The Comprehensive Flowmeters Resource


AA – Always Afloat (In some ports the ship aground when approaching, or at berth.)

AAPA – American Association of Port Authorities. 

ABAFT – A point beyond the midpoint of a ships length, towards the rear or stern. 

ABANDON – A proceeding wherein a shipper/consignee seeks authority to abandon all or parts of their cargo. 

ABLE-BODIED SEAMAN – A member of the deck crew who is able to perform all the duties of an experienced seaman; certificated by examination; must have three years sea service. Also called Able Seaman and A.B.

ABS – American Bureau of Shipping: A U.S.-based private classification, or standards setting society for merchant ships and other marine systems. 

ACP – Alternative Compliance Program. 

AD VALOREM – A term from Latin meaning, “according to value.” 

ADMEASUREMENT – The confirmed or official dimensions of a ship.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE – A representative of a government commission or agency vested with power to administer oaths, examine witnesses, take testimony, and conduct hearings of cases submitted to, or initiated by, that agency. Also called Hearing Examiner. 

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

AFT – In, near, or toward the stern of the vessel.

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

AGENCY TARIFF – A tariff published by an agent on behalf of several carriers.

AID – Agency for International Development.

AIS – Automatic Identification System.

ALLISION – The act of striking or collision of a moving vessel against a stationary object.

ALONGSIDE – A phrase referring to the side of a ship. Goods delivered “alongside” are to be placed on the dock or barge within reach of the transport ship’s tackle so that they can be loaded.

AMC – American Maritime Congress.

AMIDSHIPS – Generally speaking, the word amidships means in the middle portion of a vessel. 

AMO – American Maritime Officers.

AMOS – American Maritime Officers Service. 

API – American Petroleum Institute. 

APPS – The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

ARA – American Radio Association.

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT – The document containing all particulars relating to the terms of agreement between the master of the vessel and the crew. Sometimes called ship’s articles, shipping articles.

ASTERN – A backward direction in the line of a vessel’s fore and aft line; behind. If a vessel moves backwards it is said to move astern; opposite to ahead.

AT SEA – In marine insurance this phrase applies to a ship which is free from its moorings and ready to sail.

AUTOMATIC PILOT – An instrument designed to control automatically a vessel’s steering gear so that it follows a pre-determined track through the water.

AWO – American Waterway Operators. 

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

BACKHAUL – A deviation to move cargo on the return leg of a voyage for the purpose of minimizing ballast mileage and thereby reducing transportation costs.

BAF – Bunker Adjustment Factor, used to compensate for fluctuating fuel costs.

BAGGED CARGO – Various kinds of commodities usually packed in sacks or in bags, such as sugar, cement, milk powder, onion, grain, flour, etc.

BALLAST – Heavy substances loaded by a vessel to improve stability, trimming, sea-keeping and to increase the immersion at the propeller. Sea water ballast is commonly loaded in most vessels in ballast tanks, positioned in compartments right at the bottom and in some cases on the sides, called wing tanks. On a tanker, ballast is seawater that is taken into the cargo tanks to submerge the vessel to a proper trim.

BALLAST MOVEMENT – A voyage or voyage leg made without any paying cargo in a vessel’s tanks. To maintain proper stability, trim, or draft, sea water is usually carried during such movements. 

BALLAST TANK – Compartments at the bottom of a ship or on the sides which are filled with liquids for stability and to make the ship seaworthy. Any shipboard tank or compartment on a tanker normally used for carrying salt-water ballast. When these compartments or tanks are not connected with the cargo system they are called segregated ballast tanks or systems.

BARE BOAT 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. See Demise Charter.

BARGE – Flat-bottomed boat designed to carry cargo on inland waterways, usually without engines or crew accommodations. Barges can be lashed together and either pushed or pulled by tugs, carrying cargo of 60,000 tons or more. Small barges for carrying cargo between ship and shore are known as lighters.

BARGE ABOARD CATAMARAN – A way of loading cargo into large barges and then in turn loading the barges into a ship.

BARGE CARRIERS – Ships designed to carry either barges or containers exclusively, or some variable number of barges and containers simultaneously. Currently this class includes two types of vessels, the LASH and the SEABEE.

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

B/d -Barrels per day (measure of petroleum production). 

BEAM – The width of a ship. Also called breadth.

BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP – Designates the owner who receives the benefits or profits from the operation.

BERTH CARGO – When a liner cargo vessel accepts extra cargo to fill up the empty space remaining.

BILL OF LADING – A document by which the Master of a ship acknowledges having received in good order and condition (or the reverse) certain specified goods consigned to him by some particular shipper, and binds himself to deliver them in similar condition, unless the perils of the sea, fire or enemies prevent him, to the consignees of the shippers at the point of destination on their paying him the stipulated freight. A bill of lading specifies the name of the master, the port and destination of the ship, the goods, the consignee, and the rate of freight.

BIMCO – Baltic and International Maritime Council.

B/L – Bill of Lading

BLACK CARGO – Cargo banned by general cargo workers for some reason. This ban could be because the cargo is dangerous or hazardous to health.

BLACK GANG – A slang expression referring to the personnel in the engine department aboard ship.

BLS – Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor. 

BOATSWAIN (BOSUN) – The highest unlicensed rating in the deck department who has immediate charge of all deck hands and who in turn comes under the direct orders of the master or chief mate or mate.

BOILERS – Steam generating units used aboard ship to provide steam for propulsion (and) for heating and other auxiliary purposes. 

BOW – The front of a vessel.

BOW THRUSTERS – A propeller at the lower sea-covered part of the bow of the ship which turns at right angles to the fore-and-aft line and thus provides transverse thrust as a maneuvering aid. 

B/p or BOP – Balance of payments. 

BREADTH – See Beam

BREAKBULK – The process of assimilating many small shipments into one large shipment at a central point so that economies of scale may be achieved; to commence discharge of cargo.

BREAKBULK VESSEL – A general, multipurpose, cargo ship that carries cargoes of nonuniform sizes, often on pallets, resulting in labor-intensive loading and unloading; calls at various ports to pick up different kinds of cargoes.

BRIDGE – Used loosely to refer to the navigating section of the vessel where the wheel house and chart room are located; erected structure amidships or aft or very rarely fore over the main deck of a ship to accommodate the wheelhouse.

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

BULK CARRIER – Ship specifically designed to transport vast amounts of cargoes such as sugar, grain, wine, ore, chemicals, liquefied natural gas; coal and oil. See also LNG Carrier, Tanker, OBO Ship.

BULKHEAD – A name given to any vertical partition which separates different compartments or spaces from one another.

BUNKERS – Fuel consumed by the engines of a ship; compartments or tanks in a ship for fuel storage.

BUOY – A floating object employed as an aid to mariners to mark the navigable limits of channels, their fairways, sunken dangers, isolated rocks, telegraph cables, and the like; floating devices fixed in place at sea, lake or river as reference points for navigation or for other purposes.

CABLE SHIP – A specially constructed ship for the laying and repairing of telegraph and telephone cables across channels, seas, lakes, and oceans.

CABOTAGE – The carriage of goods or passengers for remuneration taken on at one point and discharged at another point within the territory of the same country.

CABOTAGE POLICIES – Reservation of a country’s coastal (domestic) shipping for its own flag vessels.

CAF – Currency Adjustment Factor, a charge that is applied to compensate ocean carriers for currency fluctuations. 

