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Glossary of maritime terms

This glossary of maritime terms is offered as an aid to better understanding what is meant by those who make their living from ports and ships.

(Acknowledgement to many and various sources)


A/B or ABLE BODIED SEAMAN - A member of the deck crew who is able to perform all the duties of an experienced seamen; certificated by examination and has three years sea service. Also called Able Seamen 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.
ADDENDUM - Additional terms at the end of a charter party.
AD VALOREM - means 'at value'. A rate or tax on the freight based on the value of goods.
AFT - 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 referred to as the attendance fee.
ANCHOR HANDLING TUG - Tug that moves anchors and tow drilling vessels, lighters and similar. Also ANCHOR HANDLING TUG/SUPPLY used also for supplies
AIMS - American Institute of Merchant Shipping.
AMIDSHIPS - Generally speaking the word amidships means in the middle portion of a vessel.
ARBITRATION - Method of settling disputes usually applied to a charter party.
ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT - The document containing all particulars relating to the terms of agreement between the Master of the vessel and the crew. Also known as ship's or shipping articles.
ASABOSA - Association of Ships' Agents & Brokers.
ASL - Association of Shipping Lines
ASTERN - Behind, or a backward direction in the line of a vessel's fore and aft line. When a vessel moves backwards it is said to move astern; opposite to ahead.
AUTOMATIC PILOT - An instrument that controls automatically a vessel's steering gear to enable her to follow a pre-determined track through the water.


BAF - Bunker adjustment factor. A freight adjustment factor reflecting the current cost of bunkers.
BAGGED CARGO - Various kinds of commodities usually packed in sacks or in bags, such as sugar, cement, milk powder, onion, grain, flour, etc. Also referred to as breakbulk.
BALLAST - Heavy substances loaded by a vessel to improve stability, trim, sea-keeping and to increase the immersion at the propeller. In the days of sail rocks and sand were used. Modern ships use seawater loaded in ballast tanks placed at the bottom of the ship, or in some cases on the sides called wing tanks. Tankers admit ballast water into the cargo tanks to submerge the vessel to a proper trim. When ballast tanks are not connected with the cargo system they are referred to as SEGREGATED BALLAST TANKS.
BAREBOAT CHARTER - Vessel contract where charterers take over all responsibility for the operation of the vessel and expenses for a certain period of time, and appoints his own master and crew and pays all running expenses.
BARGE - Flat-bottomed boat for carrying cargo on protected waterways, usually without engines or crew accommodations. On inland river systems barges can be lashed together and either pushed or pulled by tugs and handle cargo of 60,000 tonnes or more. Small barges for carrying cargo between ship and shore are known as lighters.
B/d -Barrels per day (measure of petroleum production).
BEAM - The width of a ship. Also called breadth.
BILL OF LADING (B/L) - A document of title to the goods being carried on the ship, which acts as a receipt for the cargo and contains the terms of the contract of carriage.
BIMCO - Baltic and International Maritime Council, to which many shipowners and brokers belong.
B/L TON (also Freight Ton) - the greater weight or measurement of goods where 1 tonnes is either 1,000 kg or 1 cubic metre.
BOATSWAIN (BOSUN) - The highest unlicensed rating on the ship with 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.
BONDED WAREHOUSE - An area of security approved by custom authorities for the safekeeping or deposit of goods liable for excise duty but not yet subject to that duty.
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 manoeuvring aid.
B/p or BOP - Balance of payments.
BOX - a term used for a container.
BOXTIME - Standard BIMVO time charter for container ships.
BREADTH - See Beam
BREAKBULK VESSEL - A general, multipurpose, cargo ship that carriers cargoes of non-uniform sizes, often on pallets, resulting in labour-intensive loading and unloading.
BREAK BULK CARGO - Goods carried in the hold of ships and not in containers.
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 large amounts of cargoes such as sugar, grain, wine, ore, chemicals, liquefied natural gas; coal, ore etc. 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 marking the navigable limits of channels, sunken dangers, isolated rocks, telegraph cables etc.


