Dictionary of Shipping Terms


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Automated guided vehicle system.
Automated System for Customs Data. This program dealing with customs declarations has been developed by UNCTAD and is presently used by some 75 countries.
  1. Alongside, near amidships.
  2. For navigational purposes in the direction of a right angle to the ship's heading.
Acceptance by the carrier of a portion of a joint rate or charge which is less than the amount which it would receive for the service in the absence of such joint rate or charge.
Acceptance of Goods
The process of receiving a consignment from a consignor, usually against the issue of a receipt. As from this moment and on this place the carrier's responsibility for the consignment begins.
Accommodation ladder
Movable steps arranged temporary alongside e.g. a quay to allow access on board for officials, crew or passengers.
Accompanied Transport
The transport of complete road vehicles by another means of transport (e.g. train, ferry accompanied by the driver).
Accord Relatif aux Transports Internationaux de Denrees Perissables et aux Engins Speciaux a Utiliser pour ces Transports
Abbreviation: ATP
Agreement on the international carriage of perishable foodstuffs and on the special equipment to be used for such carriage.
Acknowledgement of Receipt
A notification relating to the receipt of e.g. goods, messages and documents.
Act of God
Accidents of a nature beyond human control such as flood, lightning or hurricane usually quoted as 'force majeure'.
Active Inventory
Covers raw material, work in progress, finished products, which will be used or sold within a given period without extra cost or loss. This term does not cover the so-called reserve inventory.
Actual Demand
Customer orders and often also the allocation of items, ingredients and/or raw materials to production or distribution.
Actual Voyage Number
A code for identification purposes of the voyage and vessel which actually transports the container/cargo.
Ad Valorem
In proportion to the value: A phrase applied to certain freight or customs duties levied on goods, property, etc. set as a percentage of their value.
Added Value
The value attributed to products, and services as the result of a particular process (e.g. production process, storage, transport).
Advance Arrangement
An agreement between the shipper and the carrier, concerning contacts between those parties prior to tendering the consignment.
Advanced Amount
Quantity of cash or cash equivalents expressed in a monetary amount given to a driver to cover expenses during a trip.
Advanced Charge
A charge paid by a carrier to an agent or to another carrier, which the delivering carrier then collects from the consignee. Such charges are usually for agents' forwarding fees and incidental expenses paid out of pocket for account of the shipment by an agent or other carrier.
Advanced Interline
An interline carrier that picks up cargo from the shipper and delivers it to another carrier for shipment to the consignee.
Advice Note
A written piece of information e.g. about the status of the goods.
Aeroquip System
Special accessories in a container consisting of among others the attachment rails on the inside walls to provide facilities for lashing and separation of the cargo.
At, near or towards the stern or rear of a vessel or an aircraft.
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Agency Fee
Fee payable by a shipowner or ship operator to a port agent.
  1. A person or organisation authorised to act for or on behalf of another person or organisation.
  2. In MCL Feeders , an Agent is a corporate body with, which there is an agreement to perform particular functions on behalf of them at an agreed payment. An Agent is either a part of the MCL Feeders organisation or an independent body. The following functions and responsibilities may apply to the activities of an agent.
    1. Sales

      Marketing, acquisition of cargo, issuing quotations, concluding contracts in co-ordination with MCL Feeders . Basically the agent is the first point of entry into the MCL Feeders  organisation for a shipper.

    2. Bookings

      Booking of cargo in accordance with allotments assigned to the agent for a certain voyage by MCL Feeders.

    3. Customs

      Dealing with the national customs administration for cargo declarations, manifest alterations and cargo clearance on behalf of MCL Feeders.

    4. Documentation

      Responsible for timeliness and correctness of all documentation required, regarding the carriage of cargo.

    5. Handling

      Taking care of all procedures connected with physical handling of cargo.

    6. Equipment control

      Managing of all equipment stock in a particular area.

    7. Issuing

      Authorised to sign and issue Bills of Lading and other transport documents.

    8. Collecting

      Authorised to collect freight and charges on behalf of MCL Feeders.

    9. Delivery

      The agent who releases the cargo and is responsible for its delivery to the consignee.