CAORF – Computer-Assisted Operations Research Facility: A MarAd R&D facility located at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York.

CARGO – Freight loaded into a ship.

CARGO HANDLING – The act of loading and discharging a cargo ship.

CARGO MANIFEST – A manifest that lists all cargo carried on a specific vessel voyage.

CARGO PLAN – A plan giving the quantities and description of the various grades carried in the ship’s cargo tanks, after the loading is completed.

CARGO PREFERENCE – Reserving a portion of a nation’s imports and exports to national-flag vessels. 

CARRIAGE OF GOODS BY SEA ACT 1936 (COSGA) – A law enacted in 1936 covering the transportation of merchandise by sea to or from ports of the United States and in foreign trades.

CARRIERS – Owners or operators of vessels providing transportation to shippers. The term is also used to refer to the vessels.

CATAMARAN – A double or treble-hulled vessel constructed in wood, aluminum or reinforced glass fibre and is also composed of two or three hulls diagonally joined together by various methods. Normally no ballast is needed to counteract the center buoyancy since it enjoys good stability at sea.

CATUG – Short for Catamaran Tug. A rigid catamaran tug connected to a barge. When joined together, they form and look like a single hull of a ship; oceangoing integrated tug-barge vessels.

CATWALK – A raised bridge running fore and aft from the midship, and also called “walkway.” It affords safe passage over the pipelines and other deck obstructions.

CCC – Commodity Credit Corporation, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

CCF – Capital Construction Fund: A tax benefit for operators of U.S.-built, U.S.-flag ships in the U.S. foreign, Great Lakes, or noncontiguous domestic trades, by which taxes may be deferred on income deposited in a fund to be used for the replacement of vessels.

CDS – Construction Differential Subsidy: A direct subsidy paid to U.S. shipyards building U.S.-flag ships to offset high construction costs in American shipyards. An amount of subsidy (up to 50 percent) is determined by estimates of construction cost differentials between U.S. and foreign yards. Program has not been funded since 1981.

CERCLA – Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

CERTIFICATE OF INSPECTION – The document issued by the U.S. Coast Guard certifying an American-flag vessel’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRY – A document specifying the nation registry of the vessel. 

C & F – Cost and Freight

C & I – Cost and Insurance

CHANDLER – A person who deals in the selling of provisions, dried stores, etc.

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

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

CHARTER RATES – The tariff applied for chartering tonnage in a particular trade.

CHIEF ENGINEER – The senior engineer officer responsible for the satisfactory working and upkeep of the main and auxiliary machinery and boiler plant on board ship.

CHIEF MATE – The officer in the deck department next in rank to the master; second in command of a ship. He is next to the master, most especially in the navigation and as far as the deck department is concerned. The chief mate assumes the position of the Master in his absence.

C.I.F. – Cost, Insurance and Freight: Export term in which the price quoted by the exporter includes the costs of ocean transportation to the port of destination and insurance coverage.

CLASSIFICATION SOCIETY – Worldwide experienced and reputable societies. which undertake to arrange inspections and advise on the hull and machinery of a ship. A private organization that supervises vessels during their construction and afterward, in respect to their seaworthiness, and the placing of vessels in grades or “classes” according to the society’s rules for each particular type. It is not compulsory by law that a shipowner have his vessel built according to the rules of any classification society; but in practice, the difficulty in securing satisfactory insurance rates for an unclassed vessel makes it a commercial obligation.

CLEAN SHIP – Refers to tankers which have their cargo tanks free of traces of dark persistent oils which remain after carrying crudes and heavy fuel oils.

COASTWISE – Domestic shipping routes along a single coast. 

CODE OF LINER CONDUCT (UNCTAD) – A convention drafted under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which provides that all shipping traffic between two foreign countries is to be regulated as far as the quantities of shipments are concerned on the following percentages — 40% for owners of the country of origin, 40% for owners of country of destination, and 20% for owners of the country which is neither the origin nor the destination. 

COFR – Certificate of Financial Responsibility.

COGSA – Carriage of Goods by Sea Act of 1936. 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. 

COLLIER – Vessel used for transporting coal.

COLLISION AVOIDANCE SYSTEM – Electronic system commonly used to prevent collisions in inland navigable waterways.

COLREG – Convention on International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

COMBI – Combination passenger/cargo vessel; a vessel specifically designed to carry both containers and conventional cargoes.

COMBINATION PASSENGER AND CARGO SHIPS – Ships with a capacity for 13 or more passengers.

COMMON CARRIER – Holds himself out for hire to the general public. Must post rates and cannot discriminate against customers whose cargo he is equipped to carry.

COMPLEMENT – The number of officers and crew employed upon a vessel for its safe navigation and operation.

CONFERENCE – An affiliation of shipowners operating over the same route(s) who agree to charge uniform rates and other terms of carriage. A conference is “closed” if one can enter only by the consent of existing members of the conference. It is “open” if anyone can enter by meeting certain technical and financial standards. Conference members are common carriers.

CONSIGNEE – The person to whom cargo is consigned as stated on the bills of lading.

CONSIGNOR – The person named in the bill of lading as the one from whom the goods have been received for shipment.

CONTAINER – A van, flatrack, open top trailer or other similar trailer body on or into which cargo is loaded and transported without chassis aboard ocean vessels.; a large rectangular or square container/box of a strong structure that can withstand continuous rough handling from ship to shore and back. It opens from one side to allow cargo to be stacked and stowed into it. 

CONTAINER MANIFEST – Document showing contents and loading sequence of a container.

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

CONTINERIZABLE CARGO – Cargo that will fit into a container. 

CONTAINERSHIP – A ship constructed in such a way that she can easily stack containers near and on top of each other as well as on deck. A vessel designed to carry standard intermodal containers enabling efficient loading, unloading, and transport to and from the vessel. Oceangoing merchant ship designed to transport a unit load of standard-sized containers 8 feet square and 20 or 40 feet long. The hull is divided into cells that are easily accessible through large hatches, and more containers can be loaded on deck atop the closed hatches. Loading and unloading can proceed simultaneously using giant traveling cranes at special berths. Container ships usually carry in the range of 25,000 to 50,000 deadweight tons. Whereas a general-cargo ship may spend as much as 70 percent of its life in port loading and discharging cargo, a container ship can be turned around in 36 hours or less, spending as little as 20 percent of its time in port. This ship type is the result of American design innovation. Specialized types of container ships are the LASH and SeaBee which carry floating containers (or “lighters,”) and RoRo ships, which may carry containers on truck trailers.

CONTRABAND – Cargo that is prohibited.

CONTRACT OF AFFREIGHTMENT (COA) – A service contract under which a ship owner agrees to transport a specified quantity of fuel products or specialty products, at a specified rate per ton, between designated loading and discharge ports. This type contract differs from a spot or consecutive voyage charter in that no particular vessel is specified.

CONTRACT CARRIER – Any person not a common carrier who, under individual contracts or agreements, transports passengers or property for compensation.

CPI – Consumer Price Index.

CREW – The personnel engaged on board ship, excluding the master and officers and the passengers on passenger ships.

CREW LIST – List prepared by the master of a ship showing the full names, nationality, passport or discharge book number, rank and age of every officer and crew member engaged on board that ship. This serves as one of the essential ship’s documents which is always requested to be presented and handed over to the customs and immigration authorities when they board the vessel on arrival.

CROSS-TRADES – Foreign-to-foreign trade carried by ships from a nation other than the two trading nations.

