Shipping terminologies for your guidance

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Shipping Act of 1984

USA; effective June 18th, 1984, describes the law covering water transportation in the US foreign trade. The passage of the Shipping Act of 1984 brought about a major deregulatory change in the regulatory regime facing shipping companies operating in the US foreign commerce. The subsequent passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, with its further deregulatory amendments and modifications to the Shipping Act of 1984 (which took effect on May 1st, 1999), represented another pro-market shift in shipping regulation.


Shipping Act of 1998

USA; amends the Act of 1984 to provide for confidential service contracts and other items.


Shipping Company

A group of persons jointly owning a ship and using it to gain profit from commercial marine shipments for joint account.


Shipping Order

A shipper's instructions to carrier for forwarding goods; usually the triplicate copy of the bill of lading.



Barge Carriers: Ships designed to carry barges. Some are fitted to act as full container ships and can carry a varying number of barges and containers at the same time. At present, this class includes two types of vessels, LASH and Sea-Bee.

Bulk Carriers: All vessels designed to carry dry bulk cargo, as well as carriers with bulk cargoes such as grain, ore and oil.

Combination Passenger and Cargo Ships: Ships with a capacity for 13 or more passengers.

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

Full Containerships: Ships equipped with permanent container cells, with little or no space for other types of cargo.

General Cargo Carriers: Breakbulk freighters, car carriers, cattle carriers, pallet carriers and timber carriers.

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.

Roll-on/Roll-off vessels: Ships custom built to carry wheeled containers or trailers using interior ramps.

Tankers: Ships fitted with tanks to carry liquid cargo such as crude petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, liquified gasses (LNG & LPG), wine, molasses and similar product tanks.



Shallow water that is a hazard to a vessel's navigation.


Shoal Draught

Shallow draught, making the vessel capable of sailing in unusually shallow water.



The land on or near a waterline such as a sea shore or lake shore.

The land; the seamen were serving on shore instead of in ships.

A prop or strut supporting the weight or flooring above it; the shores stayed upright during the earthquake.


Short Ton

US imperial measure : 2,000 lbs.



The negative difference between actual available or delivered quantity and the required quantity.



Cargo manifested but not loaded.


Shrink Wrap

Polyethylene or similar substance heat-treated and shrunk into an envelope around several units, thereby securing them as a single pack for presentation or to secure units on a pallet.



Standing rigging running from a mast to the sides of a ship.


Shuttle Service

The carriage back and forth over an often short route between two points.


Sick Bay

The compartment reserved for medical purposes.


Side Loader

A lift truck fitted with lifting attachments operating to one side for handling containers.


Side-Door Container

A container fitted with a rear door and a minimum of one side door.



A short railroad track connected with a main track by a switch to serve a warehouse or an industrial area.


Sight Draft

USA; a draft payable upon presentation to the drawee.


Single Administrative Document

A set of documents, replacing the various (national) forms for customs declaration within European Community, implemented on January 1st, 1988. The introduction of the SAD constitutes an intermediate stage in the abolition of all administrative documentation in intra-European Community trade in goods between member states.



A sound signal which uses electricity or compressed air to actuate either a disc or a cup shaped rotor.


Sister Ships

Ships built on the same design.



A particular platform or location for loading or unloading at a place.



A downward or sternward projection from the keel in front of the rudder. Protects the rudder from damage, and in bilge keelers may provide one 'leg' of a tripod on which the boat stands when the tide is out.



Similar to a pallet.



Battens, or a series of parallel runners, fitted beneath boxes or packages to raise them clear of the floor to permit easy access of forklift blades or other handling equipment.



The captain of a ship.



A sail set very high, above the royals. Such sails are only carried by a few ships.



A small, triangular sail, set above the skysail. Used in light winds on a few ships.



A wire or rope contrivance placed around cargo and used to load or discharge it to/from a vessel.


Slop chest

A ship's store of merchandise, such as clothing, tobacco, etc., maintained aboard merchant ships for sale to the crew.



A segment of a container ship's cell into which a container is loaded.


Slot Charter

A voyage charter whereby the shipowner agrees to place a certain number of container slots (TEU and/or FEU) at the charterer's disposal.