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.
CAPESIZE - a term used to describe a ship, usually a dry or wet bulker, that is too large to transit the canals and as a consequence must travel via the 'capes', ie Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.
CARGO HANDLING - The act of loading and discharging a cargo ship.
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.
CARRIERS - Owners or operators of vessels providing transportation to shippers. The term is also sometimes used to refer to the vessels, i.e. ore carriers.
CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRY - A document specifying the nation registry of the vessel.
CHANDLER - a person who deals in the selling of provisions, dried stores, etc.
CHARTER - Hiring out of a ship by a shipowner.
CHARTERER - The person who has chartered the ship for a specified period of time.
CHARTER RATES - The tariff applied for chartering tonnage in a particular trade.
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.
CHEMICAL TANKER - Ship specially designed for the transport of chemicals.
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.
CLASSIFICATION SOCIETY - Private organisations that undertake inspections and provide advise on the hull and machinery of a ship, also supervise ships during their construction and afterwards in respect to their seaworthiness. Ships are then referred to as being 'in class'. Although not compulsory, an unclassed ship will find it difficult to attract insurance.
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.
CLOF - Container Liner Operators Forum
COASTAL SERVICE or 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.
COGSA - Carriage of Goods by Sea
COLLIER - Vessel used for transporting coal.
COLLISION AVOIDANCE SYSTEM - Electronic system commonly used to prevent collisions in inland navigable waterways.
COMPLEMENT - The number of officers and crew employed upon a vessel for its safe navigation and operation.
CONFERENCE and CONFERENCE LINES - 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.
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 steel box of a given measurement used for the carriage of goods, often referred to as a TEU (20ft equivalent). Can be a standard container, usually either 6m or 12m in length (20ft or 40ft), a reefer container for refrigerated cargo, a flatrack standard or collapsible container, or an open top container type.
CONTAINER SHIP - a ship designed to handle containerised cargo. A fully cellular container ship is one that carries no cranes and is reliant on shorebased cranes for loading and discharging. Container ships' hulls are divided into cells accessible through large hatches into which the containers fit. 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.
COREBIS - Contract Registration and Billing System, instituted by SA Port Operations from April 2002 - a single electronic billing system in place of paper.
COSMOS - A Belgian electronic computer logistic system used at the SA container terminals.
C/P - Charter Party
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 and is one of the essential ship's documents presented to the customs and immigration authorities on arrival at a new port.
CUBIC CAPACITY - The most important commercial measurement when the intrinsic weight of the cargo is so low that the ship becomes full without being loaded to the cargo line. Is expressed in cubic metres or cubic feet.


DAVITS - Two radial cranes on a ship which hold the lifeboats, which are used to lower and lift lifeboats.
DEADWEIGHT (DWT) - A common measure of ship carrying capacity, equalling the number of tonnes of cargo, stores and bunkers that the ship can transport. It is the difference between the number of tonnes of water a vessel displaces 'light' and the number of tons it displaces when submerged to the 'deep load line'. A ship'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 and is usually used when referring to liquid and dry bulk ships.
DEAT - Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
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 manoeuvring.
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. The principal entries are: courses steered; distance run; compass variations, sea and weather conditions; ship's position, principal headlands passed; names of lookouts, and any unusual happenings such as fire, collision, and the like.
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.
DECK HOUSE - Small superstructure on the top deck of a vessel, which contains the helm and other navigational instruments.
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.
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.
DERRICK - A type of crane found on merchant ships, the name is believed to have been the name of a London hangman named Derrick of the 17th century.
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.
DOT - Department of Trade and Industry.
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. Now becoming common on all tankers.
DRAFT - The depth of a ship in the water. The vertical distance between the waterline and the keel, is expressed in metres except in the USA where it is in feet.
DRILL SHIP - Regular production ship usually on offshore oil wells, positioned by anchors or dynamic positioning. Possesses its own propulsion machinery.
DRY CARGO - Merchandise other than liquid carried in bulk.
DRY CARGO SHIP - Vessel that carries 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 watertight entrance gates which when closed permit the dock to be pumped dry. Sometimes has two or more compartments separated by watertight doors. Dry docks are also referred to as Graving Docks.
DUNNAGE - A term applied to loose wood or other material used in a ship's hold for the protection of cargo.
DWT - Deadweight tonnes.


