Dictionary of Shipping Terms


(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)

National organisation for the Simplification of International Trade Procedures in the United Kingdom (e.g. in The Netherlands SITPRO is called 'Sitproneth', in France 'Simprofrance' and in Japan 'Jastpro').
Safe Working Load
Abbreviation: SWL
The maximum load any lifting appliance may handle.
Safety Stock
  1. In general, a quantity of stock planned to be in inventory to protect against fluctuations in demand and/or supply.
  2. In the context of master production scheduling, safety stock can refer to additional inventory and/or capacity planned as protection against forecast errors and/or short terms changes in the backlog. Also referred to as 'overplanning' or a 'market hedge'.
Said to Contain
Abbreviation: STC
Term in a Bill of Lading signifying that the master and the carrier are unaware of the nature or quantity of the contents of e.g. a carton, crate, container or bundle and are relying on the description furnished by the shipper.
The saving or rescue of a vessel and/or the cargo from loss and/or damage at sea.
Scale Ton
Freighting measurement used in certain trades for various commodities.
A formal specification of a group of business activities that may take place between parties to achieve a particular objective.
A timetable including arrival/departure times of ocean- and feeder vessels and also inland transportation. It refers to named ports in a specific voyage (journey) within a certain trade indicating the voyage number(s). In general: The plan of times for starting and/or finishing activities.
A device used for containers, lockers, trucks or lorries to proof relevant parties that they have remained closed during transport.
Seal Log
A document used to record seal numbers.
Seasonal Inventory
Inventory built up in anticipation of a seasonal peak of demand in order to smooth production.
Fitness of a vessel to travel in open sea mostly related to a particular voyage with a particular cargo.
Sectional Rate
The rate established by scheduled air carrier(s) for a section of a through route (air cargo).
Distance required by the rules of IMDG or BC codes between the various commodities of dangerous and or bulk cargoes.
Party selling merchandise to a buyer.
Seller's Market
A 'seller's market' is considered to exist when goods cannot easily be secured and when the economic forces of business tend to be priced at the vendor's estimate of value. In other words, a state of trade favourable to the seller, with relatively great demand and high prices of something for sale.
Semi Trailer
A vehicle without motive power and with one or more axles designed to be drawn by a truck tractor and constructed in such way that a portion of its weight and that of its load rest upon e.g. the fifth wheel of the towing vehicle.
See Shipper
Sequenced Delivery
The synchronised delivery of trucks to co-ordinate with production schedules or local delivery vehicles.
Service Based Pricing
Pricing structured to service packages provided, related to activity based costing including bought in costs.
Service Bill
A service Bill (of Lading) is a contract of carriage issued by one carrier to another for documentary and internal control purposes.

For internal documentary and control purposes a so-called participating agent in a consortium uses some kind of document which, depending on the trade, is referred to as 'Memo Bill' which will among others state:

  • Name of Carrier on whose behalf the original document (Way Bill, Bill of Lading, etc.) was issued.
  • The original document number. The agent who issued the original document and his opponent at the discharging side.
  • The number of packages, weight and measurement, marks and numbers and goods description.
  • Further mandatory details in case of special cargo.

No freight details will be mentioned and the Memo Bill is not a contract of carriage.


See Bill of Lading
Service Level
A measure for the extent to which the customer orders can be executed at delivery conditions normally accepted in the market.
Service Level Agreement
Abbreviation: SLA
An arrangement between a service provider and an organisation specifying details about the services to be provided.
Setting/Air Delivery Temperature
An indication in the documents (B/L) stating the air supply temperature to the container.

Note: No other details than this temperature shall be included in the Bill of Lading.

Settlement Office
The institution to issue billing to and receive remittances from agents and to distribute the monies to CASS airlines, Billing Participants and Part Participants (air cargo).
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See Warehouse
Shelf Life
The specified length of time prior to use for which items which are inherently subject to deterioration are deemed to remain fit for use under prescribed conditions.
Part of the work-program of a stevedoring company (a working day can have up to 3 shifts (24 hours)).
See Vessel
Ship Broker
Acts as intermediary between shipowners or carriers by sea on the one hand and cargo interests on the other. The functions are to act as forwarding agent or custom broker, fixing of charters, and acting as chartering agent.
Ship Operator
A ship operator is either the shipowner or the (legal) person responsible for the actual management of the vessel and its crew.
Ship's Protest
Statement of the master of a vessel before (in the presence of) competent authorities, concerning exceptional events which occurred during a voyage.
A separately identifiable collection of goods to be carried.

