a cargo handling area parallel to the shoreline where a vessel normally ties up.  
–  For trucks, a loading or unloading platform at an industrial location or carrier terminal. 

Dock Receipt (D/R) –  A form used to acknowledge receipt of cargo and 
–  For ocean shipments, D/R are used for port/ pier delivery, and often serves as basis for preparation of the ocean bill of lading. 
–  For domestic shipments, truckers D/R or B/L serves as proof of delivery (POD

Door-to-Door –  Rate basis where transportation of a container and its contents from consignor (shipper/supplier) door to consignee door. Not necessarily a through rate. 

Drayage –  Charge made for local hauling by dray or truck in regards to FCL ocean shipments.  Same as Cartage. 

Equipment Interchange Receipt (EIR) –   See as TIR.

ETA –  Estimated Time of Arrival.  

Ex – “From” –  When used in pricing terms such as “Ex Factory”, “Ex Dock”, “Ex Door Atlanta”, or “Ex Port NY”,  it signifies that the price quoted applies only at the point of origin indicated. 

Export Declaration –  A government document declaring designated goods to be shipped out of the country. To  be completed by the shipper or exporter and filed with the U.S. Government, called Shipper Export Declaration.  New government regulations require the SED be filed electronically, through Automed Export Shippers’ declaration (AES).

FAF –  See BAF

FCL –  Abbreviation for “Full Container Load.” 

Feeder Service –  Cargo to/from regional ports are transferred to/from a central hub port for ocean voyage, called Trans-Shipping or Relay service.  The vessel from the hub to final destinations is call a Feeder Vessel.  Feeder Service is in contrast to Direct Service

Flat Rack/Flat Bed Container –  A container with no sides and frame members at the front and rear. Container can be loaded from the sides and top.  See Container Specifications.

FMC (F.M.C.) –  Federal Maritime Commission. The U.S. Governmental regulatory body responsible for administering maritime affairs including the tariff system, Freight Forwarder Licensing, enforcing the conditions of the Shipping Act and approving conference or other carrier agreements. 

Force Majeure –  The title of a common clause in contracts, exempting the parties for non-fulfillment of their obligations as a result of conditions beyond their control, such as earthquakes, floods or war. 

Free Time –  That amount of time that a carrier’s equipment may be used without incurring additional charges. (See Demurrage or Per Diem

Freight Bill –  A document issued by the carrier based on the bill of lading and other information; used to account for a shipment operationally, statistically, and financially.  An Invoice. 

Freight Forwarder –  A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of the shipper. A freight forwarder frequently makes the booking reservation. 

Gauge, Out of –  In reference to non- containerized, over sized cargo.  Cargo that exceeds the permissible height, width, and/ or length limits allowed for road transportation.  Out of gauge cargo requires special permits, and special chassis equipment.  “In gauge” is commonly used when describing the nature of cargo that is non- containerized, not over sized, denoting that no special provisions are needed for over the road transportation.  

GDSM –  Abbreviation for “General Department Store Merchandise.” A classification of commodities that includes goods generally shipped by mass-merchandise companies. This commodity structure occurs only in service contracts, and is often no longer accepted as a valid description of cargo.  

GRI –  Abbreviation for “General Rate Increase.” Used to describe an across-the-board tariff rate increase and is applied to base rates. 

Hague Rules, The –  A multilateral maritime treaty adopted in 1921 (at The Hague, Netherlands). Standardizes liability of an international carrier under the Ocean B/L. Establishes a legal “floor” for B/L. 

Harbor Master –  An officer who attends to the berthing, etc., of ships in a harbor. 

Harmonized System of Codes (HS) –  An international goods classification system for describing cargo in international trade under a single commodity-coding scheme. Developed under the auspices of the Customs Cooperations Council (CCC), an international Customs organization in Brussels, this code is a hierarchically structured product nomenclature containing approximately 5,000 headings and subheadings. It is organized into 99 chapters arranged in 22 sections. Sections encompass an industry (e.g., Section XI, Textiles and Textile Articles); chapters encompass the various materials and products of the industry (e.g., Chapter 50, Silk; Chapter 55, Manmade Staple Fibers; Chapter 57, Carpets). The basic code contains four-digit headings and six-digit subheadings. Many countries add digits for Customs tariff and statistical purposes. In the United States, duty rates will be the eight-digit level; statistical suffixes will be at the ten-digit level. The Harmonized System (HS) is the current U.S. tariff schedule (TSUSA) for imports and is the basis for the ten-digit Schedule B export code.  Schedule B codes are needed to complete AES.

HAZ MAT –  An industry abbreviation for “Hazardous Material.” 

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

ICC –  Abbreviation for:
–  “Interstate Commerce Commission,”  
–  “International Chamber of Commerce.” 

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

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.   A TIR is issued as a receipt.  

Inland Carrier –  A transportation line that hauls export or import traffic between ports and inland points. 

Insurance, All-risk–  This type of insurance offers the shipper the broadest coverage available, covering against all losses that may occur in transit. 

Interline Freight –  Freight moving from origin to destination over the Freight lines of two or more transportation carriers. 

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

Invoice –  An itemized list of goods shipped to a buyer, stating quantities, prices, shipping charges, etc. 

Kilogram –  1,000 grams or 2.2046 pounds. 

Knocked Down (KD) –  Articles which are taken apart to reduce the cubic footage displaced or to make a better shipping unit and are to be re-assembled. 

Lading –  Refers to the freight shipped; the contents of a shipment. 

LCL –  Abbreviation for “Less than Container Load.” The quantity of freight which is less than that required for the application of a container load rate. Loose Freight.   Applies to ocean cargo. 