EEC - European Economic Community, the European Common Market.
EEU - European Economic Union, the political union of Europe.
ETA - Estimated time of arrival
ETD - Estimated time of departure
EVEN KEEL - When the draft of a ship fore and aft are the same.


FAK - Freight all kinds - a system where freight is charged per container, irrespective of the nature of goods and not according to tariff.
FAS - Free Along Side (of ship).
FEEDER SHIP - Ships that handle transhipped cargo from one port to another.
FEU - Forty-Foot Equivalent Units (Containers).
FIREMAN - an unlicensed member of the engine, room staff whose duties consist in standing watch in the boiler room and insuring the oil burning equipment is working properly.
FIXTURE - Conclusion of shipbrokers negotiations to charter a ship - an agreement
FLAGS OF CONVENIENCE (FOC) - The registration of ships in a country that offer favourable 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. FOC states often offer low tax rates and their requirements concerning manning or maintenance are not stringent. The term always denotes registration of vessels in foreign nations.
FOB (FREE ON BOARD) - Cost of a product before transportation costs are figured in.
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.
FORCE MAJEURE - Clause limiting responsibilities of charterers, shippers and receiver of cargo
FORECASTLE - The raised part of the forward end of a ship's hull, taking its name from the days of sailing ships where the forecastle was effectively a 'castle' on the ship's prow used for defending the ship. On some ships this area may be used for crew accommodation or quarters but on most new ships the space is used for the storage of paints, tackle, deck and engine stores, tarpaulins, etc.
FPSO  - Floating Production, Storage & Offloading vessel. Usually out of service tankers are utilised as FPSO's.
FREEBOARD - The distance between the statutory deck line and the waterline.
FREIGHT FORWARDER - A person or persons who represents the cargo owner and who arranges shipments for that owner.
FREIGHT RATE - The charge made for the transportation of freight.
FREIGHT TONNE - The greater weight or measurement of goods where 1 tonne is equal to 1,000kg or 1 cubic metre.


GA - General Average
GANG - term used to describe a selected work force or team that works as a team in a harbour environment, usually in stevedoring.
GANGWAY - a narrow portable platform used as a passage, by persons entering or leaving a vessel moored alongside a pier or quay.
GAS TANKER - Specially designed for the transport of condensed (liquefied) gases. The most important gases are: ammonia, ethylene, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), which consists mainly of methane, and is cooled to a temperature of minus 163 degrees Celsius, and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) such as butane and propane.
GATF - General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade.
GATT - General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade, an international agreement embodying a code of practice for fair trading in international commerce. Is headquartered in Geneva.
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.
GNP - Gross National Product: GDP plus the net income accruing from foreign sources.
GREAT LAKES PORTS - Ports in the lakes of Canada and/or USA popular for grain shipments. Also refers to ports on the Great lakes of East Africa
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 & NET TONNAGE(GT and NT) - Gross tonnage is the basis on which manning rules and safety regulations are applied, and registration fees are reckoned. Port fees are also often reckoned on the basis of GT and NT. GT and NT are defined according to formulas which take account, among other things, of the volume of the vessel's enclosed spaces (GT) and the volume of its holds (NT).
GROSS REGISTERED TONS - A common measurement of the internal volume of a ship with certain spaces excluded.


