Shipping terminologies for your guidance

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Mae West

A Second World War personal flotation device used to keep people afloat in the water; named after the 1930s actress Mae West, well-known for her pneumatic torso.


Mafi Trailer

A German brand name of a roll trailer used for RoRo purposes.


Magnetic Bearing

An absolute bearing using magnetic north.


Magnetic North

The direction towards the Magnetic North Pole. Varies slowly over time.


Maiden Trip

The first voyage of a vessel after delivery from new-building to her owner(s).



One of the braces attached to the mainmast.


Mainmast (or Main)

The tallest mast on a ship.



The sail control line that allows the most obvious effect on mainsail trim. It is primarily used to control the angle of the boom, and thereby the mainsail. This control can also increase or decrease downward tension on the boom while sailing upwind, significantly affecting sail shape. For more control over downward tension on the boom, a boom vang is recommended.


Making way

The scenario of a vessel moving under its own power.



Malaccamax is a naval architecture term for the largest size of ship capable of fitting through the 25 metres (82 ft)-deep Strait of Malacca. This waterway connects the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean). It runs between the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the west and peninsular (West) Malaysia and extreme southern Thailand to the east.

Bulk carriers and supertankers have been built to this size, and the term is chosen for very large crude carriers (VLCC). A Malaccamax container ship would be 470 m long and 60 m wide, with 20 m of draft and 300,000 metric tons deadweight (DWT) for a capacity of 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). The ports' growth requirements could be leading to the creation of new terminals dedicated to those ships.



USA; FMC Regulations. 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 equalisation; providing specialised equipment to a shipper to the detriment of other shippers, etc.


Man of war or man o' war

A warship from the Age of Sail.


Man overboard!

A cry let out when a seaman has gone overboard.



A writ issued by a court; determines that specific actions be carried out.



A list or invoice of the passengers or goods being carried by a commercial vehicle or ship. It is a document that lists in detail all the bills of lading issued by a vessel or its agent or master, for example, a detailed summary of the total cargo of a vessel. Used principally for Customs purposes.


Marconi rig

Another term for Bermudan sailing rig. The mainsail is triangular, rigged fore-and-aft with the lead edge fixed to the mast. It refers to the similarity of the tall mast to a radio aerial.



A docking facility suitable for small ships and yachts.


Marine Cargo Insurance

In broad terms, it is insurance covering the 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.


Marines Soldiers afloat

Royal Marines formed as the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot in 1664 with many and varied duties including providing guard to the ship's officers should there be mutiny aboard. They were sometimes thought by seamen to be rather gullible, hence the phrase 'tell it to the marines'.



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


Maritime Group

(Rules for Sea and Inland Waterways transport - none of which should be used for carriage in intermodal containers)

FAS - Free Alongside Ship (named port of shipment)

FOB - Free On Board (named port of shipment)

CFR - Cost and Freight (named port of destination)

CIF - Cost, Insurance and Freight (named port of destination)


Maritime Law

Maritime law is a complete system of law, both public and private, substantive and procedural, national and international, with its own courts and jurisdiction, which goes back to Rhodian law of 800 B.C. and pre-dates both the civil and common laws.

Its more modern origins were civilian in nature, as first seen in the R�les of Oléron of circa 1190 A.D. Maritime law was subsequently greatly influenced and formed by the English Admiralty Court and then later by the common law itself.

That maritime law is a complete legal system can be seen from its component parts. For centuries maritime law has had its own law of contract:

of sale (of ships);

of service (towage);

of lease (chartering);

of carriage (of goods by sea);

of insurance (marine insurance being the precursor of insurance ashore);

of agency (ship chandlers);

of pledge (bottomry and respondentia);

of hire (of masters and seamen);

of compensation for sickness and personal injury (maintenance and cure) and

risk distribution (general average).

It is and has been a national and an international law (probably the first private international law). It has also had its own public law and public international law. Maritime law is composed of two main parts - national maritime statutes and international maritime conventions, on the one hand, and the general maritime law (lex maritima), on the other.

Today's general maritime law consists of the common forms, terms, rules, standards and practices of the maritime shipping industry - standard form bills of lading, charter parties, marine insurance policies and sales contracts are good examples of common forms and the accepted meaning of the terms, as well as the York/Antwerp Rules on general average and the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits.



Letters, numbers and other symbols placed on cargo packages to facilitate identification. These are also known as marks.


MARPOL 73/78

Marpol 73/78 is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978. ('Marpol' is short for marine pollution and 73/78 short for the years 1973 and 1978.)

Marpol 73/78 is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions. It was designed to minimise pollution of the seas, including dumping, oil and exhaust pollution. Its stated object is: to preserve the marine environment through the complete elimination of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimisation of accidental discharge of such substances.



A vertical pole on a ship designed to support sails or rigging.



Either the commander of a commercial vessel, or a senior officer of a naval sailing ship in charge of routine seamanship and navigation but not in command during combat.


Master Bill

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



A non-commissioned officer responsible for discipline on a naval ship. Standing between the officers and the crew, commonly known in the Royal Navy as 'the Buffer'.



A small platform partway up the mast, just above the height of the mast's main yard. A lookout is stationed here, and men who are working on the main yard will embark from here. For more information see Crow's Nest.



The French term for sailor. A traditional Royal Navy term for an ordinary sailor.


Mate's Receipt (1)

An archaic practice. It was an 'acknowledgement of cargo' receipt signed by a mate of the vessel. The possessor of the mate's receipt is entitled to the bill of lading, in exchange for that receipt.


Measurement Cargo

Freight on which transportation charges are calculated on the basis of volume measurement.


Measurement Ton

USA Imperial measure; 40 cubic feet.


Mechanically Ventilated Container

A container fitted with a means of forced air ventilation (fan).


