Get familiar with the
shipping terminology


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Automatic Identification System is a satellite system used by ships and vessel tracking service (VTS) to identify and locate ships.

Refers to the side of the ship. Goods delivered alongside are placed on the dock or barge next to the ship. It also means that the ship has come to be docked or berthed, i.e. lies alongside the dock or berth. 

Automated Manifest System is the system used by US Customs for submitting documents they require for processing shipments coming into the US. 

Is a type of paint applied to the vessel’s hull that works by releasing a range of bioactive ingredients that prevent or slow the growth or facilitate detachment of subaquatic organisms.  

Means either “behind a ship” or “to move a ship in reverse direction”


Back haul
The return trip from a destination where you receive a lower hire rate for your ship, but ends up in a favourable area.of a means of transport which has provided a transport service in one direction.

Materials solely carried to improve the trim and the stability of the vessel. In vessels usually water is carried as ballast in tanks, specially conceived for that purpose.

Bareboat charter
A charter in which the bare ship is chartered without crew; the charterer, for a stipulated sum taking over the vessel for a stated period of time, with a minimum of restrictions; the charterer appoints the master and the crew and pays all running expenses.

A flat bottomed inland cargo vessel, with or without own propulsion, ideal for transporting goods on canals and rivers. Some cargoes might be discharged from a vessel onto barges if the vessel is unable to reach port e.g. due to restrictions.

The width of a ship

Bill of Lading (B/L)
A document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company that moves freight between specified ports for a specified charge. This is usually prepared by the shipper on forms issued by the carrier, serving as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods.

Any fuel that is derived from biomass, that is, plant or algae material or animal waste. Since such feedstock material can be replenished readily, biofuel is considered a source of renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels. Examples often include ethanol (from corn or sugarcane), biodiesel (from vegetable oils and animal fats), green diesel (from algae and other plant sources) and biogas (methane derived from animal manure and other digested organic material).

The front of a vessel.

Palletised packaged goods that are not containerised. To break bulk is to unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car.

A broker/shipbroker is a specialist intermediary/negotiator between shipowners and charterers who use ships to transport cargo, or between buyers and sellers of vessels.

Bulk cargo
Goods that are shipped loose – not in packages or containers (e.g. grain, coal, sulphur).

A maritime term referring to fuel used aboard the ship. Bunker fuel is technically any type of fuel oil used aboard ships. It gets its name from the containers on ships and in ports that it is stored in; in the days of steam they were coal bunkers but now they are bunker-fuel tanks.


Transport of goods between two places in the same country by a transporter from another country.

Is a party that transports goods for another person or company and is responsible for any possible loss of or damage to the goods during transport.

Caustic Soda
Is one of the common names for sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Is common name derives from its chemical identity as a sodium hydrate and because it is caustic or corrosive. In pure form, caustic soda is a waxy, white solid. It readily absorbs water and forms aqueous solutions and it is usually transported in a 50% water solution. Its main uses are in the manufacture of pulp and paper, alumina, soap and detergents, petroleum products and chemical production.

A vessel whose large size prevents it from entering the locks of the Panama Canal and thus forces it to pass around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.

Charter Party (CP)
A lawful agreement in terms of a written contract between a shipowner and a charterer for the hire of a vessel for either a voyage or period time.

The legal person who has signed a charter party with the owner of a vessel or an aircraft and thus hires or leases a vessel or an aircraft or a part of the capacity thereof.

Contract of Affreightment (COA)
An agreement made 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.

Coating Many
Vessels employed in the chemical and petroleum product trade have cargo tanks fabricated from mild steel coated with a paint system which serves to prevent corrosion of the steel and to protect the cargo from contamination by contact with the steel.

Any commercial good that is shipped (coal, iron ores, soya beans, steel slabs etc.).

Crude oil washing is washing out the residue from the oil tanker using the crude oil cargo itself, after the cargo tanks have been emptied. Crude oil is pumped back and preheated in the slop tanks, then sprayed back onto the walls of the tank.