    10. Handling of cargo claims

      Handling of cargo claims as per agency contract.

    11. Husbanding

      Handling non cargo related operations of a vessel as instructed by the master, owner or charterer.

Aggregate Inventory
The inventory for any group of items or products, involving multiple stock-keeping units.
Air Container
Any unit load device, primarily intended for transport by air, having an internal volume of 1 m3 or more, incorporating restraint provisions compatible with an aircraft restraint system, and an entirely flush base bottom to allow handling on roller-bed cargo handling systems.
Air Waybill
Abbreviation: AWB
A document made out by or on behalf of the carrier(s) confirming receipt of the goods by the carrier and evidencing the contract between the shipper and the carrier(s) for the carriage of goods as described therein.
The process of assigning activities, costs or facilities e.g. space to a certain organisational units.
A share of the capacity of a means of transport assigned to a certain party, e.g. a carrier or an agent, for the purpose of the booking of cargo for a specific voyage.
Always Afloat (AA)
Provision in a charter party, that the vessel must remain afloat at all times when unloading and discharging.
American Bureau of Shipping
Abbreviation: ABS
American classification society which has established rules and regulations for the classification of seagoing vessels or equipment.
At or in the middle of a vessel.
Device for temporary securing a ship or floating structure to the seabed by means of a chain or cable and a weight with movable extensions (arms)
  1. A vessel's outfit, such as rigging, anchor and lifeboats.
  2. The term used in distribution/transport of clothing for a single piece of clothing, a garment.
Approved Continuous Examination Program
Abbreviation: ACEP
An agreement between the owners of the equipment and the responsible governmental body to allow continuous examination of the equipment (e.g. containers).
The process of referring to an agreed person for judgement on issues of dispute, without requiring the use of courts.
Area Code
A code for the area where a container is situated.
Area Off Hire Lease
Geographical area where a leased container becomes off hire.
Area Off Hire Sublease
Geographical area where a subleased container becomes off hire.
Area On Hire Lease
Geographical area where a leased container becomes on hire.
Area On Hire Sublease
Geographical area where a subleased container becomes on hire.
Area of Repair
Geographical area where a container is under repair.
Arrival Date
The date on which goods or a means of transport is due to arrive at the delivery site of the transport.
Arrival Notice
A notice sent by a carrier to a nominated notify party advising of the arrival of a certain shipment or consignment.
Articles Dangereux de Route
Abbreviation: ADR
A European agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road.
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The stage of production in which components are put together into an end product appropriate to the process concerned.
The transfer of certain rights from one party to another.
  1. Behind a vessel or an aircraft.
  2. Backward; in a reverse direction.
Across the vessel, that is, from side to side. Said of cargo stowed in this way, as opposed to length-wise.
A methodical examination and review of a situation or condition (as within a business enterprise) concluding with a detailed report of findings.
Audit Trail
A record of events, such as system access, network load, unsuccessful log-on attempts, that might have some significance for an investigation.
Proof by means of a signature or otherwise that a certain document or certain data is of undisputed origin and genuine.
Authorised Consignee / Consignor
A trader authorised by the European Commission (regulation 2454/93) to receive or despatch consignments under transit procedures without having to present goods and documents directly at the customs office.
The commission to a certain person or body to act on behalf of another person or body. The person or body can be authorised e.g. to issue Bills of Lading or to collect freight.
Auto Container
Container equipped for the transportation of vehicles.
Automated Guided Vehicle System
Unmanned vehicles equipped with automatic guidance equipment which follow a prescribed path, stopping at each necessary station for automatic or manual loading or unloading.
Automatic Identification
A means of identifying an item e.g. a product, parcel or transport unit by a machine (device) entering the data automatically into a computer.

The most widely used technology at present is bar code; others include radio frequency, magnetic stripes and optical character recognition.

Automatic Identification Manufacturers
Abbreviation: AIM
International Organisation of companies and/or associations involved or interested in automatic identification.
  1. In marine insurance: a loss or damage to or in respect of goods or equipment.
  2. The numerical result obtained by dividing the sum of two or more quantities by the number of quantities.
Average Adjusters
In general average affairs average adjusters are entrusted with the task of apportioning the loss and expenditure over the parties interested in the maritime venture and to determine which expenses are to be regarded as average or general average.
Description of the situation when the anchor has just been lifted from the seabed
Light structure with canvas or wooden covering rigged above an open space to provide protection from sun or rain.