Memo Bill

For more information see Service Bill of Lading.


Memorandum Bill of Lading

A duplicate copy of an in-house bill of lading.


Mercantile marine

Mercantile marine



For cargo carried under the terms and conditions of the Carrier's Bill of Lading and of a tariff, a merchant describes any trader or persons (e.g. Shipper, Consignee) and including anyone acting on their behalf, owning or entitled to possession of the goods.


Merchant Haulage

Container's trucking managed by the sender or a forwarder (as opposed to Carrier Haulage). It includes empty container-moves to and from hand-over points in respect of containers released by the Carrier to Merchants.


Merchant Marine

All ships engaged in the carriage of goods i.e. all commercial vessels (as opposed to all non-military ships), which excludes tugs, fishing vessels, offshore oil rigs, etc. This includes a grouping of merchant ships by nationality or register.


Merchant Ship

A vessel that carries goods against payment of freight; commonly used to denote any non-military ship but accurately restricted to commercial vessels only.



An eating place aboard ship. A group of crew who live and eat together.


Mess deck catering

A system of catering in which a standard ration is issued to a mess supplemented by a money allowance which may be used by the mess to buy additional provisions from the purser's stores or elsewhere.

Each mess was autonomous and self-regulating. Seaman cooks, often members of the mess, prepared the meals and took them, in a tin canteen, to the galley to be cooked by the ship's cooks.


Metric Ton (1)

2,204.6 pounds or 1,000 kilograms.


Metric ton (2)

Metric ton


Metric ton

2204 lbs



A cargo movement in which the water carrier provides a through service between an inland point and the port of load/discharge. The carrier is responsible for cargo and costs from the origin to destination. This movement is also known as IPI or Thru Service.



A non-commissioned officer below the rank of Lieutenant. They are usually regarded as being 'in training' to some degree. These officers have also been known as 'Snotty'.

The Midshipman is 'the lowest form of animal life in the Royal Navy' where he has authority over and responsibility for more junior ranks, yet, at the same time, relying on their experience and learning his trade from them.



A unit equal to 5,280 feet on land. A nautical mile is 6,076.115 feet.For more information see nautical mile.


Mini Landbridge (1)

An intermodal system for transporting containers by ocean, and then by rail or motor, to a port previously served as an all-water. For example, the route of Hong Kong to New York over Seattle. For more information see Landbridge.


Mini Landbridge

Mini Landbridge


Minimum Bill of Lading

A clause that specifies the minimum charge that the carrier will make for issuing a lading. The charge may be a definite sum or the current charge per ton for any specified quantity.


Minimum Charge

The lowest amount which applies to the transport of a consignment, irrespective of weight or volume.



A container which is stowed in an improper position on a vessel or a container on a vessel that does not belong on that particular ship.


Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.

A Japanese transport company whose main area of operations is international shipping. Its alligator logo can be seen on containers in ports around the world.

Founded as a key part of the Mitsui zaibatsu (family-owned conglomerate) during the early industrialisation of Japan, the company is now independent of the zaibatsu, but remains part of the Mitsui keiretsu (group of aligned companies).


Mixed Consignment

A consignment of varying commodities, articles or goods, packed or tied together or contained in separate packages.


Mixed Containerload

A containerload of different articles in a single consignment.


Mizzen staysail

The sail on a ketch or yawl, usually lightweight, set from, and forward of, the mizzen mast while reaching in light to moderate air.


Mizzenmast (or Mizzen)

The third mast on a ship.


Modified Atmosphere

A blend of gases tailored to a specific load of cargo that replaces the normal atmosphere within a container.


Monkey's Fist

A ball woven out of line used to provide heft to heave the line to another location. The monkey's fist and other heaving-line knots were sometimes weighted with lead (easily available in the form of foil used to seal e.g. tea chests from dampness) although Clifford W. Ashley notes that there was a 'definite sporting limit' to the weight thus added.



To attach a boat to a mooring buoy or post. This also applies to the docking of a ship.


Morse Code

Morse code is a type of character encoding that transmits telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses a standardised sequence of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a given message.

Originally created for Samuel F. B. Morse's electric telegraph in the early 1840s, Morse code was also extensively used for early radio communication beginning in the 1890s.

Military ships, including those of the US Navy, have long used signal lamps to exchange messages in Morse code. Modern use continues, in part, as a way to communicate while maintaining radio silence. An important application is signalling for help through SOS, '. . . - - - . . . '. This can be sent many ways: keying a radio on and off, flashing a mirror, toggling a flashlight and other similar methods.

Regulations in 1987 replaced Morse code with the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) and came into force from 1st February 1992.


Most favoured nation

In international economic relations and international politics, 'most favoured nation' is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state to another in international trade.

The term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must, nominally, receive equal trade advantages as the 'most favoured nation' by the country granting such treatment. (Trade advantages include low Customs Duty tariffs or high import quotas.)


(M/V or M.V.)




A template of the shape of a ship's hull in transverse section. Several moulds are used to form a temporary framework around which a hull is built.



Various modes of transportation, synonymous for all practical purposes with the term 'intermodal.'


Multimodal Group

(Rules for any mode or modes of transport)

* EXW - Ex Works (named place of delivery)

* FCA - Free Carrier (named place of delivery)

(replacing the old FAS and FOB)

* CPT - Carriage Paid To (named place of destination)

(replacing the old C&F)

* CIP - Carriage and Insurance Paid to (named place of destination)

(replacing the old CIF)

* DAT - Delivered At Terminal (named terminal at port or place of destination)

* DAP - Delivered At Place (named place of destination)

* DDP - Delivered Duty Paid (named place of destination)


Multi-Purpose Carrier or Vessel

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


Multi-Tank Container

A container frame fitted to accommodate two or more separate tanks for liquids.