Shipping Jargon

Shipping Jargon - shipping and freight resourceIf you Google the word “Jargon” you will see it described as “special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.”

The Shipping and Freight industry has its own jargon, oh yes, and a lot of it usually flummoxes many people in the industry.. I was thoroughly confused with all these when I started out in the industry..

We deal with a lot of shipping jargon and abbreviations on a daily basis, but not all of us know what it means and implications of incorrect usage of the jargon..

This may also include abbreviations commonly used but which may not be fully understood..

Here are some of the shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade jargon explained..


ETA = Estimated Time of Arrival – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to arrive at a port.. Usually seen in shipping schedules circulated by shipping lines or information provided to the port..

ETB = Estimated Time of Berthing – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to berth at a port/terminal.. This term is usually seen in pre-arrival notifications sent to the ships..

ETC = Estimated Time of Completion – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to complete its cargo operations.. This term is usually seen in arrival reports sent to ship owners..

ETD = Estimated Time of Departure – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to depart from a certain port/terminal.. This term is usually seen in arrival reports sent to ship owners and also in shipping schedules circulated by shipping lines or information provided to the port..

ETS = Estimated Time of Sailing – similar to ETD

FCLFull Container Load – means that the container has cargo that is shipped by one shipper for delivery to one consignee.. FCL is one of the Container Service Types in shipping..

LCLLess than Container Load – this is when the same container is used for cargoes belonging to multiple shippers and consignees.. The clients deliver their cargo to the lines packing station (CFS – Container Freight Station) and the line then packs the delivered cargo on behalf of the client.. LCL is one of the Container Service Types in shipping..

Groupage – The act of collecting the LCL cargo from the various shippers and packing into a container is known as Consolidation.. The entity that handles such operations are known as Consolidators (Groupage Operators)..

Port and Starboard – There are several ideas and versions of the origin of these words, but in simple shipping terms, it means the LEFT SIDE and RIGHT SIDE of the ship respectively..

MSDS – The abbreviation stands for Material Safety Data Sheet.. An MSDS is a form containing all possible information relating to the hazardous cargo in question.. It provides guidance in handling the commodity and the properties and composition of the item in question..

MBL – The abbreviation stands for Master Bill of Lading used extensively in freight forwarding circles..

HBL – The abbreviation stands for House Bill of Lading used extensively in freight forwarding circles..

SLAC – The abbreviation stands for “Shippers Load Stow and Count” and is used extensively and mainly in containerised shipping.. 

NVOCC– this abbreviation stands for Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier..

STC – this abbreviation stands for Said To Contain.. You would see this abbreviation on bills of lading for containerised cargo which means the Shipping line is saying that based on the shippers declaration, the container is said to contain XYZ cargo and they haven’t verified the contents..

BAF – stands for Bunker Adjustment Factor which is basically a charge levied by the shipping line to cover the cost of fuel on the ship..

CAF – stands for Currency Adjustment Factor which is a surcharge implemented by certain countries on their trade routes to cover the volatility of their currency against the major currencies used in trades like USD and EUR.. Countries like Ethiopia still apply CAF..

ISPS – stands for International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code (ISPS Code) and requires Governments to ensure that port facility security assessments are carried out and that port facility security plans are developed, implemented and reviewed in accordance with the ISPS Code. which forms part of SOLAS Chapter XI-2.

VGM – Shortform for SOLAS Verified Gross Mass.. Basically each container that is exported has to have its weight checked and declared to the shipping line before it is loaded..

SOLAS – SOLAS Convention is one of the Conventions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which specifies minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, compatible with their safety..

MARPOL – The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.

BCO stands for Beneficial Cargo Owner – refers to a cargo owner who could be a direct exporter, direct importer, seller or buyer..

Smart Container is a container equipped with sensors designed to provide real-time tracking of its location and movements..

Using this technology, whether you are a shipping line, customer or security agency, you can track the progress of your containers anywhere in the world, plan your equipment and stock inventory which could possibly lead to reduced costs….

You can also read some of the articles relating to Shipping Jargon here..

29 thoughts on “Shipping Jargon”

  1. Hi, Olga,

    Named Account is a kind/part of a Contract
    This contract in logistics is where you can find the long-term rates, because, well, those are officially contracted.
    You can also refer to these as NAC rates, and , since these are contracted, these have to stick to the contract terms.
    it is called “named account” because those rates are applicable only to serve for the “account” (logistic service consumer, the company that’s paying for the freight service) exclusively .

    I hope have been clear enough 🙂
    Kind regards,

  2. Hi there, thank you for the shipping jargon article, it’s great!
    But, may I know what kind of LCL type? due to I’ve seen many different LCL type every shipment and it depends how much the material inside the cargo.



  3. MBL – The abbreviation stands for Master Bill of Lading used extensively in freight forwarding circles.
    OBL is Original Bill of Lading

    • In case of OBL, usually “Original” is Printed on the face of the Bill of Lading whereas in case of MBL, it is not.
      The Bill of Lading issued by the Shipping Line or the Liner Bill of Lading has the “Original”, Non-Negotiable, Seaway, etc. usually printed to distinguish. Also the OBL should have the full style signature(approved & recognised) of the Authorised Signatory of the Shipping Line’s office who & where the OBL is issued. Also all the OBL’s needs to be surrendered at the Office of the Shipping Line for release of cargo – theoretically or an indeminification letter is given by the Consignee who usually has the possession of OBL or other relevant parties.

  4. Is there a difference in definition between “shipper’s berth” and “carrier’s berth” in regards to tasks, responsibilities, demrruage/detention costs (similar to the icoterms?

  5. LCL stands for Less-than Container Load meaning … The Container is NOT fully loaded by a Single Shipper. Take the below example :

    1. A Small-time shipper ( meaning a Shipper with less number/volume of cargo to fill a Container ).
    2. Such Small-time Shipper’s Cargo will be consolidated by a Freight Forwarder from a Source to a Destination
    into a Single Container and been shipped out. The Small-time Shipper’s pays the Freight Forwarder/Consolidator
    the Freight Charges based on their volume of cargo loaded.

    Trust the above helps. Thanks.

    • OPL stands for Outside Port Limit or Outer Port Limit.. In some cases, some ships arrive outside of the port limits of a certain port only for the purpose of taking on essential services such as bunkering, supply of provisions, crew change, medical services, spares etc..

      These ships may not have any commercial activities in any of the ports enroute, but may need some essential supplies.. For example ships on route from Africa to Far East may stop outside Fujairah (UAE) port only to take on supplies.. Depending on the requirement, such supplies may be done using supply launch, bunker barges etc..

  6. Hi Rajamanickam, ETD means Estimated Time of Departure which usually refers to the departure from the berth.. ETS means the Estimate Time of Sailing which usually refers to the ship sailing from the port.. SOMETIMES the ship may depart from the berth but not actually sail as they could be waiting for something like a spare or some courier documents or some crew change etc which in some ports maybe done at Outer Anchorage as well..

    So yes there is a difference between the two but the line is quite blurred unless it involves a specific charter party..

  7. Great initiative this Jargon. You should add LCL (less than container load – used when there are various shippers and/or cnees.).

    Also TBN (to be nominated, that means that they still do not know vessel’s name), and SOC (shipper’s own container).

    And I do not know if it should be added DN (debit note) CN (credit note).


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