BC Code
Safe working practice code for solid bulk cargo.
BSI Container Specification
British Standards Institution Specification for freight containers.
Back Haul
The return movement of a means of transport which has provided a transport service in one direction.
Back Letter
Back letters are drawn up in addition to a contract in order to lay down rights and/or obligations between both contracting parties, which, for some reason cannot be included in the original contract.

This expression is sometimes used for letters of indemnity, which are drawn up if the condition of the goods loaded gives rise to remarks and, nevertheless, the shipper insists upon receiving clean Bills of Lading. Letters of indemnity are only allowed in very exceptional circumstances.

Back Order
A customer order or commitment, which is unfilled due to insufficient stock.
Back Scheduling
A method of obtaining a production schedule by working backwards from the required due date in order to predict the latest start date consistent with meeting that due date.
  1. The quantity of goods still to be delivered, received, produced, issued, etc., for which the planned or agreed date has expired.
  2. The total number of customer orders which have been received but not yet been shipped.
The balespace of a vessel is the capacity of cargo spaces under deck (including hatchways but excluding void spaces behind cargo battens and beams) expressed in cubic meters or cubic feet.
Materials solely carried to improve the trim and the stability of the vessel. In vessels usually water is carried as ballast in tanks, specially designed for that purpose.
Bank Guarantee
An undertaking by a bank to be answerable for payment of a sum of money in the event of non performance by the party on whose behalf the guarantee is issued.
Banking System
For marine purposes the practice of always keeping more than one piece of cargo on the quay or in the vessel ready for loading or discharging in order to avoid delays and to obtain optimal use of the loading gear.
An EDI message to convey the Bay plan on occupied and empty slots in a certain vessel at a particular time.
Bar Coding
A method of encoding data for fast and accurate electronic readability. Bar codes are a series of alternating bars and spaces printed or stamped on products, labels, or other media, representing encoded information which can be read by electronic readers, used to facilitate timely and accurate input of data to a computer system. Bar codes represent letters and/or numbers and special characters like +, /, -, etc.
Bare Boat Charter
A charter whereby the charterer leases the bare ship and appoints the master and crew himself.
Flat bottomed inland cargo vessel for canals and rivers with or without own propulsion for the purpose of transporting goods.
Special devices mounted on container doors to provide a watertight locking.
Home depot of container or trailer.
Basic Stock
Items of an inventory intended for issue against demand during the re-supply lead time.
A collection of products or data which is treated as one entity with respect to certain operations e.g. processing and production.
Batch Lot
A definite quantity of some product manufactured or produced under conditions which are presumed uniform and for production control purposes passing as a unit through the same series of operations.
Batch Production
The production process where products/components are produced in batches and where each separate batch consists of a number of the same products/components.
Members protruding from the inside walls of a vessel's hold or a (thermal) container to keep away the cargo from the walls to provide an air passage. They may be integral with the walls, fastened to the walls or added during cargo handling.
A vertical division of a vessel from stem to stern, used as a part of the indication of a stowage place for containers. The numbers run from stem to stern; odd numbers indicate a 20 foot position, even numbers indicate a 40 foot position.
Bay Plan
A stowage plan which shows the locations of all the containers on the vessel.
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Abbreviation: B.T. Wagen
A container wagon of the German Railways.
The measurement and comparison with a standard or others of efforts and results in the business process for e.g. input, output, reliability, quality and customer satisfaction.

Note: For MCL Feeders  it is the comparative search for the best practices (processes) that will lead to superior performance of the company.

It must be seen as a positive and pro-active process to make the company's operations lean and improve quality and productivity.

Is the result of vertical forces acting on a ship as a result of local differences between weight and buoyancy.

The total of these forces should be zero, otherwise change of draft will occur.

At sea the bending moment will change as a result of wave impact which than periodically changes the buoyancy distribution.

Note: The maximum allowed bending moment of a vessel is restricted by the class bureau to certain limits, which are different under port and sea conditions.