Slow Steaming

Slow Steaming involves the operation of a container vessel at speeds significantly below its maximum speed. The benefits of Slow Steaming include decreasing both:

Fuel consumption of the vessel (resulting in bunker costs reduction); and

CO2 emissions (contributing towards environmental efficiency).

Full Speed for a container ship might typically be about 24 knots (generally 85-90% of engine capacity). Reducing vessel speed to about 18 knots represents Slow Steaming and further reduction to between 12 - 15 knots represents Super/Ultra Slow Steaming.

Apart from the above two benefits, Slow Steaming also enables carriers to absorb excess fleet capacity during periods of slack demand and also increased schedule reliability as more buffer is available to maintain the schedules in case of port congestions and bad weather.



A greasy substance obtained by boiling or scraping the fat from empty salted meat storage barrels, or the floating fat residue after boiling the crew's meal.

In the Royal Navy it was a prerequisite of the cook who could sell it or exchange it (usually for alcohol) with other members of the crew. It could also be used for greasing parts of the running rigging of the ship and was therefore valuable to the master and bosun.


Slush Fund

The money obtained by the cook selling slush ashore. Used for the benefit of the crew (or the cook).


Small Bower (anchor)

The smaller of two anchors carried in the bow.



A form of brig where the gaff spanker or driver is rigged on a 'snow mast' a lighter spar supported in chocks close behind the main-mast.


Son of a gun

The space between the guns was used as a semi-private place for trysts with prostitutes and wives, which sometimes led to the birth of children with disputed parentage. Another claim is that the term's origin resulted from firing a ship's guns to hasten a difficult birth.



Sonar (originally an acronym for SOund Navigation And Ranging) is a technique that uses sound propagation (usually underwater) to navigate, communicate with or detect other vessels.

There are two kinds of sonar: active and passive.

Sonar may be used as a means of acoustic location and of measurement of the echo characteristics of 'targets' in the water.

For more information see echo sounding and ASDIC.



A term for measuring the depth of the water. This was traditionally done by swinging the lead, now more commonly by echo sounding.



A storm from the south west.

A type of waterproof hat with a wide brim over the neck, worn in storms.


Space Charter

A voyage charter whereby the shipowner agrees to place part of the vessel's capacity at the charterer's disposal.



On a square rigged ship, the spanker is regarded as a gaff rigged fore-and-aft sail set from and aft of the aftmost mast. Virtually all square rigs with multiple masts have at least one spanker, which is derived from the driver sail.



The aft-most mast of a fore-and-aft or gaff-rigged vessel such as schooners, barquentines, and barques. A full-rigged ship has a spanker sail but not a spanker-mast. For more information see Jigger-mast.



A wooden pole, in later years also an iron or steel pole, used to support various pieces of rigging and sails. The big five-masted full-rigged tall ship Preussen (German spelling: Preu�en) had crossed 30 steel yards, but only one wooden spar - the little gaff of its spanker sail.


Special Rate

A rate other than the normal rate.


Specific Commodity Rate

A rate commonly applied to narrowly specified commodities. It is usually granted in the case of relatively large shipments.



Finely-divided water swept from the crest of waves by strong winds.



A large sail flown in front of the vessel while heading downwind.


Spinnaker pole

A spar used to help control a spinnaker or other headsail.



The act of joining lines (ropes, cables etc.) by unravelling their ends and intertwining them to form a continuous line. You can form an eye or a knot by splicing.


Split Shipment

In case of indirect delivery through consolidation and if split shipment conditions occur then each split part of the shipment will be delivered in a different consignment but all consignments are identified by the same unique original shipment ID.



A charter with acquired capacity split for use among several clients.


Spontaneous Ignition Temperature

The lowest temperature at which a substance will start burning spontaneously without an external source of ignition.



Placing a container where it is required to be loaded or unloaded.



A piece of equipment designed to lift containers by their corner castings.


Square meal

A sufficient quantity of food. Meals on board ship were served to the crew on a square wooden plate in the harbour or at sea in good weather.