CRUDE OIL WASHING – A technique of cleaning tanks in oil tankers.

CSR – Continuous Synopsis Record, an on-board record of the history of a ship.

CTAC – Chemical Transportation Advisory Committee, an industry advisory body to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

D&H – Abbreviation for “Dangerous and Hazardous” cargo.

DANGEROUS CARGO – All substances of an inflammable nature which are liable to spontaneous combustion either in themselves or when stowed adjacent to other substances and, when mixed with air, are liable to generate explosive gases or produce suffocation or poisoning or tainting of foodstuffs. 

DANGEROUS LIQUIDS – Liquids giving off inflammable vapors. 

DAVITS – Two radial cranes on a ship which hold the lifeboats. They are constructed in such a way as to lower and lift the lifeboats the easiest way possible and are also unobstructed in case of an emergency.

DCA – Dredging Contractors of America.

DDC – Destination Delivery Charge, based on container size, that is applied in many tariffs to cargo. It covers crane lifts off the vessel, drayage of the container within the terminal and gate fees at the terminal operation.

DEADFREIGHT FACTOR – Percentage of a ship’s carrying capacity that is not utilized.

DEADWEIGHT – A common measure of ship carrying capacity. The number of tons (2240 lbs.) of cargo, stores and bunkers that a vessel can transport. It is the difference between the number of tons of water a vessel displaces “light” and the number of tons it displaces “when submerged to the ‘deep load line’.” A vessel’s cargo capacity is less than its total deadweight tonnage. The difference in weight between a vessel when it is fully loaded and when it is empty (in general transportation terms, the net) measured by the water it displaces. This is the most common, and useful, measurement for shipping as it measures cargo capacity.

DEADWEIGHT CARGO – A long ton of cargo that can be stowed in less than 40 cubic feet.

DECK GANG – The officers and seamen comprising the deck department aboard ship. Also called deck crew, deck department, or just deck.

DECKHAND – Seaman who works on the deck of a ship and remains in the wheelhouse attending to the orders of the duty officers during navigation and maneuvering. He also comes under the direct orders of the bosun.

DECK HOUSE – Small superstructure on the top deck of a vessel, which contains the helm and other navigational instruments.

DECK LOG – Also called Captain’s Log. A full nautical record of a ship’s voyage, written up at the end of each watch by the deck officer on watch. 

DECK OFFICER – As distinguished from engineer officer, refers to all officers who assist the master in navigating the vessel when at sea, and supervise the handling of cargo when in port.

DEEP SEA TRADES – The traffic routes of both cargo and passenger vessels which are regularly engaged on the high seas or on long voyages.

DEEP STOWAGE – Any bulk, bagged or other type of cargo stowed in single hold ships.

DEMISE CHARTER – See Bareboat Charter.

DEMURRAGE – A fee levied by the shipping company upon the port or supplier for not loading or unloading the vessel by a specified date agreed upon by contract. Usually, assessed upon a daily basis after the deadline.

DENSITY – The weight of cargo per cubic foot or other unit.

DISABLED SHIP – When a ship is unable to sail efficiently or in a seaworthy state as a result of engine trouble, lack of officers or crew, damage to the hull or ship’s gear.

DISCHARGES – An essential document for officers and seamen as it serves an official certificate confirming sea experience in the employment for which he was engaged.

DISPLACEMENT – The weight, in tons of 2,240 pounds, of the vessel and its contents. Calculated by dividing the volume of water displaced in cubic feet by 35, the average density of sea water.

DOD – Department of Defense.

DOMESTIC OFFSHORE TRADES – Domestic shipping routes serving Alaska and non-continental U.S. States and territories.

DOT – Department of Transportation.

DOUBLE BOTTOM – General term for all watertight spaces contained between the outside bottom plating, the tank top and the margin plate. The double bottoms are sub-divided into a number of separate tanks, which may contain boiler feed water, drinking water, fuel oil, ballast, etc.

DRAFT – The depth of a ship in the water. The vertical distance between the waterline and the keel, in the U.S. expressed in feet, elsewhere in meters.

DRAYAGE – Charge made for local hauling by dray or truck. 

DRY-BULK CONTAINER – A container constructed to carry grain, powder and other free-flowing solids in bulk. Used in conjunction with a tilt chassis or platform. 

DRY CARGO – Merchandise other than liquid carried in bulk. 

DRY CARGO SHIP – Vessel which carriers all merchandise, excluding liquid in bulk.

DRY DOCK – An enclosed basin into which a ship is taken for underwater cleaning and repairing. It is fitted with water tight entrance gates which when closed permit the dock to be pumped dry.

DUAL PURPOSE SHIP – Specially constructed ship able to carry different types of cargoes such as ore and/or oil.

DUMPING – Attempting to import merchandise into a country at a price less than the fair market value, usually through subsidy by exporting country.

DUNNAGE – A term applied to loose wood or other material used in a ship’s hold for the protection of cargo.

DWT – Deadweight tons.

EEC – European Economic Community.

EEZ – Exclusive Economic Zone.

ENTRY – A customs form used for the clearance of ships or merchandise.

EUSC – Effective U.S. Control.

EVEN KEEL – When the draft of a ship fore and aft are the same.

EXIMBANK – Export-Import Bank: A Federal agency that aids in financing exports of U.S. goods and services through direct loans, loan guarantees, and insurance.

FAK – Freight All Kinds, usually referring to full container loads of mixed shipments. 

FAS – Free Along Side (of ship).

FCL – Full Container Load.

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

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

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

FEU – Forty Foot Equivalent Units (Containers). 

FIO – Free in and out.

FIREMAN – an unlicensed member of the engine, room staff whose duties consist of standing watch in the boiler room and insuring the oil burning equipment is working properly.

FLAGS OF CONVENIENCE – The registration of ships in a country whose tax on the profits of trading ships is low or whose requirements concerning manning or maintenance are not stringent. Sometimes referred to as flags of necessity; denotes registration of vessels in foreign nations that offer favorable tax structures and regulations; also the flag representing the nation under whose jurisdiction a ship is registered. Ships are always registered under the laws of one nation but are not always required to establish their home location in that country.

FLOATING OIL STORAGE – Oil stored on floating vessels. It has been the practice for oil to be stored in large laid-up oil tankers in order to offset the loss involved while the tankers are inactive.

FMC – Federal Maritime Commission.

F.O.B – Free on Board: Export term in which the price quoted by the exporter does not include the costs of ocean transportation, but does include loading on board the vessel.

FOC – Flag of Convenience.

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.

FORE AND AFT – The direction on a vessel parallel to the center line. 

FORECASTLE – The raised part of the forward end of a ship’s hull. The inside space may be used for crew accommodation or quarters, though on new ships this space is being used for the storage of paints, tackle, deck and engine stores, tarpaulins, etc.

FORWARD – At or in the direction of the bow. Also the fore part of the ship.

FREE IN AND OUT (FIO) – Cost of loading and unloading a vessel is borne by the charterer/shipper. 

FREIGHT – Refers to either the cargo carried or the charges assessed for carriage of the cargo. 

FREIGHT FORWARDER – Arranges shipments for customers usually break bulk. Does not actually carry the cargo or conduct business for the ship.

FREIGHTERS – Breakbulk vessels both refrigerated and unrefrigerated, containerships, partial containerships, roll-on/roll-off vessels, and barge carriers.

FREIGHT RATE – The charge made for the transportation of freight.