Berne Gauge
The most restrictive loading gauge (standard measure) or the lowest common denominator of loading gauges on the railways of continental Europe.
A location in a port where a vessel can be moored often indicated by a code or name.
Best Practice
The provision to a client of examples and constructive consultation for improved logistics processes in the delivery of goods and services.
Bilateral Transport Agreement
Agreement between two nations concerning their transport relations.
Bill of Exchange
An unconditional order in writing to pay a certain sum of money to a named person.
Bill of Health
The Bill of Health is the certificate issued by local medical authorities indicating the general health conditions in the port of departure or in the ports of call. The Bill of Health must have been visaed before departure by the Consul of the country of destination.

When a vessel has free pratique, this means that the vessel has a clean Bill of Health certifying that there is no question of contagious disease and that all quarantine regulations have been complied with, so that people may embark and disembark.

Bill of Lading
Abbreviation: B/L, plural Bs/L
A document which evidences a contract of carriage by sea.

The document has the following functions:

  1. A receipt for goods, signed by a duly authorized person on behalf of the carriers.
  2. A document of title to the goods described therein.
  3. Evidence of the terms and conditions of carriage agreed upon between the two parties.

At the moment 3 different models are used:

  1. A document for either Combined Transport or Port to Port shipments depending whether the relevant spaces for place of receipt and/or place of delivery are indicated on the face of the document.
  2. A classic marine Bill of Lading in which the carrier is also responsible for the part of the transport actually performed by himself.
  3. Sea Waybill: A non-negotiable document, which can only be made out to a named consignee. No surrender of the document by the consignee is required.
Bill of Lading Clause
A particular article, stipulation or single proviso in a Bill of Lading. A clause can be standard and can be pre-printed on the B/L.
Bill of Material
A list of all parts, sub-assemblies and raw materials that constitute a particular assembly, showing the quantity of each required item.
Bimodal Trailer
  1. A road semi-trailer with retractable running gear to allow mounting on a pair of rail boogies.
  2. A trailer which is able to carry different types of standardized unit loads, (e.g. a chassis which is appropriate for the carriage of one FEU or two TEU's).
Support mounted on the bridge deck to hold the compass.
Block Train
A number of railway wagons (loaded with containers), departing from a certain place and running straight to a place of destination, without marshalling, transhipping or any coupling or de-coupling of wagons.
A small open decked craft carried on board ships for a specific purpose e.g. lifeboat, workboat.
Person who attends to the mooring and unmooring of vessels.
Post, fixed to a quay or a vessel, for securing mooring ropes.
Bona Fide
In good faith; without dishonesty, fraud or deceit.
The storage of certain goods under charge of customs viz. customs seal until the import duties are paid or until the goods are taken out of the country.
  1. Bonded warehouse (place where goods can be placed under bond).
  2. Bonded store (place on a vessel where goods are placed behind seal until the time that the vessel leaves the port or country again).
  3. Bonded goods (dutiable goods upon which duties have not been paid i.e. goods in transit or warehoused pending customs clearance).
  1. The offering by a shipper of cargo for transport and the acceptance of the offering by the carrier or his agent.
Booking Reference Number
The number assigned to a certain booking by the carrier or his agent.
Document used in road transport, listing the cargo carried on a road vehicle, often referring to appended copies of the road consignment note.
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A stage in a process which limits performance.

Note: Generally this is interpreted as a facility, function, department etc. that impedes performance, for example a warehouse or distribution centre where goods arrive at a faster rate than they can be transported or stored, thus causing stock-piling at improper moments or in unwanted areas.