Food in the Royal Navy was invariably better or at least in greater quantity than that available to the average landsman. However, while square wooden plates were indeed used on board ship, there is no established link between them and this particular term. The OED gives the earliest reference from the US in the mid-19th century.


Squared away

Yards held rigidly perpendicular to their masts and parallel to the deck. This was rarely the best trim of the yards for efficiency but made a pretty sight for inspections and in the harbour. The term is applied to situations and to people figuratively to mean that all difficulties have been resolved or that the person is performing well and is mentally and physically prepared.


Squat Effect

It is the phenomenon by which a vessel moving quickly through shallow water creates an area of lowered pressure under its keel that reduces the ship's buoyancy, particularly at the bow. The reduced buoyancy causes the ship to 'squat' lower in the water than would ordinarily be expected, and thus its effective draught is increased.



The force that holds a vessel upright or returns it to upright if keeled over. Weight in the lower hold is used to increase stability. A vessel is stiff if it has high stability or tender if it has low stability.

In a ship, stability is indicated by several characteristics. Initial stability is measured by the metacentric height; also known as 'GM.' If GM is low, the vessel makes long slow rolls, and is considered tender. When GM is too high, the vessel is considered stiff, and may return violently to the upright position when rolling, with possible damage to cargo and injury to passengers and crew.

Other stability considerations include the vessel's range of stability, maximum righting arm, and the angle of heel at which the maximum righting arm occurs.



An identifiable amount of containers stowed in an orderly way in one specified place on an (ocean) terminal, container freight station, container yard or depot.


Stack Car

An articulated five-platform rail car that allows containers to be doubled stacked. A typical stack car holds ten, 40-foot equivalent units (FEUs).



To pile boxes, bags, containers etc. on top of each other.



A vertical post near a deck's edge that supports life-lines. A timber fitted in between the frame heads on a wooden hull or a bracket on a steel vessel, approximately one metre high, to support the bulwark plank or plating and the rail.


Standard Industrial Classification

A standard numerical code used by the US government to classify products and services.


Standard International Trade Classification

A standard numeric code developed by the United Nations to classify commodities used in international trade, based on a hierarchy.


Standing Rigging

Rigging which is used to support masts and spars, and is not normally manipulated during normal operations; also known as 'running rigging'.



Towards the right-hand side of a vessel facing forward. Starboard is denoted with a green light at night. The term is derived from the old steering oar or steerboard which preceded the invention of the rudder.


Starboard tack

When sailing with the wind coming from the starboard side of the vessel. It has the right of way over boats on port tack.



A rope used as a punitive device. For more information see Teazer and Togey.


Statute of Limitation

A law limiting the time in which claims or suits may be instituted.



Rigging running fore (forestay) and aft (backstay) from a mast to the hull.



A sail whose luff is attached to a forestay.


Steamship Agent

A duly appointed and authorised representative in a specified territory acting on behalf of a steamship line or lines and attending to all matters relating to the vessels owned by his principals.


Steering oar or steering board

A long, flat board or oar that went from the stern to well underwater, and was used to steer vessels before the invention of the rudder. Traditionally this would sit on the starboard side of a ship (the 'steering board' side).



The extension of a keel at the forward end of a ship.



The rear part of a ship, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter to the taffrail.


Stern chaserStern Tube

The tube under the hull designed to bear the tailshaft for propulsion (usually at stern).



A propeller drive system, similar to the lower part of an outboard motor extending below the hull of a larger power boat or yacht, but driven by an engine mounted within the hull. Unlike a fixed propeller (but like an outboard), the boat may be steered by twisting the drive. For more information see inboard motor and outboard motor.



The words stevedore, docker, dock labourer and longshoreman can have various waterfront-related meanings concerning loading and unloading ships, according to place and country.

The word 'stevedore' originated in Spain or Portugal, and entered the English language through its use by sailors. It started as a phonetic spelling of Spanish estibador or Portuguese estivador = 'a man who stuffs', here in the sense of 'a man who loads ships', which was the original meaning of 'stevedore'; compare Latin st?p?re = 'to stuff'.