FULL CONTAINERSHIPS – Ships equipped with permanent container cells, with little or no space for other types of cargo.

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

GAO – General Accounting Office.

GATS – General Agreement on Trade in Services.

GATT – General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade

GBL – Government Bill of Lading.

GDP – Gross Domestic Product: The total value of goods and services produced by a nation over a given period, usually 1 year.

GENERAL CARGO – A non-bulk oil cargo composed of miscellaneous goods.

GENERAL CARGO CARRIERS – Breakbulk freighters, car carriers, cattle carriers, pallet carriers and timber carriers. 

GMDSS – Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. 

GNP – Gross National Product: GDP plus the net income accruing from foreign sources. 

GOVERNMENT IMPELLED – Cargo owned by or subsidized by the Federal Government.

GPS – Global Positioning System.

GREAT LAKES PORTS – Ports in the lakes of Canada and/or USA popular for grain shipments. In Canada: Port Arthur and Fort William on Lake Superior; Hamilton, Kingston, Toronto and Prescott on Lake Ontario. In USA: Chicago, Milwaukee on Lake Michigan; Duluth and Superior on Lake Superior and Toledo on Lake Erie. 

GREAT LAKES SHIP – Cargo ship developed to carry raw materials and manufactured goods on the Great Lakes. Most carry bulk cargoes of grain, iron ore or coal.

GROSS FREIGHT – Freight money collected or to be collected without calculating the expenses relating to the running cost of the ship for the voyage undertaken.

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

GROSS TONNAGE (GT) – Applies to vessels, not to cargo, (0.2+0.02 log10V) where V is the volume in cubic meters of all enclosed spaces on the vessel.

GROUNDING – Deliberate contact by a ship with the bottom while she is moored or anchored as a result of the water level dropping.

GYRO PILOT – An instrument, which automatically controls and steers a ship very accurately, compared with human navigation. An advanced bearing is set and the gyro pilot will direct to that point.

HAGUE RULES – Rules governing the carriage of goods by sea and identifying the rights and responsibilities of carriers and owners of cargo. These rules were published in 1924 following an international convention and were subsequently given the force of law by many maritime nations.

HAGUE-VISBY RULES – A set of rules, amending the Hague Rules published in 1968 and subsequently given the force of law by many maritime nations.

HAMBURG RULES – Rules governing the rights and responsibilities of carrier and cargo interests which may be incorporated into a contract for the carriage of goods by sea either by agreement of the parties or statutorily. These rules were adopted by the United National Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea in 1978. 

HARBOR DUES – Various local charges against all seagoing vessels entering a harbor, to cover maintenance of channel depths, buoys, lights, etc. All harbors do not necessarily have this charge.

HARBOR MASTER – A person usually having the experience of a certificated master mariner and having a good knowledge of the characteristics of the port and its whole area. He administers the entire shipping movements that take place in and within reach of the port he is responsible for.

HARD AGROUND – A vessel which has gone aground and is incapable of refloating under her own power.

HARD CURRENCY – A currency which is sound enough to be accepted internationally and which is usually fully convertible. 

HARTER ACT – (1893). This U.S. statute refers to merchandise or property transported from or between ports of the United States and foreign ports. Now partially superseded by the US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act of 1936.

HATCH – An opening, generally rectangular, in a ship’s deck affording access into the compartment below.

HAWSER – Large strong rope used for towing purposes and for securing or mooring ships. Hawsers are now mostly made of steel.

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

HELM – A tiller or a wheel generally installed on the bridge or wheelhouse of a ship to turn the rudder during manoeuvering and navigation. It is in fact the steering wheel of the ship.

HOISTING ROPE – Special flexible wire rope for lifting purposes, generally being of six strands with 19 wires in each strand and in most cases having a hemp rope at the center.

HOLD – A general name for the spaces below the main deck designated for stowage of general cargo. A hold on a tanker is usually just forward of #1 cargo tank. Some newer tankers have no hold.

HOPPER BARGE – A barge which loads material dumped into it by a dredger and discharges the cargo through the bottom.

HOVERCRAFT – A vessel used for the transportation of passengers and cargo riding on a cushion of air formed under it. It is very maneuverable and is also amphibious.

HMT – Harbor Maintenance Tax.

HULL – Shell or body of a ship.

HYDROFOIL – A craft more or less similar to the Hovercraft insofar as it flies over water and thus eliminates friction between the water and the hull. Under acceleration it rises above water but remains in contact with the surface through supporting legs.

I/A – Abbreviation for “Independent Action.” The right of a conference member to publish a rate of tariff rule that departs from the Agreement’s common rate or rule.

IBU – Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific.

ILO – International Labor Organization: Based in Geneva, it is one of the oldest components of the UN system of specialized agencies and has been involved over the years in appraising and seeking to improve and regulate conditions for seafarers. In its unusual tripartite way, involving official representatives of government, employer and employee interests, its joint Maritime Commission have had in hand moves on the employment of foreign seafarers to urge the application of minimum labor standards, on crew accommodation, accident prevention, medical examination and medical care, food and catering and officer’s competency. 

IMDG – International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Regulations published by IMO for transporting hazardous materials internationally.

IMF – International Monetary Fund.

IMO – International Maritime Organization: Formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), was established in 1958 through the United Nations to coordinate international maritime safety and related practices.

INDEPENDENT ACTION – Setting rate within a conference tariff that is different from the rate(s) for the same items established by other conference members.

INERT GAS SYSTEM – A system of preventing any explosion in the cargo tanks of a tanker by replacing the cargo, as it is pumped out, by an inert gas, often the exhaust of the ship’s engine. Gas-freeing must be carried out subsequently if worker have to enter the empty tanks.

INFLAMMABLE LIQUIDS – Liquids liable to spontaneous combustion which give off inflammable vapors at or below 80 degrees F. For example, ether, ethyl, benzine, gasoline, paints, enamels, carbon disulfide, etc.

INLAND CARRIER – A transportation line that hauls export of import traffic between ports and inland points.

INLAND WATERS – Term referring to lakes, streams, rivers, canals, waterways, inlets, bays and the like.

INMARSAT – International Maritime Satellite System.

INTEGRATED TUG BARGE – A large barge of about 600 feet and 22,000 tons cargo capacity, integrated from the rear on to the bow of a tug purposely constructed to push the barge.

INTERCOASTAL – Domestic shipping routes serving more than one coast. Water service between two coasts; in the U.S., this usually refers to water service between the Atlantic and Pacific or Gulf Coasts.

INTERMODALISM – The concept of transportation as a door-to-door service rather than port-to-port. Thus efficiency is enhanced by having a single carrier coordinating the movement and documentation among different modes of transportation.

INTERNATIONAL LOAD LINE CERTIFICATE – A certificate which gives details of a ship’s freeboards and states that the ship has been surveyed and the appropriate load lines marked on her sides. A classification society or the Coast Guard issues this certificate.

INTERNATIONAL OIL POLLUTION COMPENSATION FUND – An inter-governmental agency designed to pay compensation for oil pollution damage, exceeding the shipowner’s liability. It was created by an IMO Convention in 1971 and started its operations in October 1978. Contributions come mainly from the oil companies of member states. 

INTERNATIONAL TONNAGE CERTIFICATE – A certificate issued to a shipowner by a government department in the case of a ship whose gross and net tonnages have been determined in accordance with the International Convention of Tonnage Measurement of Ships. The certificate states the gross and net tonnages together with details of the spaces attributed to each.