HAGUE RULES - Code of minimum conditions for the carriage of cargo under a bill of lading
HAGUE VISBY RULES - the 1968 revision of the Hague Rules
HANDYSIZE BULK CARRIER - Bulk carrier between 10,000 and 40,000DWT.
HARBOUR DUES - Various local charges levied against all seagoing vessels entering a harbour, to cover maintenance of channel depths, buoys, lights, etc. Not all harbours raise this charge.
HARBOUR MASTER (Port Captain) - 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 his port.
HARD AGROUND - A vessel which has gone aground and is incapable of refloating under her own power.
HATCH - An opening, generally rectangular, in a ship's deck providing access into the compartment below.
HAWSER - Large strong rope or cable used for towing purposes and for securing or mooring ships.
HAZARDOUS CARGO - All substances of an inflammable, toxic or otherwise dangerous nature.
HELM - A tiller or a wheel generally installed on the bridge or wheelhouse of a ship to turn the rudder during manoeuvring and navigation. It is in fact the steering wheel of the ship.
HELMSMAN - An able-bodied seamen entrusted with the steering of a vessel.
HOISTING ROPE - Special flexible wire or nylon rope for lifting purposes.
HOLD - A general name for the large compartments below the main deck designated for stowage of general cargo.
HULL - Shell or body of a ship - applies to the side and bottom of ship.
HYDROFOIL - A craft that under acceleration rises above water but remains in contact with the surface through supporting legs.


IAPH - International Association of Ports & Harbours
IHMA - International Harbour Masters Association
ILO - International Labour 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 been responsible for regulations involving the employment of foreign seafarers with regards to the application of minimum labour standards, on crew accommodation, accident prevention, medical examination and medical care, food and catering and competency of ships' officers.
IMDG - International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.
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.
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 workers have to enter the empty tanks.
INCOTERMS - Incoterms are a set of uniform rules codifying he interpretation of trade terms defining the rights and obligations of both buyer and seller in an international transaction. The terms recognised by Incoterms 1990 are: EXW - ex works (named place); FCA - Free Carrier (named place); FAS - Free alongside Ship (named port of shipment); FOB - Free on Board (named port of shipment); CFR - Cost & Freight (named port of destination); CIF - Cost, Insurance and Freight (named port of destination); CPT - Carriage Paid To (named point of destination); CIP - Carriage & Insurance Paid To (named point of destination); DAF - Delivered at Frontier (named point); DES - Delivered ex Ship (named port of destination); DEQ - Delivered ex Quay (duty paid) (named port of destination); DDU - Delivered Duty Unpaid (named point); DDP - Delivered Duty Paid (named point).
INFLAMMABLE LIQUIDS - Liquids liable to spontaneous combustion, which gives off
inflammable vapours at or below 80 degrees F. For example, ether, ethyl, benzene,
gasoline, paints, enamels, carbon disulfide, etc.
INLAND WATERS - Term referring to lakes, streams, rivers, canals, waterways,
inlets, bays and the like.
INMARSAT - International Maritime Satellite System.
ICS - Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.
INTEGRATED TUG BARGE (ITB) - A large barge of integrated from the rear on to the bow of a tug purposely constructed to push the barge.
INTERMODALISM - The concept of transportation as a door-to-door service rather than port-to-port, using different forms of transportation, i.e. trains, ships, road but usually with a single carrier.
INTERNATIONAL LOAD LINE CERTIFICATE - A certificate which gives details of a ship's freeboard and states that the ship has been surveyed and the appropriate load lines marked on her sides. The certificate is issued by a classification society or coastal authority such as a coast guard.
designed to pay compensation for oil pollution damage, exceeding the shipowner's liability. It was created by an IMO Convention in 1971 and began operations in October 1978. Contributions come mainly from the oil companies of member states.
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.
ITF - International Transport Workers Federation (Trade Unions)
ITINERARY - Route/Schedule
IWL - Institute Warrant Limits


JACKUP - A deck with legs that can be jacked up or down. During operations, the legs rest on the seabed. When the rig is moved, the legs are retracted, leaving the rig floating. A jackup has Normally no propulsion machinery of its own.
JONES ACT - Contentious US Merchant Marine Act of 1920, Section 27, requiring 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 (1,852 metres or 6,080 feet) per hour. i.e. 1.852 km/h.