Bottom Fittings
Special conical shaped devices inserted between a container and the permanent floor on the deck of a vessel in order to avoid shifting of the container during the voyage of this vessel.
Bottom Lift
Handling of containers with equipment attached to the four bottom corner fittings (castings).
Money borrowed against a ship, or its equipment, repaid with interest upon the ship's arrival at port, and forfeited should the ship sink
Machine located towards the forward end of a ship below the waterline, which can produce a lateral trust mostly by means of a propeller.
Colloquial name for container (e.g. Box-club)
Box Pallet
Pallet with at least three fixed, removable or collapsible, vertical sides.
Break Bulk
  1. To commence discharge.
  2. To strip unitised cargo.
Break Bulk Cargo
General cargo conventionally stowed as opposed to unitized, containerized and Roll On-Roll Off cargo.
Break-even Weight
The weight at which it is cheaper to charge the lower rate for the next higher weight-break multiplied by the minimum weight indicated, than to charge the higher rate for the actual weight of the shipment.
A structure on board a ship, fixed to an open deck forward intended to deflect and disperse head seas shipped over the bow.
Broken Stowage
The cargo space which is unavoidably lost when stowing cargo. The percentage of wasted space depends upon e.g. the kind of cargo, the packing and the used spaces.
Person who acts as an agent or intermediary in negotiating contracts.
Brussels Tariff Nomenclature
The old Customs Co-operation Council Nomenclature for the classification of goods. Now replaced by the Harmonized System.
Buffer Stock
A quantity of goods or articles kept in store to safeguard against unforeseen shortages or demands.
Bulk Cargo
Unpacked homogeneous cargo poured loose in a certain space of a vessel or container e.g. oil and grain.
Bulk Carrier
Single deck vessel designed to carry homogeneous unpacked dry cargoes such as grain, iron ore and coal.
Bulk Container
A container designed for the carriage of free-flowing dry cargoes, which are loaded through hatchways in the roof of the container and discharged through hatchways at one end of the container.
  1. Upright partition dividing compartments on board a vessel. The functions of bulkheads are:
    • To increase the safety of a vessel by dividing it into compartments.
    • To separate the engine room from the cargo holds.
    • To increase the transverse strength of a vessel.
    • To reduce the risk of spreading fire to other compartments.
  2. A vertically mounted board to provide front wall protection against shifting cargo and commonly seen on platform trailers (road cargo).
  3. A partition in a container, providing a plenum chamber and/or air passage for either return or supply air. It may be an integral part of the appliance or a separate construction.
  4. A vertically mounted wall separating the fore respectively aft compartment from the rest of the aircraft (air cargo).
Bull Rings
Rings for lashing the cargo in containers.
Specialised reports for specific activity related events.
(Tank) spaces on board a vessel to store fuel.
Bunker Adjustment Factor
Abbreviation: BAF
Adjustment applied by MCL Feeders or liner conferences to offset the effect of fluctuations in the cost of bunkers.
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Quantity of fuel on board a vessel.
The upward force extended by the vertical component of integrated pressure acting on the hull below the waterline; usually calculated as being equal to the weight of the water displaced by the hull.
Bureau Veritas
French classification society.
Business Analyses
The process of investigating and evaluating an organization to clarify processes and procedures.
Business Data Repository (BDR)
The accumulation of business data taken from a system to reuse this data in other systems.
Business Function
An upper level business activity that is achieved via the performance of component activities. Examples: Manufacturing, Shipping
Business Logistics
  1. Logistics within a business system.
  2. The co-ordinating function of material management and physical distribution, which executes the integral control of the goods flow.
Business Process
A business process is the action taken to respond to particular events, convert inputs into outputs, and produce particular results. Business processes are what the enterprise must do to conduct its business successfully.
Business Process Model
The business process model provides a breakdown (process decomposition) of all levels of business processes within the scope of a business area. It also shows process dynamics, lower-level process interrelationships. In Summary it includes all diagrams related to a process definition that allows for understanding what the business process is doing (and not how).
Business Process Redesign (BPR)
The process of redesigning business practice models including the exchange of data and services amongst the stakeholders (i.e. finance, merchandising, production, distribution) involved in the lifecycle of a client's product.
Business Rule
A Business Rule is a business condition under which data items are created, related and maintained.
Party to which merchandise is sold.
Buyer's Market
A 'buyer's market' is considered to exist when goods can easily be secured and when the economic forces of business tend to cause goods to be priced at the purchaser's estimate of value. In other words, a state of trade favourable to the buyer, with relatively large supply and low prices.
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(A-B) (C-D) (E-F) (G-H) (I-J) (K-L) (M-N) (O-P) (Q-R) (S-T) (U-V) (W-X) (Y-Z)