INTERNATIONAL WATERWAYS – Consist of international straits, inland and interocean canals and rivers where they separate the territories of two or more nations. Provided no treaty is enforced both merchant ships and warships have the right of free and unrestricted navigation through these waterways.

INTERTANKO – An association of independent tanker owners whose aims are to represent the views of its members internationally. 

INTRACOASTAL – Domestic shipping routes along a single coast.

ISM CODE – The International Maritime Organization Assembly adopted the International Safety Management Code (ISM Code) in 1993. On July 1, 1998, the ISM Code became mandatory for passenger vessels, passenger high-speed craft, oil tankers, chemical tankers, bulk carriers, and cargo high-speed craft of 500 gross tons or more. On July 1, 2002, the ISM Code became applicable to other cargo ships and to self-propelled mobile offshore drilling units of 500 gross tons or more. (ISM Code – Chapter IX of SOLAS). 

ISPS CODE – The International Ship and Port Facility Code adopted by an IMO Diplomatic Conference in December 2002. Measure is designed to strengthen maritime security. (ISPS Code – Chapter XI-2 of SOLAS). 

JACOB’S LADDER – A rope ladder suspended from the side of a vessel and used for boarding.

JETTISON – Act of throwing cargo or equipment (jetsam) overboard when a ship is in danger.

JONES ACT – Merchant Marine Act of 1920, Section 27, requires that all U.S. domestic waterborne trade be carried by U.S.-flag, U.S.-built, and U.S.-manned vessels. 

KEEL – The lowest longitudinal timber of a vessel, on which framework of the whole is built up; combination of iron plates serving same purpose in iron vessel.

KNOT – Unit of speed in navigation which is the rate of nautical mile (6,080 feet or 1,852 meters) per hour.

LADEN – Loaded aboard a vessel.

LAID-UP TONNAGE – Ships not in active service; a ship which is out of commission for fitting out, awaiting better markets, needing work for classification, etc. 

LAKER – Type of ship which trades only in the Great Lakes of North America. They usually carry grain and ore cargoes.

LANDBRIDGE – A system of through rates and service offered by a carrier for cargo shipments from a foreign port to a U.S. port, across U.S. land to another U.S. port and finally by sea to a foreign port destination.

LASH – Lighter aboard ship: A barge carrier designed to act as a shuttle between ports, taking on and discharging barges.

LASH SHIPS – LASH stand for Lighter Aboard Ship. It is a specialized container ship carrying very large floating containers, or “lighters.” The ship carries its own massive crane, which loads and discharges the containers over the stern. The lighters each have a capacity of 400 tons and are stowed in the holds and on deck. While the ship is at sea with one set of lighters, further sets can be made ready. Loading and discharge are rapid at about 15 minutes per lighter, no port or dock facilities are needed, and the lighters can be grouped for pushing by towboats along inland waterways.

LAYTIME – Time allowed by the shipowner to the voyage charterer or bill of lading holder in which to load and/or discharge the cargo. It is expressed as a number of days or hours or as a number of tons per day.

LAY-UP – Temporary cessation of trading of a ship by a shipowner during a period when there is a surplus of ships in relation to the level of available cargoes. This surplus, known as overtonnaging, has the effect of depressing freight rates to the extent that some shipowners no long find it economical to trade their ship, preferring to lay them up until there is a reversal in the trend.

LCL – Less than Container Load, a consignment of cargo, which is inefficient to fill a shipping container. It is grouped with other consignments for the same destination in a container at a container freight station.

LIFEBOAT – A specially constructed double ended boat which can withstand heavy, rough seas.

LIFEBOAT DRILL – The master of every vessel is bound by international law to make the officers, crew and passengers adequately acquainted with the procedures of lowering and the use of lifeboats in case of emergency.

LIGHT DISPLACEMENT TONNAGE – The weight of a ship’s hull, machinery, equipment and spares. This is often the basis on which ships are paid for when purchased for scrapping. The difference between the loaded displacement and light displacement is the ship’s deadweight.

LIGHTER – General name for a broad, flat-bottomed boat used in transporting cargo between a vessel and the shore. The distinction between a lighter and a barge is more in the manner of use than in equipment. The term “lighter” refers to a short haul, generally in connection with loading and unloading operations of vessels in harbor while the term “barge” is more often used when the cargo is being carried to its destination over a long distance.

LIGHTER ABOARD SHIP – An ocean ship which carries barges. These barges are loaded with cargo, often at a variety of locations, towed to the ocean ship, sometimes referred to as the mother ship, and lifted or, in some cases, floated on board. After the ocean crossing, the barges are off-loaded and towed to their various destinations. The ocean ship then receives a further set of barges which have been assembled in readiness. This concept was designed to eliminate the need for specialized port equipment and to avoid transshipment with its consequent extra cost.

LIGHTERAGE – Charge for conveying cargo by lighters or barges.

LIGHTERING – Conveying cargo with another vessel known as a lighter from ship to shore, or vice versa.

LINER – A cargo-carrying ship which is operated between scheduled, advertised ports of loading and discharge on a regular basis.

LINER SERVICE – Vessels operating on fixed itineraries or regular schedules and established rates available to all shippers. The freight rates which are charged are based on the shipping company’s tariff or if the company is a member of a liner conference, the tariff of that conference.

LIST – The amount in degrees that a vessel tilts from the vertical.

LLOYD’S REGISTER OF SHIPPING – British classification society. 

LNG – Liquefied Natural Gas, or a carrier of LNG.

LNG CARRIER – Liquefied natural gas carrier, perhaps the most sophisticated of all commercial ships. The cargo tanks are made of a special aluminum alloy and are heavily insulated to carry natural gas in its liquid state at a temperature of -285°F. The LNG ship costs about twice as much as an oil tanker of the same size.

LOAD LINE – The line on a vessel indicating the maximum depth to which that vessel can sink when loaded with cargo. Also known as marks.

LOADED LEG – Subdivision of a ship’s voyage during which the ship is carrying cargo.

LONG TON – 2,240 pounds.

LONGSHOREMAN — Individual employed in a port to load and unload ships.

LOOKOUT – A member of the crew stationed on the forecastle, or on the bridge, whose duty it is to watch for any dangerous objects or for any other vessels heaving into sight.

LPG – Liquefied Petroleum Gas, or a carrier of LPG. 

LSA – Liner Shipping Agreements.

L/T – Long tons (2,240 lbs.).

MAIN DECK – The main continuous deck of a ship running from fore to aft; the principle deck; the deck from which the freeboard is determined.

MALPRACTICE – A carrier giving a customer illegal preference to attract cargo. This can take the form of a money refund (rebate); using lower figures than actual for the assessment of freight charges (undercubing); misdeclaration of the commodity shipped to allow the assessment of a lower tariff rate; waiving published tariff charges for demurrage, CFS handling or equalization; providing specialized equipment to a shipper to the detriment of other shippers, etc.

MANIFEST – A document containing a full list of the ship’s cargo, extracted from the bills of lading.

MANNING SCALES – The minimum number of officers and crew members that can be engaged on a ship to be considered as sufficient hands with practical ability to meet every possible eventuality at sea.



MASTER (CAPTAIN) – Highest officer aboard ship. Oversees all ship operations. Keeps ships records. Handles accounting and bookkeeping. Takes command of vessel in inclement weather and in crowded or narrow waters. Handles communications. Receives and implements instructions from home office.