LAID-UP - 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 that trades only in the Great Lakes of North America. They carry predominantly grain and ore cargoes.
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 heavy-duty crane for loading and discharging the lighters over the stern. The lighters each have a capacity of about 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.
LAY-BY - ships that are laid up usually waiting for cargo or a charter, often outside a port.
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 over-tonnaging, has the effect of depressing freight rates to the extent that some shipowners no longer find it economical to trade their ship, preferring to lay them up until there is a reversal in the trend.
L/C - Letter of credit
LCL - LESS THAN CONTAINER LOAD - A consignment of cargo which is insufficient 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 (often double-ended) boat, which can withstand heavy, rough seas.
LIFEBOAT DRILL - An exercise conducted on board every ship to familiarise crew and any passengers with how to evacuate the ship in an emergency. 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 harbour, 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 transhipment 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.
LIEN - Retention of property until outstanding dept is paid.
LINER - A cargo or passenger-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. An agent once compared a Liner Service with a bus service travelling to regular stops at regular times and on a regular turnaround route. See also Non-Liner Service.
LINER SHIP OPERATORS - Operators who trade ships regularly from one port to another.
LLOYD'S REGISTER OF SHIPPING - Well-known British classification society.
LNG - Liquefied Natural Gas.
LNG CARRIER - Liquefied natural gas carrier, perhaps the most sophisticated of all commercial ships. The cargo tanks are made of a special aluminium alloy and are heavily insulated to carry natural gas in its liquid state at a temperature of -2,850F. The LNG ship costs about twice as much as an oil tanker of the same size.
LOAD FACTOR - Percentage of cargo or passengers carried e.g. 4000 tons carried on a vessel of 10,000t capacity has a load factor of 40%.
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.
LOF - Lloyds Open Form
LOI - Letter of Indemnity
LOLL - the state of instability caused when a ship is top heavy or has too much water such as from flooding below decks
LONGSHOREMAN - dock labourers employed to work cargo on ships - see also Stevedore.
LO-LO - Lift on, lift off; a container ship in which containers are lifted on or off by crane as opposed to Ro-Ro.
LONG TON (LT) - 1,016.05kg or 2,240 pounds.
LOOKOUT - A member of the crew stationed on the forecastle, bridge, or in the case of sailing vessels, the crow's nest at the top of one of the main masts. His duty it is to watch for any dangerous objects or for any other vessels approaching .
LPG - Liquefied Petroleum Gas, or a carrier of LPG.
LUMPSUM FREIGHT - Money paid to shipper for charter of a ship (or portion) up to
stated limit irrespective of quantity of cargo.


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.
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 crewmembers that can be engaged on a ship to be considered as sufficient hands with practical ability to meet every possible eventuality at sea.
MARITIME LIEN - A claim attached to the res, i.e., the ship, freight, or cargo.
MARPOL - The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from
Ships, s modified by the several Protocols. Part of the IMO.
MASTHEAD LIGHT - A white light positioned over the fore and aft centreline of the vessel.
MITB - Maritime Industry Training Board.
MLA - Maritime Law Association.
MOA - Memorandum of agreement
MODU - Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit.
MOORING LINE - A cable or line used to tie up a ship.
MORTGAGE - Loan issued against some security.
M/T - Metric tonnes (2,250 lbs).
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. Ships that are designed to carry both dry, loose cargo and cargo in containers.