Deadweight tonnage (DWT)
Deadweight tonnage (also known as deadweight, abbreviated to DWT, D.W.T., d.w.t., or dwt) is a measure of how much weight a ship is carrying or can safely carry. It is the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers and crew. The term is often used to specify a ship’s maximum permissible deadweight, the DWT when the ship is fully loaded so that its plimsoll line is at the point of submersion.

Deepwell cargo pumps
Hydraulically-driven cargo pumps used in tanker cargo pumping system. A deepwell pump is submerged in the fluid that it is pumping with its impeller placed in a well in the tanktop, which means that it is only suitable for double-hulled tankers. 

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 as per agreed in the Charter Party.

A cargo handling area adjacent to the shoreline where a ship ties up.

Dry bulk cargo
Cargo that is not liquid and/or does not require temperature control.


Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator, the total carbon emissions in a given time period per unit of revenue tonne-miles. Variations in the index are mainly caused by three factors: the technical efficiency of the ship, the amount of cargo transported per unit of time, and variations in speed.

Estimated time of arrival, completion, departure or sailing. 

Also called ethyl alcohol is an organic chemical compound; a simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H6O. It is a volatile, flammable, colourless liquid with a characteristic odour. Ethanol is naturally produced from fermentation of sugars (sugar cane, corn) or via petrochemical processes such as ethylene hydration. It is usually used as a chemical solvent, an antiseptic and disinfectant, as the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks and as a fuel source. 

A gas produced by many fruits and vegetables that accelerates the ripening and aging process.


The Federation of Oils, Seeds and Fats Associations is the main trade association for the oil, seeds and fats industry. It regulates legal contracts in the trade/industry. 

Front haul
The front trip to a destination where you receive a higher hire rate for your ship, but ends up in a less favourable area.


A “geared” vessel means that the ship is equipped with equipment with e.g. cranes for loading and off-loading of the cargo. A gearless vessel is a vessel without cranes.


A ship’s hold or cargo hold is a space for carrying cargo.

A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat.

A term used by steamship lines, agents, or port captains who are appointed to handle all matters in assisting the master of the vessel – while in port – to obtain such services as bunkering, fresh water, food and supplies, payroll for the crew, doctors’ appointments and ship repair.


Idle time
The amount of ineffective time whereby the available resources are not used e.g. a container in a yard.

International Maritime Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations which is responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent pollution from ships.

Is short for International Commercial Terms, which are a series of pre-defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce. The terms are intended primarily to clearly communicate the tasks, costs and risks associated with the transportation and delivery of goods. 

Inorganic Chemicals
Are carbon-free compounds. Inorganic chemicals include acids and bases, the most important are sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, phosphoric acid, caustic soda and ammonia. 

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners is a trade association that has served as the voice for independent tanker owners since 1970 representing the interests of its members at national, regional and international levels. 


Joint War Committee
Comprises underwriting representatives from both the Lloyd’s and the International Underwriting Association Company markets, representing the interests of those who write marine hull war business in the London market. 



From the verb to lade; loaded aboard a vessel.

Laydays/Cancelling (date); range of dates within which the hire contract must start.

Letter of Credit
Often abbreviated as LC or L/C, a letter of credit Is a written commitment by a bank issued after a request by an importer that payment will be made to an exporter provided that the terms of the letter of credit have been met as evidenced by the presentation of certain documents. 

London Maritime Arbitrations Association is a maritime arbitration association with headquarters in London, UK. 

Liquefied natural Gas. Natural gas will liquefy at a temperature of approximately -259 F or -160 C at atmospheric pressure. One cubic foot of liquefied gas will expand to approximately 600 cubic feet of gas at atmospheric pressure.

Length overall. The maximum length of a vessel’s hull measured parallel to the waterline. This length is important while docking the ship.

Letter of Indemnity. The guarantee from the shipper or consignee to indemnify a carrier for costs and/or loss, if any, in order to obtain favourable action by the carrier, e.g. sometimes, it is used to allow the consignee to take delivery of goods without surrendering the B/L which has been delayed or become lost. On export shipments, some carriers may permit shippers to issue Letters of Indemnity to the carriers in order to secure from them clean bills of lading in place of foul, however the risk is then high that the Letter of Indemnity is found unenforceable by a court.