FIRST MATE (CHIEF MATE) – In charge of four to eight watch. Directly responsible for all deck operations (cargo storage and handling, deck maintenance deck supplies). Assigns and checks deck department overtime. Ship’s medical officer.

SECOND MATE – In charge of twelve to four watch. Ship’s navigation officer. Keeps charts (maps) up to date and monitors navigation equipment on bridge.

THIRD MATE – In charge of eight to twelve watch. Makes sure emergency survival equipment (lifeboats, life rings, etc.) are in order. Assists other officers as directed.



CHIEF ENGINEER – Head of engineer department. Keeps records of all engine parts and repairs. Generally tends to the functioning of all mechanical equipment on ship. Calculates fuel and water consumption and requirements. Coordinates operations with shoreside port engineer.

FIRST ASSISTANT ENGINEER – In charge of four to eight watch. Usually works from eight to four handling engine maintenance. Assigns duties to unlicensed personnel and monitors and records overtime. Consults with Chief regarding work priorities.

SECOND ASSISTANT ENGINEER – In charge of twelve to four watch. On steam vessels has responsibility for the boilers, on diesels, the evaporators and the auxiliary equipment.

THIRD ASSISTANT ENGINEER – In charge of eight to twelve watch. Maintains lighting fixtures. Repairs malfunctioning accessories in living quarters. Assist other engineers as directed.



BOATSWAIN (BOSUN) – Receives working orders for deck gang from chief mate and passes them onto AB’s and ordinaries. Tantamount to foreman, he is on deck directly supervising maintenance operations.

SHIPS CHAIRMAN (SHOP STEWARD) – In charge of union business for unlicensed personnel. Handles grievances.

ABLE SEAMEN (AB) – Stands watch, during which he steers the vessel, stands lookout, assisst the mate on watch and makes rounds of the ship to insure that all is in order. Also ties up and unties the vessel to and from the dock and maintains the equipment on deck.

ORDINARY SEAMAN (OS) – An apprentice AB, assists AB’s bosun, and officers, keeps facilities clean.




ENGINE DEPARTMENT (Q.M.E.D.) – Trained in all crafts necessary to engine maintenance (welding, refrigeration, lathe operation, die casting, electricity, pumping, water purification, oiling, evaluating engine gauges, etc.) Usually watchstanders but on some ships, day workers.

PUMPMAN (TANKERS) – Operates pumps and discharges petroleum products. Maintains and repairs all cargo handling equipment. 

EQUIPMENT (LINERS) – Maintains and repairs cargo handling equipment and also cargo with special handling characteristics. 

WIPERS – Apprentice QMED. Cleans engine room. Assists officers and QMED’s.


CHIEF STEWARD – Orders food. Prepares menus. Assists chief cook in food preparation.

COOK AND BAKER (CHIEF COOK) – Cooks and bakes.

STEWARD ASSISTANT – Clean galley and mess halls, set tables, prepare salads, clean living quarters.


RADIO OPERATOR – Maintains and monitors radio, sends and receives messages. Often maintains electronic navigation equipment.

MARINE INSURANCE – Broadly, insurance covering loss or damage of goods at sea. Marine insurance typically compensates the owner of merchandise for losses sustained from fire, shipwreck, etc., but excludes losses that can be recovered from the carrier. 

MARITIME – Business pertaining to commerce or navigation transacted upon the sea or in seaports in such matters as the court of admiralty has jurisdiction. 

MARITIME ADMINISTRATION (MarAd ) – Oversees subsidy programs to the United States Merchant Marine. Assigns routes to subsidized liners.

MARPOL 73/78 – The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978.

MASTHEAD LIGHT – A white light positioned over the fore and aft centerline of the vessel.

MCTF – Maritime Cabotage Task Force. 

MEBA – Marine Engineers Beneficial Association. 

MEPC – Marine Environment Protection Committee, a major committee within the International Maritime Organization.

MERPAC – Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee, an industry advisory body to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

MIB – Marine Index Bureau.

MFN – Most Favored Nation.

MICROBRIDGE – A system of through rates and service offered by a carrier for cargo shipments from any inland U.S. location to a port by sea, to a foreign port, and finally overland to foreign inland destination.

MINILAND BRIDGE – The process of taking inland cargo bound for export to the coast by rail and loading it directly to the ship.

MIRAID – Maritime Institute for Research and Industrial Development.

MIXED SHIPMENT – A shipment consisting of more than one commodity, articles described under more than one class or commodity rate item in a tariff.

MM&P – Master, Mates and Pilots Union.

MODU – Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit.

MOORING LINE – A cable or line to tie up a ship.

MSB – Maritime Subsidy Board.

MSC – Maritime Safety Committee, a major committee within the International Maritime Organization. 

MSC – Military Sealift Command, U.S. Department of the Navy. 

MSP – Maritime Security Program, established by the Maritime Security Act of 1996, is designed to maintain a nucleus fleet of militarily useful U.S.-flag vessels.

M/T – Metric tons (2,250 lbs.).

MTC – Maritime Transport Committee, OECD

MTD – Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

MTMC – Military Traffic Management Command, U.S. Department of the Army.

MULTIPURPOSE SHIP – Any ship capable of carrying different types of cargo which require different methods of handling. There are several types of ships falling into this category, for example, ships which can carry roll on/roll off cargo together with containers.

NATIONAL CARGO BUREAU – A private organization having representatives throughout the main harbors in the U.S. It is empowered to inspect cargoes of a hazardous nature and issue certificates which are automatically approved by the Coast Guard.

NATIONAL FLAG – The flag carried by a ship to show her nationality.

NAUTICAL MILE – Distance of one minute of longitude at the equator, approximately 6,076.115 feet. The metric equivalent is 1852 meters.

NAVSAC – Navigation Safety Advisory Council, an industry advisory body to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

NDRF – National Defense Reserve Fleet. 

NEOBULK – Shipments consisting entirely of units of a single commodity, such as cars, lumber, or scrap metal.

NET CAPACITY – The number of tons of cargo which a vessel can carry when loaded in salt water to her summer freeboard marks. Also called cargo carrying capacity, cargo deadweight, useful deadweight.

NET TONNAGE – Equals gross tonnage minus deductions for space occupied by crew accommodations, machinery, navigation equipment and bunkers. It represents space available for cargo (and passengers). Canal tolls are based on net (registered) tonnage.

NISA – National Invasive Species Act of 1996. 

NITL – National Industrial Transportation League.

NMU – National Maritime Union. 

NON-CONFERENCE LINE – A shipping line which operates on a route served by a liner conference but which is not a member of that conference.

NONCONTIGUOUS – Domestic shipping routes serving Alaska and non-continental U.S. States and territories.

NORSKE VERITAS – Norwegian classification society.

NRT – Net registered tons. This tonnage is frequently shown on ship registration papers; it represents the volumetric area available for cargo at 100 cubic feet = 1 ton. It often is used by port and canal authorities as a basis for charges.

NVOCC – Non-vessel-operating common carrier, a ships agent, conducts business for the ship but does not operate the vessel.

OBO SHIP – A multipurpose ship that can carry ore, heavy dry bulk goods and oil. Although more expensive to build, they ultimately are more economical because they can make return journeys with cargo rather than empty as single-purpose ships often must.

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

OCMI – Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection.

