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List of frequently used terms in shipping

A person or organization authorized to act for or on behalf of another person or organization

An Air Waybill (AWB) is a bill of lading, or a ‘boarding pass’ for your cargo. It is necessary because it indicates that the carrier has accepted the goods as listed and is now obliged to ship the goods to the airport of destination. The tracking code that is mentioned on the Waybill can be used to track your shipment via a website such as

Bunker Adjustment Factor. This freight adjustment is necessary to re-calculate the changing oil prices.

The bill of lading is a document which acknowledges the receipt of the goods being carried on the ship and the terms of the contract of the carriage. Depending on your shipment, you will need Original or Express B/L.

In case of originals, the shipper receives original B/L’s which he will send to the consignee. Without these original papers, the consignee cannot accept the cargo. Usually the shipper sends the original documents after he has been paid.

In case of express B/L, the shipper has decided to release their hold on the cargo immediately. This is the quickest variation of the B/L.

Cargo which cannot be containerized due to its weight and/or size. Examples: steel pipes, some types of machinery.

Currency Adjustment Factor. A percentage of the ocean freight, used to adjust the ocean freight to currency fluctuation

Ultimate deadline when the cargo has to be delivered at the specified place. After this deadline has passed, the cargo will be declined for shipment or be stored at the delivery place (at additional costs).

The party on which behalf the Bill of Lading was signed

Trailer or wheeled unit on which the container is placed to transport it.

Non-binding invoice with information about the product(s), manufacturer(s), destination etc.

Specification of the goods/product types, such as furniture, electronics or toys.

The person to whom the cargo is assigned. This is stated on the Bill of Lading, for example.

Cubic meter/cubic feet are measuring units to indicate the volume of shipments. Whereas the majority of the countries worldwide uses the metric system (with centimeters, kilos and cubic meter), the United States, Liberia and Myanmar use the imperial system (with pounds, inches and cubic feet). For a conversion table, click here.  
This is a fee of the shipping company in case container is not picked up within the agreed-upon time.

Detention occurs when a container is not returned to the carrier within the specified time after unloading.

ETA: Estimated time of arrival.
ETD: Estimated time of departure. 

Full Container Load. This shipment is enough to fit a whole container based on size or weight. Another option is that the shipper/buyer is willing to pay for the whole container even though it is not full. 

Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. This code is an international standard of names and numbers for classifying products.

International Air Transport Association. IATA is a trade association that promotes safety in and standardization of airline rules and aids in establishing international airfares.

International Maritime Dangerous Goods code. It is an international guideline to ensure safe transportation of dangerous goods and/or hazardous materials. If your cargo is classified as DG (Dangerous Goods), special regulations apply. 

Incoterms are the international commercial terms for selling goods. It basically determines who is going to pay for transportation, insurance, taxes and duties, who is responsible for what part and where the goods should be picked up from and transported to. Check out this website for more information:

Basically, there are the following terms:

EXW: Ex works. The buyer is responsible for all costs and risks from the moment of goods pick-up.

FCA: Free carrier. The seller delivers the goods at a specified place, from where on the buyer is responsible for all costs and risks.

CPT: Carriage paid to. The seller is responsible for insurance and transport to destination. Once the goods have been delivered the responsibility transfers.

CIP: Carriage and insurance paid. As this term already indicates, the seller pays for insurance and transport up to destination. Commonly used when goods are being transported by containers by more than one transport mode. If only sea transport is necessary, CIF is used, see below.

CIF: Cost, Insurance and Freight. The seller pays the costs (including insurance) up till delivery at the port of destination. The buyer is responsible for loading risks at ports.

DAT: Delivered at Terminal. The seller pays the costs up till a identified terminal at destination. Buyer takes responsibility for importing duties and all costs after goods have been unloaded at the terminal.

DAP: Delivered at Place. The seller pays the costs and bears responsibility for delivery of the goods up till a specified place. Buyer is responsible and pays for unloading at place of delivery.

DDP: Delivery Duty Paid. Seller pays and takes responsibility for everything up to delivery in the named destination. 

FAS: Free alongside ship. Seller is responsible and pays for everything up till delivery at but not on the ship. Commonly used for non-containerized goods and bulk goods. For containerized goods, FCA is recommended.      

FOB: Free on Board. The seller is responsible for delivery on board of a specified ship.

Costs and risks when goods are on board are shared between buyer and seller. Once the ship reaches the port of destination, all costs and responsibilities lay with the buyer.

The following picture aims to clarify the process:

Import Security Filing. Required for USA imports, it requires transmittance of cargo information 24 hours before goods are loaded on a vessel for shipment into the USA. This is for security purposes and a mandatory part of importing goods into the USA.

Less than Container Load. This type of cargo is not enough to fill a whole container. It will be consolidated in a container with other shipments to the same destination.

Material Safety Data Sheet. This document is used to classify cargo that is potentially dangerous, such as chemicals, liquids, chemical mixtures etc. It identifies the type of cargo and all relevant information and precautions that should be taken.

Company/person who appears on the bill of lading or waybill to be notified when the cargo arrives at destination. Could be different from the consignee, but is often the actual receiver of the goods. A notify party has no particular rights (beyond the notification) under the bill of lading.

In the case of Seawings: an offer made by us regarding a request for a shipment. Usually valid for 30 days and only applicable to the details provided.

A special container that carries goods requiring refrigeration, such as fruit, meat, (frozen) fish, flower bulbs etc. The temperature can be set accordingly.

Roll on-roll off cargo. Vehicles that are driven on and off the vessel/aircraft as opposed to being loaded with cranes or other equipment.

Type of Bill of Lading where no originals are required (See Bill of Lading).

A situation where goods are being temporarily imported. Within a specified time frame (usually one year after date of import) the goods need to be exported. Under this condition, an importer is exempted of duties.

Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit. Measure of container capacity, 1 TEU is 1 twenty-foot container, 2 TEU is 1 forty-foot container etc. 

Terminal Handling Charges. These charges need to be paid to port terminals for handling (a) container(s). In general, the THC Origin is paid by the shipper and the THC Destination is paid by the consignee. This can, however, be switched or one party can pay for both charges.

Code used to trace a shipment. If you are using our Seapost service, the shipper (company where you bought your goods from) will provide you with a tracking code, which you need to forward to us.

Place where goods can be stored before or after shipping. A bonded warehouse stores goods that have not yet been cleared by customs. If they are reshipped to a foreign destination without legally entering the country, duties are not applicable. This is especially interesting for ship spares in transit.

A free warehouse stores goods that have been cleared by customs and are awaiting pick-up by client or transport by warehouse owner (freight forwarder).