Note: In the United States of America the word shipment is used instead of the word consignment.

See Consignment
The (legal) person officially registered as such in the certificate of registry where the following particulars are contained:
  • Name of vessel and port of registry.
  • Details contained in surveyors certificate.
  • The particulars respecting the origin stated in the declaration of ownership.
  • The name and description of the registered owner, if more than one owner the proportionate share of each.
The merchant (person) by whom, in whose name or on whose behalf a contract of carriage of goods has been concluded with a carrier or any party by whom, in whose name or on whose behalf the goods are actually delivered to the carrier in relation to the contract of carriage.
Shipper's Export Declaration
Abbreviation: SED
A United States customs form to be completed for all exports to assist the government in compiling export statistics.
Shipper's Letter of Instruction
Abbreviation: SLI
A document containing instructions given by the shipper or the shipper's agent for preparing documents and forwarding (air cargo).
Shipping Note
Document provided by the shipper or his agent to the carrier, multimodal transport operator, terminal or other receiving authority, giving information about export consignments offered for transport, and providing for the necessary receipts and declarations of liability.
Shipping Documents
Documents required for the carriage of goods.
Shipping Instruction
Document advising details of cargo and exporter's requirements of its physical movement.
Shipping Label
A label attached to  unit, containing certain data.
Shipping Marks
The identification shown on individual packages in order to help in moving it without delay or confusion to its final destination and to enable the checking of cargo against documents.
The negative difference between actual available or delivered quantity and the required quantity.
Shrink Wrapping
Heat treatment that shrinks an envelope of polyethylene or similar substance around several units, thus forming one unit. It is used e.g. to secure packages on a pallet.
Shuttle Service
The carriage back and forth over an often short route between two points.
A short railroad track connected with a main track by a switch to serve a warehouse or an industrial area.
The limiting of formalities, procedures, documents, information, and operations to the minimum essential requirements, steps, data and tasks acceptable by all parties concerned.
Simplification Toolkit
Collection of tools to enable simplified implementations of structured electronic commerce techniques such as, electronic data interchange, electronic funds transfer, automatic data capture, bar-code technology and unique goods/product/service/party identification schemes.
The imitation of the reality for studying the effect of changing parameters in a model as a means of preparing a decision.
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Single Administrative Document
Abbreviation: SAD
A set of documents, replacing the various (national) forms for customs declaration within European Community, implemented on January 1st, 1988. The introduction of the SAD constitutes an intermediate stage in the abolition of all administrative documentation in intra European Community trade in goods between member states.
Skeleton Trailer
Road trailer consisting of a frame and wheels specially designed to carry containers.
See Chassis
Battens fitted underneath frames, boxes or packages to raise them off the floor and allow easy access for fork lift trucks, slings or other handling equipment.
Sliding Tandem
An undercarriage with a subframe having provision for convenient fore and aft adjustment of its position on the chassis/semi-trailer. The purpose being to be able to shift part of the load to either the king pin or the suspension to maximise legally permitted axle loads (road cargo).
Special chain, wire rope, synthetic fibre strap or ropes used for cargo handling purposes.
Slip Sheeting
Hard plastic sheeting used to stack cartons, optimising container space.
The space on board a vessel, required by one TEU, mainly used for administrative purposes.
Slot Charter
A voyage charter whereby the shipowner agrees to place a certain number of container slots (TEU and/or FEU) at the charterer's disposal.
Snake Loading
Loading products into a container in the sequence with which the goods will be unloaded and stored in at destination.
  1. The management on purpose of the various origins of products or materials on behalf of the recipient of these products or materials. In some industries sourcing is seen as the change from push to pull delivery for a number of fast moving items.
  2. Sourcing is specially dedicated to the retail industry acting as an intermediary between suppliers and the market with an integrated service for e.g. supermarkets or large department stores.
Space Charter
A voyage charter whereby the shipowner agrees to place part of the vessels capacity at the charterers disposal.
Special Drawing Rights
Abbreviation: SDR
Unit of account from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), i.a. used to express the amount of the limitations of a carrier's liability.
Special Rate
A rate other than a normal rate.
Specific Commodity Rate
Abbreviation: SCR
A rate applicable to carriage of specifically designated commodities.
Split Shipment
In case of indirect delivery through consolidation and if split shipment conditions occur then each split part of the shipment will be delivered in a different consignment but all consignments identified by the same unique original shipment id.
The stretch between a hub and one of the group of consignees and/or consignors being served by the hub.
Spontaneous Ignition Temperature
The lowest temperature at which a substance will start burning spontaneously without an external source of ignition.
  1. Device used for lifting containers and unitised cargo.
  2. Beam or frame that holds the slings vertical when hoisting a load, to prevent damage to cargo.
Mooring rope rigged from the forward or aft to a quayside bollard amidships to prevent the ship from surging forward or aft when alongside.
The capacity of a vessel to return to its original position after having been displaced by external forces. The stability of a vessel depends on the meta-centric height.
An identifiable amount of containers stowed in a orderly way in one specified place on an (ocean) terminal, container freight station, container yard or depot.
See also: Container Stack
To pile boxes, bags, containers etc. on top of each other.
The total weight of the containers and cargo in a certain row.
Standard Costs
A carefully prepared estimate of the cost of performing a given operation under specified conditions.