ODS – Operating-Differential Subsidy: Established by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, it was a direct subsidy paid to U.S.-flag operators to offset the high operating cost of U.S.-flag ships when compared to foreign-flag counterparts. Contracts between U.S.-flag vessel operators and the Maritime Administration have expired. The ODS program has been replaced by the Maritime Security Program. 

OECD – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Maritime Transport Committee is part of this organization. 

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

OFFICER – Any of the licensed members of the ship’s complement. 

OFF-LOAD – Discharge of cargo from a ship.

OILER – An unlicensed member of the engine room staff who oils and greases bearings and moving parts of the main engine and auxiliaries. Most of this work is now done automatically and the oiler merely insures it operates correctly.

OIL RECORD BOOK – A book or log kept by the master of an oil tanker wherein every discharge or escape of oil is recorded. 

OIL TANKER – A ship designed for the carriage of oil in bulk, her cargo space consisting of several or many tanks. Tankers load their cargo by gravity from the shore or by shore pumps and discharge using their own pumps.

OMB – Office of Management and Budget. 

OPA – Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

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

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

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

ORDINARY SEAMAN – A deck crewmember who is subordinate to the Able Bodied Seaman. 

ORE CARRIER – A large ship designed to be used for the carnage of ore. Because of the high density of ore, ore carriers have a relatively high center of gravity to prevent them being still when at sea, that is, rolling heavily with possible stress to the hull.

ORE-BULK-OIL CARRIER – A large multi-purpose ship designed to carry cargoes wither of ore or other bulk commodities or oil so as to reduce the time the ship would be in ballast if restricted to one type of commodity. This type of ship is sometimes called bulk-oil carrier.

ORE-OIL CARRIER – A ship designed to carry either ore or oil in bulk.

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

P&I -Protection and Indemnity, an insurance term. 

PALLET – A flat tray, generally made of wood but occasionally of steel, on which goods particularly those in boxes, cartons or bags, can be stacked. Its purpose is to facilitate the movement of such goods, mainly by the use of forklift trucks. 

PANAMAX – A vessel designed to be just small enough to transit the Panama Canal.

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

PASSENGER SHIP – A passenger ship that its authorized to carry over twelve passengers.

PER CONTAINER RATE – Rates and/or changes on shipments transported in containers or trailers and rated on the basis of the category of the container or trailer.

PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE – Approved floats meant as life preservers and carried on board American ships.

PILOT – A person who is qualified to assist the master of a ship to navigate when entering or leaving a port.

PILOTAGE – The act carried out by a pilot of assisting the master of a ship in navigation when entering or leaving a port. Sometimes used to define the fee payable for the services of a pilot.

PILOTAGE DUES – A fee payable by the owner or operator of a ship for the services of a pilot. This fee is normally based on the ship’s tonnage.

PILOT HOUSE – The enclosed space on the navigating bridge from which a ship is controlled when under way.

P.L. 480 – Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954.

P.L. 664 – Mandates that 50 percent of government impelled cargoes be carried under U.S. flag. 

PLIMSOLL MARK – A series of horizontal lines, corresponding to the seasons of the year in fresh or saltwater, painted on the outside of a ship marking the level which must remain above the surface of the water for the vessel’s stability.

PMA – Pacific Maritime Association.

POL – Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants.

POOLING – The sharing of cargo or the profit or loss from freight by member lines of a liner conference. Pooling arrangements do not exist in all conferences.

PORT OF CALL – Port where a ship discharges or receives traffic.

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

PR 17 – Public Resolution which requires that U.S. Government financed cargoes (Eximbank) must be shipped 100 percent in U.S. flag ships, but that the requirement may be waived up to 50 percent in some cases.

PRODUCT CARRIER – A tanker, which is generally below 70,000 deadweight tons and used to carry refined oil products from the refinery to the consumer. In many cases, four different grades of oil can be handled simultaneously.

PROPANE CARRIER – A ship designed to carry propane in liquid form. The propane is carried in tanks within the holds; it remains in liquid form by means of pressure and refrigeration. Such ships are also suitable for the carriage of butane.

PUMPMAN – A rating who tends to the pumps of an oil tanker. 

PURSER – A ship’s officer who is in charge of accounts, especially on a passenger ship.

PVSA – Passenger Vessel Services Act. 

QUALIFIED MEMBER OF THE ENGINE DEPARTMENT(QMED) – Unlicensed members of the engine department who attend to a fully automated engine room.

OUARTERMASTER/HELMSMAN – An able-bodied seamen entrusted with the steering of a vessel.

QUARTERS – Accommodations.

QUAY – A structure attached to land to which a vessel is moored.

RADIO OPERATOR – An officer who operates and controls the shipboard communication equipment.

REEFER – Refrigerator ship: A vessel designed to carry goods requiring refrigeration, such as meat and fruit. A reefer ship has insulated holds into which cold air is passed at the temperature appropriate to the goods being carried.

REEFER BOX – An insulated shipping container designed to carry cargoes requiring temperature control. It is fitted with a refrigeration unit which is connected to the carrying ship’s electrical power supply.

RELAY – To transfer containers from one ship to another when both vessels are controlled by the same network (carrier) manager.

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

REVENUE TON – A ton on which the shipment is freighted.

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

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

ROU – Radio Officers’ Union.

RRF – Ready Reserve Force. 

SALVAGE – The property which has been recovered from a wrecked vessel, or the recovery of the vessel herself.

SEABEE – Sea-barge, a barge carrier design similar to “LASH” but which uses rollers to move the barges aboard the ship; the self-propelled loaded barges are themselves loaded on board as cargo and are considerably larger than those loaded on LASH ships. 

SEA TRIALS – A series of trials conducted by the builders during which the owner’s representatives on board act in a consulting and checking capacity to determine if the vessel has met the specifications. 

SEAWORTHINESS – The sufficiency of a vessel in materials construction, equipment, crew and outfit for the trade in which it is employed. Any sort of disrepair to the vessel by which the cargo may suffer — overloading, untrained officers, etc., may constitute a vessel unseaworthy.

SEAWORTHINESS CERTIFICATE – A certificate issued by a classification society surveyor to allow a vessel to proceed after she has met with a mishap that may have affected its seaworthiness. It is frequently issued to enable a vessel to proceed, after temporary repairs have been effected, to another port where permanent repairs are then carried out. 

SELF-PROPELLED BARGE – A barge which has its own engine.

SELF-SUSTAINING SHIP – A containership which has her own crane for loading and discharging shipping containers enabling the ship to serve ports which do not have suitable lifting equipment. 

SELF-TRIMMING SHIP – A ship whose holds are shaped in such a way that the cargo levels itself.

SELF-UNLOADER – A bulk carrier which is equipped with gear for unloading cargo.

SERVICE CONTRACT – As provided in the Shipping Act of 1984, a contract between a shipper (or a shipper’s association) and an ocean common carrier (or conference) in which the shipper makes a commitment to provide a certain minimum quantity of cargo or freight revenue over a fixed time period, and the ocean common carrier or conference commits to a certain rate or rate schedule as well as a defined service level (such as assured space, transit time, port rotation or similar service features). The contract may also specify provisions in the event of nonperformance on the part of either party.

SHIFTING – This refers to movements or changing positions of cargo from one place to another. This can easily endanger the seaworthiness or cargoworthiness of the ship.

SHIP CHANDLER – An individual or company selling equipment and supplies for ships. 

SHIP DEMURRAGE – A charge for delaying a steamer beyond a stipulated period. 