Lloyds’ Registry –  An organization maintained for the surveying and classing of ships so that insurance underwriters and others may know the quality and condition of the vessels offered for insurance or employment. 

Longshoreman –  Individual employed in a port to load and unload ships. 

Low-Boy –  A chassis with no sides and with the floor of the unit close to the ground.   Used to transport out of gauge, height wise, cargo.  

LTL –  Less Than Truckload.  Mostly applies to domestic cargo.

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

Metric Ton –  2,204.6 pounds or 1,000 kilograms. 

Minimum Bill of Lading –  A clause in a Bill of lading which specifies the least charge that the carrier will make for issuing a lading. The charge may be a definite sum or the current charge per ton for any specified quantity. 

Minimum Charge –  The lowest charge that can be assessed to transport a shipment. 

MT –  Abbreviation for Metric Ton

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

NOS –  Not Otherwise Specified.

NPPFE –  Not Properly Packaged For Export.  

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

Per Diem –  A charge, based on a fixed daily rate. 

POD –  Abbreviation for: 
– Port of Discharge/ Destination.  
– Proof of Delivery. 

Point of Origin –  The place at which a shipment is received by a carrier from the shipper. 

POL – Abbreviation for Port of Loading.  Origin Port.

Pomerene Act, Also known as (U.S.) Federal Bill of Lading Act of 1916. –  U.S. federal law enacting conditions by which a B/L may be issued. Penalties for issuing B/L’s containing false data include monetary fines and/or imprisonment. 

Port of Discharge –  Port where cargo is discharged from means of transport. 

Prepaid (PPD.) –  Freight charges paid by the consignor (shipper) prior to the release of the bills of lading by the carrier. 

Quotation –  An offer to sell goods at a stated price and under stated terms. 

Rag Top –  A slang term for an open-top trailer or container with a tarpaulin cover.  See Container Specs

Ramp –  Railroad terminal where containers are received or delivered and trains loaded or discharged. Originally, trailers moved onto the rearmost flatcar via a ramp and driven into position in a technique known as “circus loading.” Most modern rail facilities use lifting equipment to position containers onto the flatcars. 

Ramp-to-Door –  A movement where the load initiates at an origin rail ramp and terminates at a consignee’s door. 

Rate Basis –  A formula of the specific factors or elements that control the making of a rate. A rate can be based on any number of factors (i.e., weight, measure, equipment type, package, box, etc.). 

Reconsignment –  Changing the consignee or destination on a bill of lading while shipment is still in transit. Diversion has substantially the same meaning. 

Reefer –  Refrigerated container.  See Container Specs.   

Relay –  To transfer containers from one ship to another (Feeder Vessel) when both vessels are controlled by the same network (carrier) manager.  Also known as Trans-shipping.

Ro/Ro –  A shortening of the term, “Roll On/Roll Off.” A method of ocean cargo service using a vessel with ramps which allows wheeled vehicles to be loaded and discharged without cranes. 

Roll –  To re-book cargo to a later vessel. 

Schedule B –  The Statistical Classification of Domestic and Foreign Commodities Exported from the United States.  See AES.    

SED –  U.S. Commerce Department document, “Shipper’s Export Declaration.” See AES.

Shipper –  The person or company who is usually the supplier or owner of commodities shipped.  Also know as the consignor.    

Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED,”Ex Dec”) –  A joint Bureau of the Census’ International Trade Administration form used for compiling U.S. exports. It is completed by a shipper and shows the value, weight, destination, etc., of export shipments as well as Schedule B commodity code.  See AES.

Shipper’s Instructions –  Shipper’s communication(s) to its agent and/or directly to the international water-carrier. Instructions may be varied, e.g., specific details/clauses to be printed on the B/L, directions for cargo pickup and delivery. 

Shipper’s Load & Count (SLAC/ SL&C) –  Shipments loaded and sealed by shippers and not checked or verified by the carriers. 

Shrink Wrap –  Polyethylene or similar substance, can be heat-treated, and shrunk to an envelope several units, thereby securing them as a single pack for presentation or to secure units on a pallet. 

Spotting –  Placing a container where required to be loaded or unloaded. 

STC-  Said to Contain.  Used to describe quantity of cargo that is not verified by using the intact nature of larger packaging.  Ie:  1 skid STC 50 ctns.  Documents states there are 50 ctns, but the count can not verified, and the shrink wrapped skid is in good order.  May also be used to describe the number of pieces in an ocean container.       

STI–  Subject to Inspection.  Used to describe cargo that may have some damage to packaging, or look possibly damaged, but can not be verified.  

Stripping –  Removing cargo from a container (Unloading or Devanning). 

Stuffing –  Putting cargo into a container (Loading). 

Terminal –  An assigned area in which containers are prepared for loading into a vessel, train, truck, or airplane or are stacked immediately after discharge from the vessel, train, truck, or airplane. 

Terminal Charge –  A charge made for a service performed in a carrier’s terminal area. 

TEU –  Abbreviation for “Twenty foot Equivalent Unit.” Used to convey quantity for large amounts of cargo.

TIR –  A document transferring a container from one carrier to another, or to/from a terminal.  Same as EIR.

Trailer –  The truck unit into which freight is loaded as in tractor trailer combination. Usually used regarding domestic cargo.

Trans-Shipping –  See Relay.    

Validation –  Authentication of B/L and when B/L becomes effective.

“Water” –  Term used in referencing the amount of volume an ocean container can hold.  The given volume is if the container was filled with water, using all available space.  A distinction is made since this type of measurement is not practical.     

W.M. (W/M) –  Abbreviation for “Weight or Measurement;” the basis for assessing freight charges. The rate charged under W/M will be whichever produces the highest revenue between the weight of the shipment and the measure of the shipment. 

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