 Standard costs are determined for operations called 'standard Work Orders'.

Note: A standard work order describes a standard operation for which a standard cost is to be established.

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Standard Industrial Classification
Abbreviation: SIC
A method, used in the United States, to categorise companies into different industrial groupings.
Standard Product Module
Abbreviation: SPM
The building blocks used by business management to define services (shipment products) which can be offered to customers. They describe a more or less isolated set of activities with a standard cost attached to it. For operations management each module defines a combination of standard operations that needs to be carried out for a customer.

Note: SPM's can be regarded as the interface between business and operations management.

The development of agreements whose purpose is to align formalities, procedures, documents, information, and operations. At a national level, this would be alignment with acceptable commercial norms and practices, at an international level it would alignment with identified "best" and/or most accepted practices.
Right side of a vessel when facing towards the front or forward end.
State of Origin
The state in the territory in which the cargo was first loaded.
Steering of Containers
The function, with the aid of specific software for tracking and forecasting, to direct empty containers to demanding areas at minimum costs.
The foremost part of a vessel.
The aftermost part of a vessel.
A party running a business of which the functions are loading, stowing and discharging vessels.
The materials in a supply chain or in a segment of a supply chain, expressed in quantities, locations and or values. UK.
Stock Control
The systematic administration of stock levels with respect to quantity at all times.
Stock Keeping Unit
The description of the unit of measurement by which the stock items are recorded on the stock record.
Stock Locator System
A system in which all places within a warehouse are named or numbered.
Stock Point
A point in the supply chain meant to keep materials available.
Stock Record
A record of the quantity of stock of a single item, often containing a history of recent transactions and information for controlling the replenishment of stock.
The activity of placing goods into a store or the state of being in store (e.g. a warehouse).
Storage Charge
The fee for keeping goods in a warehouse.
Provisions and supplies on board required for running a vessel.
The placing and securing of cargo or containers on board a vessel or an aircraft or of cargo in a container.
Stowage Factor
Ratio of a cargo's cubic measurement to its weight, expressed in cubic feet to the ton or cubic metres to the tonne, used in order to determine the total quantity of cargo which can be loaded in a certain space.
Stowage Instructions
Imperative details about the way certain cargo is to be stowed, given by the shipper or his agent.
Stowage Plan
A plan indicating the locations on the vessel of all the consignments for the benefit of stevedores and vessel's officers.
An unwanted person who hides on board of a vessel or an aircraft to get free passage, to evade port officials.

IMO definition: A person who is secreted on a ship or in cargo which is subsequently loaded on the ship, without the consent of the shipowner or the master or any other responsible person who is detected on board after the ship has departed from a port and reported as a stowaway by the master.

Straddle Carrier
Wheeled vehicle designed to lift and carry  containers within its own framework. It is used for moving, and sometimes stacking,  containers at a container terminal.
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Straddle Crane
A crane usually running on rails and spanning an open area such as rail-tracks or roadways.
A band of metal, plastic or other flexible material used to hold cargo or cases together.
  1. Part of the total transport chain (trade route) including overland transport identified by place of receipt, ports of call and place of delivery i.e. it has one location or an address as a starting and or ending point.
  2. The leg between two points.
The unloading of cargo out of a container.
The loading of cargo into a container.
Striving for optimum performance in one element of an organisation disregarding the effects this may cause to the performance of the other elements. In other words, a solution for a problem that is best from a narrow point of view but not from a higher or overall company point of view.
Part of a stretch. This term is used if it is necessary to distinguish between a stretch and a part thereof.
Experienced person (officer) assigned by the charterer of a vessel to advise the management of the vessel and protect the interests of the charterer.
Supply Chain
A sequence of events in a goods flow which adds to the value of a specific good. These events may include:
  • conversion
  • assembling and/or disassembling
  • movements and placements
Supply Chain Definition
A sequence of events, which may include conversion, movement or placement, which adds value to goods, products, or services.
Supply Vessel
Vessel which carries stock and stores to offshore drilling rigs, platforms.
An additional charge added to the usual or customary freight.
An inspection of a certain item or object by a recognised specialist.
A specialist who carries out surveys.