SHIP’S MANIFEST – A statement listing the particulars of all shipments loaded for a specified voyage.

SHIP’S TACKLE – All rigging, cranes, etc., utilized on a ship to load or unload cargo. 

SHIPPERS – Individuals or businesses who purchase transportation services for their goods or commodities.

SHIPPER’S ASSOCIATION – A non-profit entity that represents the interests of a number of shippers. The main focus of shippers associations is to pool the cargo volumes of members to leverage the most favorable service contract rate levels. 

SHIPPER’S COUNCIL – An organization of shippers formed to collectively negotiate rates and services with the conferences of ship operators. 

SHIPPING ACT OF 1916 – The act of the U.S. Congress (1916) that created the U.S. Shipping Board to develop water transportation, operate the merchant ships owned by the government, and regulate the water carriers engaged in commerce under the flag of the United States. As of June 18, 1984, applies only to domestic offshore ocean transport. 

SHIPPING ACT OF 1984 – Effective June 18, 1984, describes the law covering water transportation in the U.S. foreign trade. 

SHIPPING ACT OF 1998 – Amends the Act of 1984 to provide for confidential service contracts and other items.

SHIP’S AGENT – A person or firm who transacts all business in a port on behalf of shipowners or charterers. Also called shipping agent. 

SHIP’S ARTICLES – A written agreement between the master of a ship and the crew concerning their employment. It includes rates of pay and capacity of each crewman, the date of commencement of the voyage and its duration.

SHIP’S STABILITY – The seaworthiness of a ship regarding the centrifugal force which enables her to remain upright.

SHORT TON – 2,000 pounds.

SIP – Streamlined Inspection Program. 

SISTER SHIPS – Ships built on the same design.

SIU – Seafarers International Union. 

SLIP – A vessel’s berth between two piers.

SLOP TANK – A tank in a tanker into which slops are pumped. These represent a residue of the ship’s cargo of oil together with the water used to clean the cargo tanks. They are left to separate out in the slop tank.

SOFT CURRENCY – Currency which is not fully convertible to all currencies but only to some other soft currencies.

SOLAS – Safety of Life a Sea Convention 

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

S.S. – Steamship.

S/T – Short tons (2,000 lbs.).

STACK CAR – An articulated five-platform rail car that allows containers to be double stacked. A typical stack car holds ten 40-foot equivalent units (FEU’s).

STARBOARD – The right-hand side of a ship when facing the front or forward end. The starboard side of a ship during darkness is indicated by a green light.

STATION BILL – A list which shows the vessel’s complement and details their various duties in connection with fire and boat drills. 

STB – Surface Transportation Board, an independent adjudicatory body administratively housed in the Department of Transportation responsible for the economic regulation of interstate surface transportation, primarily railroads. 

STCW – International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978. 

STERN – The upright post or bar of the bow of a vessel. 

STERNWAY – The reverse movement of a vessel.

STEVEDORE – Individual or firm that employs longshoremen and who contracts to load or unload the ship.

STORE – A general term for provisions, materials and supplies used aboard ship for the maintenance of the crew, and for the navigation, propulsion and upkeep of the vessel and its equipment. 

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

STRANDING – The running of a ship on shore on a beach.

STRIPPING – Removing cargo from a container (devanning).

STUFFING – Putting cargo into a container. 

TAIL SHAFT – The extreme section at the aft end of a ship’s propeller shaft.

TANK BARGE – A river barge designed for the carriage of liquid bulk cargoes.

TANK CLEANING – Removal of all traces of a cargo from the tanks of a tanker normally by means of high pressure water jets. 

TANKER – A tanker is a bulk carrier designed to transport liquid cargo, most often petroleum products. Oil tankers vary in size from small coastal vessels of 1,500 tons deadweight, through medium-sized ship of 60,000 tons, to the giant VLCCs (very large crude carriers).

TENDER – The offer of goods for transportation.

TERRITORIAL WATERS – That portion of the sea up to a limited instance which is immediately adjacent to the shores of any country and over which the sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction of that country extend.

T.E.U. – Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit (containers): A measurement of cargo-carrying capacity on a containership, referring to a common container size of 20 ft in length.

TI – Transportation Institute.

TIME CHARTER – A form of charter party wherein owner lets or leases his vessel and crew to the charterer for a stipulated period of time. The charterer pays for the bunkers and port charges in addition to the charter hire.

TITLE XI – A ship financing guarantee program.

TON MILE – A measurement used in the economics of transportation to designate one ton being moved one mile. This is useful to the shipper because it includes the distance to move a commodity in the calculation.

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

TOP-OFF – To fill a ship which is already partly loaded with cargo.

TOW – When one or more vessels are being towed; when a tug is towing one or more floating objects; to pull an object in the water by means of a rope.

TOWAGE – Charges for the services of tugs assisting a ship or other vessels in ports or other locations; the act of towing a ship or other objects from one place to another.

TRAMP SERVICE – Vessels operating without a fixed itinerary or schedule or charter contract. 

TRANSSHIP – To transfer goods from one transportation line to another, or from one ship to another. 

TRIM – The relationship between a ship’s draughts forward and aft.

TSA – Transportation Security Administration. 

TSAC – Towing Safety Advisory Committee, an industry advisory body to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

TUG – 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 maneuver large ships into their berths. Pusher tugs are also used to push enormous trains of barges on the rivers and inland waterways of the U.S. Oceangoing salvage tugs provide assistance to ships in distress and engage in such work as towing drilling rigs and oil production platforms.

ULCC – Ultra Large Crude Carriers. Tankers larger than 300,000 dwt.

UNCTAD – United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

UNMANNED MACHINERY SPACES – A space where alarm bells are installed on the bridge of a ship to trace or rectify any machinery faults. The computerized devices will report any fault immediately when it appears and the engineers on board can attend to the necessary ramifications.

UNSEAWORTHINESS – The state or condition of a vessel when it is not in a proper state of maintenance, or if the loading equipment or crew, or in any other respect is not ready to encounter the ordinary perils of sea.

USCG – United States Coast Guard. 

U.S. EFFECTIVE CONTROLLED FLEET – That fleet of merchant ships owned by United States citizens or corporations and registered under flags of “convenience” or “necessity” such as Liberia or Panama. The term is used to emphasize that, while the fleet is not U.,$.-flag, it is effectively under U.S. control by virtue of the ship’s owners and can be called to serve U.S. interests in time of emergency.

USTRANSCOM – United States Transportation Command, U.S. Department of Defense.

VESSEL MANIFEST – The international carrier is obligated to make declarations of the ship’s crew and contents at both the port of departure and arrival. The vessel manifest lists various details about each shipment by B/L number. Obviously, the B/L serves as the core source from which the manifest is created.

VISA – Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement.

VLCC – Very Large Crude Carriers: Tankers between 200,000 and 300,000 dwt. 

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

WAR RISK – Insurance coverage for loss of goods resulting from any act of war.

WATCH – The day at sea is divided into six four hour periods. Three groups of watchstanders are on duty for four hours and then off for eight, then back to duty. Seamen often work overtime during their off time.

WHARFAGE – Charge assessed by a pier or dock owner against freight handled over the pier or dock or against a steamship company using the pier or dock.

WORLDSCALE – An index representing the cost of time chartering a tanker for a specific voyage at a given time. The index is given at Worldscale 100, which represents the price in dollars per ton for carrying the oil at that rate. The negotiated rate will be some percentage of the index value.

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