NATIONAL FLAG - The flag carried by a ship to show her nationality.
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.
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.
NON-LINER SERVICE - A shipping service that does not operate to a fixed itinerary or regular schedule. Someone once compared a non-liner service to a taxi service, going here, going there, anywhere to pick up a farefreight, whereas a Liner Service is like a bus service travelling to regular stops at regular times and on a regular turnaround route. See also Liner Service.
NORSKE VERITAS - Norwegian classification society.
NPA - National Ports Authority of South Africa
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.
NSRI - National Sea Rescue Institute.
NVO - Non-vessel-operating common carrier, a ships agent, conducts business for
the ship but does not operate the vessel.
NVOCC - Non Vessel Operating (Common) Container Carriers - a carrier issuing bills of lading for carriage of goods on vessels that he neither owns nor operates.


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 instead of empty.
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.
OFFICER - Any of the licensed members of the ship's complement.
OFF-LOAD - Discharge of cargo from a ship.
OFF-HIRE or DOWNTIME - When a ship is temporarily out of operation, in accordance with the terms of the relevant charterparty, with a loss of agreed hire as a result.
OFFSHORE SERVICE VESSELS - Special vessels employed for the exploration, development or continuous production of subsea oil and gas.
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 nowadays 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.
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 also described as "flag of convenience" or "flag of necessity" to denote registry in a country which offers favourable tax, regulatory, and other incentives to ship owners from other nations.
OPERATOR - The holder of a freight contract with a cargo shipper.
ORE CARRIER - A large ship designed to be used for the carriage of ore. Because of the high density of ore, ore carriers have a relatively high centre of gravity to prevent them from rolling heavily at sea with possible stress to the hull.
ORE-OIL CARRIER - A ship designed to carry either ore or oil in bulk.
ORDINARY SEAMAN - A deck crewmember that is subordinate to the Able Bodied Seamen.
OVERTONNAGING - A situation where there are too many ships generally or in a particular trade for the level of available cargoes.


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
PASSENGER SHIP - A ship with accommodation which is authorized to carry more than 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.
P & I - Protection and indemnity insurance.
P & I Club - Protection and Indemnity Association, the carriers mutual liability assurer.
PILOT - A person who is qualified to assist the master of a ship to navigate when entering or leaving a port. In most ports pilotage is compulsory.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
PAPC - Pan African Association for Port Co-operation
PMAWCA - Port Management Association of Western and Central Africa
PMAESA - Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa
PORT SIDE - the left hand side of a ship facing the front or forward end. The port side of a ship during darkness is indicated by a red light. Was previously known as the larboard side but this created confusion with starboard and was changed.
POST-PANAMAX VESSEL - a ship that is too large, particularly in the width or beam for the Panama Canal (see Panamax)
PRODUCTS TANKER - A tanker designed to carry refined petroleum products in bulk.
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.
PSV (Platform Supply Vessel) - Carries supplies to drilling units or installations during field development or production.
PUMPMAN - A rating that tends to the pumps of an oil tanker.
PURSER - A ship's officer who is in charge of accounts, especially on a passenger ship. Nowadays referred to as the Hotel Manager of most cruise ships.


QUARTERS - Accommodation on a ship, i.e. crew quarters.


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 ship's electrical power supply.
RETURN CARGO - A cargo which enables a ship to return loaded to the port or area where her previous cargo was loaded.
REVERSIBLE -TIME - Option for charterers to add together time allowed for loading & discharging relative to terms of a particular charter party
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 on the side, providing easy access. Fully loaded trucks or trailers carrying containers are accommodated on the deck.


