Crux Systems Insights

Container shipping industry terms and jargon

August 1, 2017 by Hubert Yee |


Container shipping is a vast and dynamic industry. However, there is a basic set of terminology that the container shipping industry is built upon. Understanding the jargon is a great start for working within the container shipping industry, and helpful when you're working with our team to locate your containers.

Here’s our terminology cheat sheet:

Beneficial cargo owner - the importer of record who takes possession of the cargo at its destination. 

Location where a vessel is tethered for loading or unloading.

Bill of lading
Contract that establishes the terms of agreement between a shipper of goods and a transportation company.

Person who arranges the transportation of cargo.

Business that moves cargo from one point to another.

Steel or aluminum box that stows cargo. A typical container is 20 feet long.

Container vessel
Ship that transports containers.

Container terminal
Where containers are moved between ships and intermodal transport for the next leg of their journey. 

Government location where fees, documents, and questions are managed for cargo.

Customs broker
Licensed entity handling the movement and clearance of goods through customs for an importer.

Fees charged to cargo owners or transporters for cargo left too long at a terminal. 

Detention (also called per diem)

Fees charged by steamship lines to cargo owners for containers that have been kept too long before being returned to the terminal.  

Transportation of goods over a short distance, such as from a port to a distribution center. 

Electronic data interchange (EDI)
General term for standardized transfer of data between different computer systems. 

Freight forwarder
Business that arranges the transportation of goods for a shipper, including handling documentation, dealing with customs, and securing cargo space.

A point of transportation convergence, where goods move from one transportation line to another and into another territory.

Harbor dues (also known as port dues)
Charges levied by a port to maintain equipment, infrastructure, and operational systems.

In bond
Any type of cargo handled by customs control where duty has not yet been paid.

Inland carrier
Business that moves cargo between ports and land destinations.

Movement of containers between transportation modes, such as ship, truck, and rail.

Last free day
The last day before demurage and/or detention fees are charged. Varies between terminals and steamship lines, but typically is about 4-5 days. 

Ship regularly sailing between specific ports on the same delivery routes.

Nonvessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC)
Reseller of ocean or intermodal carrier space. The reseller typically handles all documentation and fees but does not own the mode of transportation.

Person or business assigned to transport cargo from the place of discharge of by a vessel to another location.

Port of registry
Registered location and nationality of a ship.

Refrigerated container for transporting cargo.

Transfer of containers from one vessel to another.

Supply chain
The production and movement of goods from initialization to delivery.

When containers are relayed from one vessel to another to reach their final discharge destination.

Twenty-foot equivalent unit - the standard sized shipping container.

Terminal charge
Fees levied at a terminal for the management of cargo, and typically cover the inspection, reception, and movement of goods.

The time it takes to move a container through a terminal.

Turnaround time
The time between a ship's arrival at a terminal and its departure.

Vessel manifest
A document listing all ship crew members and cargo, location of departure and arrival, and bills of lading.

A secure location that stores goods for reception and distribution.

A receipt of contract by a shipping line for shippers to confirm the movement of cargo.

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