In the United Kingdom, men who load and unload ships are usually called dockers while in the United States and Canada the term longshoreman, derived from 'man-along-the-shore,' is used. Before extensive use of container ships and shore-based handling machinery in the US, longshoremen referred exclusively to the dockworkers, while stevedores, in a separate trade union, worked on the ships, operating ship's cranes and moving cargo.



A form of corporal punishment including a number of strikers or hits with a single rattan-made cane.


Stopper Knot

A knot tied in the end of a rope, usually to stop it passing through a hole; most commonly a figure-eight knot.



The logistics charge for the costs related to quay rent, charged on both the carrier's equipment or the shipper's equipment for containers staying on the ground idle. For more information see Demurrage, Detention, Per Diem.


Store-Door Delivery

The delivery of goods to a consignee's place of business or warehouse by motor vehicle. The term refers to a complete package of delivery services performed by a carrier from origin to final consumption point; whether that be a retail, wholesale or other final distribution facility.


Store-Door Pick-up

Picking up a container from a carrier, delivering it to a merchant and returning the empty container; the portion of store-door delivery performed by the carrier's trucker.



A marine term referring to loading freight into ships' holds.


Stowage Instructions

Imperative details about the way certain cargo is to be stowed, given by the shipper or his agent. For instance, a shipper can request 'Under Deck Stowage' for greater security for the cargo.


Stowage Plan

A plan indicating the locations on the vessel of all the consignments for the benefit of stevedores and vessel's officers.



An unwanted person who hides on board of a vessel or an aircraft to get free passage, to evade port officials.


Straddle Carrier

Mobile truck equipment with the capacity to lift a container within its own framework.


Straight (Consignment) Bill of Lading

A non-negotiable bill of lading which states a specific identity (Consignee) to whom the goods should be delivered.

For more information see Bill of Lading.


Straight Bill of Lading

A non-negotiable bill of lading which states a specific identity to whom the goods should be delivered.

As opposed to a 'Made to Order' BL.

For more information see Bill of Lading.



One of the overlapping boards in a clinker built hull.


Strikes, Riots, and Civil Commotions

An insurance clause referring to loss or damage directly caused by strikers, locked-out workmen, persons participating in labour disturbances, and riots of various kinds. The ordinary marine insurance policy does not cover this risk; coverage against it can be added only by endorsement.



The unloading of a container.



Long and narrow sails, used only in fine weather, on the outside of the large square sails.



The loading of a container.



To put in place of another, for example, when an insurance company pays a claim, it is placed in the same position as the payee with regard to any rights against others.


Sue & Labor Clause

A provision in marine insurance obligating the assured to do things necessary after a loss to prevent further loss and to act in the best interests of the insurer.



Suezmax is a naval architecture term for the largest ships capable of transiting the Suez Canal fully loaded, and is almost exclusively used in reference to tankers.

Since the canal has no locks, the only serious limiting factors are draft (maximum depth below waterline), and height due to the Suez Canal Bridge. The current channel depth of the canal allows for a maximum of 16 m (52.5 ft) of draft, meaning many fully laden supertankers are too deep to fit through, and either have to unload part of their cargo to other ships ('transhipment') or to a pipeline terminal before passing through, or alternatively avoid the Suez Canal and travel around Cape Agulhas instead.

The Suez Canal was deepened from 18m (60 ft) to 20.1 m (66 ft) in 2009, a suezmax vessel of up to 200,000 DWT or even more can easily pass through it. Also of note is the maximum head room�'air draft'�limitation of 68 m (223.1 ft), which is the height above water of the Suez Canal Bridge. There is also a width limitation of 70.1 m (230 ft), but only a handful of tankers exceed this size, and they are excluded from Suez by their draft in any case. The canal authority produces tables of width and acceptable draft, which are subject to change.


Sufferance Wharf

A wharf licensed and attended by Customs authorities.



An experienced person (officer) assigned by the charterer of a vessel to advise the management of the vessel and protect the interests of the charterer.



The amount charged to settle additional costs in ocean shipping (ex: CSC, BAF).


Surety Bond

A bond insuring against loss or damage or for the completion of obligations.


Surety Company

An insurance company.