The terminal point of the tanker deck piping. It consists of a number of pipes. Each of them branches off into two or more open ends for cargo loading or discharge. 

Marpol 73/78 is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978. (‘Marpol’ is short for marine pollution and 73/78 short for the years 1973 and 1978.) Marpol 73/78 is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions. It was designed to minimise pollution of the seas, including dumping, oil and exhaust pollution. Its stated object is: to preserve the marine environment through the complete elimination of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimisation of accidental discharge of such substances.

Master Bill
In case of consolidation, the Master Bill is the B/L of the carrier’s contract of carriage, split among House Bills, the consolidator’s contract of carriage with their clients.

Also known as methyl alcohol is a chemical and the simplest alcohol with the formula CH3OH. It is a light, volatile, colourless, flammable liquid with a distinctive alcoholic odour similar to that of ethanol. Unlike ethanol, methanol is poisonous for human consumption. It is mostly used to create biofuels, solvents, antifreeze and other chemicals (acetic acid, ethylene, propylene, etc.) 

Is a viscous product resulting from refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. Molasses are primarily used for sweetening and flavouring foods, as nutrition supplement and is also one of the primary ingredients used for distilling rum. 

Multi-purpose vessel
A vessel designed for the carriage of different types of cargo: general, bulk, heavy and/or containerised cargo.



A negotiable instrument is a document that can be transferred from its original holder to a third party. A non-negotiable document cannot be transferred to another party. A Bill of lading consigned “to order” or “to order of shipper” is negotiable once it is endorsed on the back by the shipper or their representative. 


Oil Companies International Marine Forum is a voluntary association of oil companies with an interest in the shipment and terminalling of crude oil, oil products, petrochemicals and gas. OCIMF focuses exclusively on preventing harm to people and the environment by promoting best practice in the design, construction and operation of tankers, barges and offshore vessels and their interfaces with terminals. 

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was a bill passed in the United States and aimed to work to avoid oil spills from vessels and facilities by enforcing removal of spilled oil and assigning liability for the cost of cleanup and damage; requires specific operating procedures; defines responsible parties and financial liability; implements processes for measuring damages; specifies damages for which violators are liable and establishes a fund for damages, cleanup and removal costs. 

Organic Chemicals
Generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen bonds. Due to carbon’s ability to catenate, millions of organic compounds are known. 


Panamax size
‘Panamax ships’ are the largest ships that can pass through the Panama Canal. The size is limited by the dimensions of the lock chambers and the depth of the water in the canal.

Petrochemicals (also known as petroleum distillates; and sometimes abbreviated as petchems) are the chemical products obtained from petroleum by refining. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as maize, palm fruit or sugar cane. The two most common petrochemical classes are olefins (including ethylene and propylene) and aromatics (including benzene, toluene and xylene isomers). 

The vessel’s navigator. An especially knowledgeable person qualified to navigate a vessel through difficult waters, e.g. harbour pilot etc.

Plimsoll line
A series of horizontal lines painted on the outside of a ship marking the level which must remain above the surface of the water for the vessel’s stability.

Pool agreement
An alliance of companies to share profit from joint (pooled) operations under a certain ratio formula. The shared use of, for example, equipment by a number of companies, which make together the investments in the equipment mentioned.


Questionnaire 88 is used to assess vessel suitability and risk when chartering tankers. The questionnaire has long been established industry standard for information on ships for commercial screening (vetting) purposes. 

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


Request for proposal.

Request for quotation. 


An embargo enforced by a government against another country. 

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

A device/system installed in the ship’s funnel to remove some particulates and/or gases from exhaust streams. From 1st of January 2020, ships are not allowed to burn HSFO, a fuel with high sulphur content, unless they had a scrubber installed.

Stands for Sundays and Holidays included, referring to when a vessel will operate. 