Note: A surveyor is often representing a classification bureau or a governmental body.

Swop Body
Separate unit without wheels to carry cargo via road sometimes equipped with legs to be used to carry cargo intermodal within Europe.

The advantage being that this unit can be left behind to load or discharge whilst the driver with the truck/chassis can change to another unit.

These units are not used for sea transport.

The simultaneous joint action of separate parties, which, together, have greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects.
A whole body of connected elements, which influence each other and have specific relations with the environment.
TARif Intègrè Communautaire (TARIC)
The integrated customs tariff of the community.
Transport International des Merchandises par la Route.
See Trailer on Flat Car
A person who records the number of cargo items together with the condition thereof at the time it is loaded into or discharged from a vessel.
Tank Container
A tank, surrounded by a framework with the overall dimensions of a container for the transport of liquids or gasses in bulk.
A vessel designed for the carriage of liquid cargo in bulk.
Tare Mass of Container
See Tare Weight of Container
Tare Weight of Container
Mass of an empty container including all fittings and appliances associated with that particular type of container on its normal operating condition.
The schedule of rates, charges and related transport conditions.
Waterproof material, e.g. canvas, to spread over cargo to protect it from getting wet.
  • A small boat used to carry persons from shore to ship and back
  • Colloquial term used to describe the condition of a ship having marginal stability
  • To present for acceptance an offer (to tender a bit)
A location on either end of a transportation line including servicing and handling facilities. (
Terms of Delivery
All the conditions agreed upon between trading partners regarding the delivery of goods and the related services.

Note: Under normal circumstances the INCO terms are used to prevent any misunderstandings.

Terms of Freight
All the conditions agreed upon between a carrier and a merchant about the type of freight and charges due to the carrier and whether these are prepaid or are to be collected.

Note: The so-called Combi terms based on the INCO terms do make a distinction what of the freight and related costs is to be paid by the seller and what by the buyer. In the UN recommendation 23 a coding system is recommended to recognise the various items.

Thermal Container
A container built with insulating walls, doors, floor and roof by which heat exchange with the environment is minimised thus limiting temperature variations of the cargo.
Third Party Logistics
Supply of logistics related operations between traders by an independent organisation.
Through Charge
The total rate from point of departure to point of destination. It may be a joint rate or a combination of rates (air cargo).
Through Rate
See Through Charge
Through Route
The total route from point of departure to point of destination.
A horizontal division of a vessel from bottom to top. The numbers run from bottom to deck and from deck upwards and are used as a part of the indication of a stowage place for containers.
Tilt Transport
Road transport whereby the cargo area is protected against the elements by means of a tilt made of canvas or other pliable material.
Time Charter
A contract whereby a vessel is let to a charterer for a stipulated period of time or voyage, for a remuneration known as hire, generally a monthly rate per ton deadweight or a daily rate.

The charterer is free to employ the vessel as he thinks fit within the terms as agreed, but the shipowner continues to manage his own vessel through the master and crew who remain his servants.