SADC - Southern African Development Community.
SAIMENA - South African Institute of Marine Engineers & Naval Architects.
SALVAGE - The property which has been recovered from a wrecked vessel, or the recovery of the vessel herself.
SAMSA - South African Maritime Safety Authority.
SAPO - South African Port Operations
SASSA - SA Ship Suppliers Association.
SATS GBOBA - General Botha Old Boys Association.
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.
SEA WORTHINESS - The condition of the ship, based on the sufficiency of a vessel in terms of 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 to be 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-GEARED SHIP - Any ship with its own gear, or crane/s for loading and discharging shipping cargo including containers, thus enabling the ship to serve ports which do not have suitable lifting equipment.
SELF-TRIMMING SHIP - A ship whose holds re shaped in such a way that the cargo
levels itself.
SEMISUBMERSIBLE - A ship able to submerge part of itself to load or discharge cargo that can be floated on or off. Usually semi submersible ships are heavy-duty vessels.
SHIFTING - This refers to movements or changing positions of cargo from one place to another - a dangerous situation at sea that can easily endanger the seaworthiness or cargo worthiness of the
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.
SHIP'S AGENT - A person or firm who transact all the ship's business in a port on behalf of shipowners or charterers.
SHIPPER - Individuals or businesses who tender goods or cargo for transportation - usually the cargo owners or their representatives and not to be confused with the party issuing the bills of lading or the ship's operator who is the carrier..
SHORT TON - 2,000 pounds.
SISTER SHIPS - Ships built on the same design.
SIU - Seafarers International Union.
SKEG - also spelt SKEGG. A projection similar to a keel at the stern of a vessel that offers protection to the rudder and propeller in the event of the vessel going aground in reverse. 
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.
SOLAS - Safety of Life at Sea Convention
SP - Safe port
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 ton (2,000 lbs).
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.
STERN - The bow or rear of the ship; an upright post or bar of the bow of a vessel.
STERNWAY - The reverse movement of a vessel.
STEVEDORE - labourer employed in ship cargo handling, also known as Longshoreman
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 while in port when parts of the cargo have been loaded or discharged.
STOWAGE FACTOR - Cubic space (measurement tons occupied by one tonne of cargo).
STRANDING - The running of a ship on shore on a beach.
STUFFING (or STRIPPING) - the act of packing or unpacking 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 1,000 tons deadweight, through medium-sized ship of 60,000 tons, to the giant VLCCs (very large crude carriers). The largest tanker currently afloat is the Norwegian ship Jahre Viking of 564,650DWT. The ship is 458m in length and has a beam of 68,9m with a draught of 24,6m.
TARIFF - Terms and conditions and scale of charges.
TBN - To be named/to be nominated
T/C - Time charter
TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT - Management of the maintenance, crewing and insurance of the ship.
TERMINAL - the business unit in ports where specific cargo, i.e. containers are handled.
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. South Africa's territorial waters extend for 200 n.miles offshore.
TEU - 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. A 40ft long container is measured as being 2TEU.
THC - Terminal-handling charge, raised at port terminals for the handling of cargo.
TIME BAR - Time after which legal claims will not be entertained
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.
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.
TONNAGE - 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 (hauling) one or more
floating objects.
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.
TRADING LIMITS - Maritime area usually specified by range of ports in which a vessel may operate
TRAMP SERVICE - Vessels operating without a fixed itinerary or schedule or charter contract.
TRIM - The relationship between a ship's draughts forward and aft.
TUG - A small vessel designed to tow or push large ships or barges. Tugs have powerful diesel engines and are essential for manoeuvring large ships around the port. Pusher tugs are also used to push enormous trains of barges on the rivers and inland waterways of the U.S. Ocean-going 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 larger than 300,000DWT.
UNCTAD - United Nations Conference on Trade & Development.
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.
US 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 US-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. U.S.-flag vessels are registered in the United States and are subject to additional U.S. laws and regulations to which foreign-flag vessels are not. They must be owned by U.S. citizens, corporations, or governments and must be crewed mainly by U.S. citizens.


VLCC - Very Large Crude Carriers: Tankers between 200,000 and 300,000DWT.
VLCS  - Very Large Container Ship - a container vessel able to carry 8000 and more TEU. By mid 2007 a number of VLCS ships had a reported capacity in excess of 13,000-TEU.
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.


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.
WAYBILL - A non-negotiable document that acts as a receipt for the goods and evidence of the contract of carriage.
WW - Weather working