Ship Inspection Report Programme is a unique tanker risk assessment tool of value to charterers, ship operators, terminal operators and government bodies concerned with ship safety, as it was designed specifically to address concerns about sub-standard shipping. The SIRE system is a very large database of up-to-date information about tankers and barges. 

Slops and sludges
Are hydrocarbon-rich industrial waste, produced in various parts of a ship’s operations, including tank cleaning, purifying fuels and use of ballast water. 

Slow steaming
Slow steaming involves the operation of a vessel at speeds significantly below its maximum speed. The benefits of Slow Steaming include decreasing both fuel consumption (resulting in bunker costs reduction) and CO2 emissions (contributing towards environmental efficiency).

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

A stevedore (longshoreman, docker, or dockworker) is a waterfront manual labourer who is involved in loading and unloading ships, trucks, trains or airplanes.

The final stage in bulk liquid pumping from a tank. Modern chemical tankers are designed from the outset with efficient stripping in mind, cargo tanks are smooth-walled, bulkheads are corrugated and the clearance between the impeller of the pump and bottom of suction can be as small as 20 mm. 

Ship-to-ship transfer operation is the transfer of cargo between seagoing ships positioned alongside each other, either while stationary or underway. Cargoes typically transferred via STS methods include crude oil, liquefied gas (LPG or LNG) and petroleum products. 

Sulphuric acid
Also known as oil of vitriol, is a mineral acid composed of elements of sulphur, oxygen and hydrogen with formula H2SO4. It is a colourless, odourless and viscous liquid that is miscible in water at all concentrations. It is highly corrosive towards other materials, highly dehydrating (strips water away from substances) and hygroscopic (absorbs water from air). It is most commonly used in fertilizer manufacture but also important in mineral processing, oil refining, wastewater processing and chemical synthesis. 


Timecharter (T/C)
A time charter is a time-bound agreement, where the shipowner leases a vessel to a charterer for a fixed period of time, making them free to sail to any port and transport any cargo, subject to legal regulations.

The relationship of a ship’s hull to the waterline.

A small vessel designed to tow or push large ships or barges. Tugs have powerful diesel engines and are essential to docks and ports to manoeuvre large ships into their berths. Pusher tugs are also used to push enormous trains of barges on the rivers and inland waterways of the USA. Oceangoing salvage tugs provide assistance to ships in distress and engage in such work as towing drilling rigs and oil production platforms.

General cargo ships with two or sometimes three decks. The upper deck is called the main deck or weather deck, and the next lower deck is the tweendeck. Cargo such as bales, bags, or drums can be stacked in the tweendeck space, atop the tweendeck. Beneath the tweendeck is the hold space, used for general cargo. Cargo ships that have fittings to carry standard shipping containers and retractable tweendecks (that can be moved out of the way) so that the ship can carry bulk cargo are known as multipurpose vessels.



A privately owned shipping company with offices in 15 countries. Through eleven business units, we operate in five market segments: Oil, gas, dry bulk, coastal trades, and towage & offshore. We operate a fleet of gas and chemical carriers, tankers for crude oil and clean petroleum products, bulk carriers, feeder container ships, multipurpose vessels, harbor tugs, PSVs, AHTS, pusher tugs, barges and pilot boats.


Vegetable oils
Are oils extracted from seeds or other parts of fruits. Soybean oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil are examples of fats from seeds. Olive oil and palm oil are examples of fats from other parts of fruits. Vegetable oils are usually edible. Vegetable oils are consumed directly or indirectly as ingredients in food, can be used to cook (fry), as a component in manufactured products (soaps, skin products, candles, perfumes and other personal care and cosmetics), as an additive in pet food and are also used to make biodiesel. 

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


War Risk
Is a type of insurance which covers damage due to acts of war including invasion, insurrection, rebellion and hijacking. It is most commonly used in the shipping and aviation industries. 





Humboldt is part of Ultranav, a large and diversified group of shipping companies. Ultranav was founded in Chile in 1960 by Captain Albert von Appen.