Time Sheet
Statement, drawn-up by the ship's agent at the loading and discharging ports, which details the time worked in loading and discharging the cargo together with the amount of laytime used.
  1. Unit of weight measurement: 1000 kilograms (metric ton) or 2,240 lbs (long ton).
  2. Unit of cubic measurement, mainly used to express the cubic capacity of a vessel.
  3. Unit of weight or measurement used as a basis for the calculation of freights (freight ton).
  1. Cubic capacity of a merchant vessel.
  2. Total weight or amount of cargo expressed in tons.
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The action of retrieving information concerning the whereabouts of cargo, cargo items, consignments or equipment.
Track & Trace
The pro-active tracking of the product along the supply chain, and the paper information flow relating to the order.
The function of maintaining status information, including current location, of cargo, cargo items, consignments or containers either full or empty.
The power to grip or hold to a surface while moving without slipping.
A powered vehicle designed and used for towing other vehicles.
  1.   A trade is a liner service  or a cargo flow between two individual markets (e.g. North Atlantic Trade)
  2. a) The exchange of goods, funds, services or information with value to the parties involved. This value is either previously agreed or established during business.
    b) A commercial connection between two or more individual markets.
The number of passengers, quantity of cargo etc. carried over a certain route.
A vehicle without motive power, designed for the carriage of cargo and to be towed by a motor vehicle.
Trailer on Flat Car
Abbreviation: TOFC
Carriage of piggyback highway trailers on specially equipped railway wagons.
Tramp Vessel
A vessel not operating under a regular schedule.
Trans Siberian Landbridge
Overland route from Europe to the Far East via the Trans Siberian Railway (TSR).
Transfer Cargo
Cargo arriving at a point by one flight and continuing there-from by another flight (air cargo).
  1. A shipment under one  Bill of Lading, whereby sea (ocean) transport is 'broken' into two or more parts. The port where the sea (ocean) transport is 'broken' is the transhipment port.
  2. Transfer of cargo from one means of transport to another for on-carriage during the course of one transport operation.
  3. Customs: Customs procedure under which goods are transferred under customs control from the importing means of transport to the exporting means of transport within the area of one customs office which is the office of both importation and exportation.
Transit Cargo
  1. Cargo between outwards customs clearance and inwards customs clearance.
  2. Cargo arriving at a point and departing there-from by the same through flight (air cargo).
Transit Country
One of the States signatory to the Convention on Common Transit (currently, the 18 States of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, plus San Marino).
A device (chip) used for identification, which automatically transmits certain coded data when actuated by a special signal from an interrogator.
The assisted movement of people and or goods.

Note: Transport is often used as a generic term for various means of transport, and is distinguished from 'movement' in that it requires such means.

Transport Document
Document evidencing a contract of carriage between a shipowner and a consignor, such as bill of lading, seawaybill or a multimodal transport document. (IMO)
See Shipping Document
Transport International by Road
Abbreviation: TIR
A set of rules following a customs convention to facilitate the international, European transport of goods by road with minimal interference under cover of TIR-carnets.
Transport Unit
A physical unit, e.g. container or ckd uniquely identified (for instance by license plate) that has been provided by the original shipper for transportation and that should not be split during the transportation process. A transport handling unit can contain different packages. (automotive industry)
See Voyage
Class of automotive vehicles of various sizes and designs for transporting goods.
The stretch between two hubs mutually.
Trusted Third Party (TTP) Services
A trusted party is a party which at least two other parties trust. TTP's may provide some additional services such as time-stamping, etc. The TTP services relevant to Electronic Business include:
  • Independent time-stamping
  • Attribute certificates
  • Notary functions
  • Document repository
  • Non-repudiation of submission/delivery
  • Translation/validation of certificates
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Brand name of tractor unit used in ports to pull trailers. They are equipped with a fifth wheel or a gooseneck type of coupling.
Cargo carrying surface below the main deck dividing a hold horizontally in an upper and a lower compartment.
Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit
Abbreviation: TEU
Unit of measurement equivalent to one twenty foot  container.
Device which has to be inserted into the corner fittings of a  container and is turned or twisted, thus locking the container for the purpose of securing or lifting.
Two Way Pallet
A pallet of which the frame permits the entry of forks of (e.g. a fork lift at two opposite sides).
Type of Cargo
An indication of the sort of cargo to be transported, (e.g. Break Bulk, Containerised, RoRo).
Type of Equipment
The type of material used, e.g. 40 feet container, four way pallet or mafi trailer.
Type of Load Indicator
A general reference or a classification of loads of cargo like 'FCL', 'LCL', 'unpacked' and even ship's convenience container, though this is rarely used nowadays.
Type of Means of Transport
The type of vehicle used in the transport process, e.g. wide-body aircraft, tank truck or passenger vessel.
Type of Movement
Description of the service for movement of containers.

Note: The following type of movement can be indicated on B/L and Manifest all combinations of FCL and LCL and break bulk and RoRo. Whilst only on the manifest combinations of House, Yard and CFS can be mentioned.

Type of Packing
Description of the packaging material used to wrap, contain and protect goods to be transported.
Type of Transport
The indication whether the carrier or the merchant effects and bears the responsibility for inland transport of cargo in containers i.e. a differentiation between the logistical and legal responsibility.

Note: Values are Carrier haulage and Merchant haulage, whilst in this context special cases are carrier-nominated merchant haulage, and merchant nominated carrier haulage.

Type of Vessel
The sort of vessel used in the transport process e.g. Container, RoRo, or Multi Purpose.



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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)