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Important Shipping Terms International Shippers Should Know

As we all know, shipping industry deals with a lot of technical jargon; no matter if you are an average Joe or intelligent Sam, it’s likely to get baffled by this super-perplexing terms. Knowing what exactly each shipping term implies has become paramount while transporting goods abroad. Shipping from one place to another within the same country or location nearby itself is a complicated process, but it gets even more complex during transportation between several countries. If you have ever happened to visit shipping websites or transportation logistics companies in Romania for sending goods to another location, you might have come across a number of norms that need to be adhered to help keep goods safe before handing over to the end user at the delivery destination on time. Hence, having a clear idea about shipping terms will come handy, in fact not just for shippers but also helps all parties involved in the process of haulage. More importantly, understanding the frequently used shipping terms help prevent any misinterpretations and hence saves time too. To remove all ambiguities regarding the terms commonly used in shipping and logistics industry, we have tried to include a few of the significant ones as follows: 

Glossary of Shipping Terms Commonly Used 

Here is a compilation of shipping terms and what they represent, for your quick reference. Let’s break it down.   

Abnormal Load 

A cargo that is extremely larger than usual, heavy or oversized that it is difficult to get transported securely in a standard or ordinary container. It is sometimes also referred to as ‘exceptional cargo’.  

Air Waybill (AWB) 

The Air waybill is essentially a document issued by the air carrier upon receipt of goods after clearing customs formalities. It serves as the proof for the contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier and is sent along with the goods to allow tracking status in real-time while the consignment is with the air carrier.  

Bill of Lading (BoL or BL or B/L) 

An inevitable legal document in shipping issued by the carrier company upon receipt of the cargo for transportation. A contract of carriage, the bill of lading constitutes the information regarding shipments. With a bill of lading number, tracking the progress of shipment can be made easier. The BoL accompanies the goods shipped and it must be signed by the shipper, the receiver and the authorized person from the carrier company.

Bulk Cargo 

A cargo that is loosely shipped in a carrier rather than enclosed in a container or package. They are usually transported in bulk quantities and hence referred to as bulk cargo. If it can be stowed in a container without packing, the item comes under bulk cargo category. The common examples of bulk cargo are oil, ore, coal and grain. 

Change of Destination (COD) 

COD is requested when you want to change the destination asking the container ship to deliver the goods to another destination other than the destination already specified at the start of the journey.  


Cargo used in shipping denotes the goods that are being transported through land, sea and air.  

Cargo Manifest 

It is a list of cargo shipped, containing the details of transport such as document numbers, description and quantity of goods, information about the sender and the receiver of cargo. 


Carrier is the shipping service provider who transports the merchandises on behalf of the sender and takes responsibility of the loss or damage of goods in its transit.  

Certificate of Origin (CO) 

It is an international trade document that certifies the country of origin of the goods that’s being shipped. When signed and stamped by the certifying authority, it becomes valid and it is helpful in minimising the expenses in terms of import duties to be paid in certain countries. 

Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) 

It relates to the payment to be met by the seller pertaining to the cost, insurance and freight of the goods being ordered by the buyer. Before the goods are loaded fully into the transport container, it is the responsibility of the seller to pay all the costs associated including any damage or loss to the goods under consideration. However, once the goods get loaded, it will become the duty of the buyer to make payments towards all costs.  

Clean Bill of Lading 

A receipt made after the inspection of goods by the carrier which gives a clean declaration that the goods arrived without any damage or loss. It is issued by the carrier of goods after inspecting the goods completely, not just for any damage but also for any missing quantities or deterioration in quality.  

Delivered at Place (DAP) 

It gives the seller the responsibility of transporting goods to the destination while the duty of unloading the goods lies with the buyer.  

Delivered at Terminal (DAT) 

DAT implies that the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the delivery destination along with the unloading of goods prior to its collection by the buyer. 

Dock Receipt 

This is receipt issued by the carrier who declares that the shipment has arrived at the facility. It confirms that the shipment has arrived at the prescribed place on time. Also, serves as the proof for transfer of responsibility of cargo from the sender to the carrier. 

Excise Duty 

It is an indirect tax levied by government on certain goods such as tobacco products, alcohol, energy drinks. Excise duty included in the price of goods moved inside EU. 

Export License 

Some goods before they get shipped internationally demands an export license issues by government. However, lion’s share of the goods transported from UK do not need export license, with some items being exempted from this, such as animals, plants, medicines and artworks.  

Free Trade Zone 

A geographic area where non-prohibited goods are manufactured, re-configured, stored, handled and re-exported in strict adherence with the customs regulations but not subjected to customs duty. The Free Trade Zone helps trading goods at cost-effective rates and is generally seen in developing countries as a great step in enhancing their economies. 


Freight refers to the goods or produce that are transported in bulk for generating income or profit and include all modes of transport- by land, sea or air. 

Freight Forwarder 

A business engaged in the dispatch of goods for shippers/exporters/sellers for a fee to a market or final point of distribution. Freight forwarders help meet most of the needs in regard to export shipment, for instance in documentation and organizing for warehousing, shipping and delivery. 

Free Alongside (FAS) 

A term frequently used in export trade where the seller has to arrange for the delivery next to a particular vessel ready for transferring the shipment for the buyer.  FAS is not generally used lately, however it is ideal for shipments of heavy equipment, machinery which are transferred by the buyer.  

Full Container Load Shipment (FCL) 

A container that is used only a single shipper where it is put to use for exclusive transportation of a particular shipper’s cargo. Usually, the cargo occupies the size of a container. It is an ocean shipment and is set by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). 


Sometimes smaller shipments that do not make up to fill an entire container are grouped together towards a single destination for affordable shipping. Groupage is all about combining cargo from more than one shipper in a single shipping container. Once the goods arrive at the intended destination, it is unloaded by each recipient/buyer. Groupage is also referred to as consolidation.  

Half Height Container/ Offshore Container 

They have an open top and as the name denotes, half the height of standard, regular containers. Used to load heavy and bulk cargo, these containers come with slings and shackles. Also designed to support stacking for optimal utilisation of available space. 

High Cube 

A container that is 9 feet featuring 6 inches height, usually a foot higher than the regular 8 feet and 6 inches container. 

Import Duty 

A duty/tax levied by customs on the arrival of goods in the destination country and is calculated as a percentage of the value of goods shipped. 

Import License 

Sometimes items imported require a license and the requirement varies with the countries and it is always the responsibility of the importer to verify if an import license is needed. 

Import Quota 

It is the quantity of goods that is imported at a lower rate of duty than the usual rates. It is applicable only for certain goods from specific countries only.  

Incoterms- International Commercial Terms 

In trade, it is evident that the goods have to be moved from their point of origin to the point of consumption. It is to be negotiated between the parties involved and hence they need to speak the same trading language for easy understanding before agreeing to the contracts. Incoterms is the abbreviation of ‘International Commercial Terms’ and the terms included are given and published by International Chamber of Commerce. These terms are developed to communicate the costs, risks and the tasks pertaining to the transportation and delivery of merchandises.  

Kerbside Delivery 

A delivery made as nearest to the address provided is often referred to as Kerbside delivery. The truck with the goods is parked at the recipient’s premises and the responsibility of unloading the goods lies with the recipient.  

Less Than Container Load Shipment (LCL) 

If a shipment does not fill 20 feet or 40 feet regular shipping container, it becomes LCL. In such case, the container gets filled with goods from other shippers and later the goods get separated at the final delivery destination.  


A manifest or cargo document or customs manifest provides the lists of cargo, passengers and crew of a vehicle, ship or aircraft for the use of customs officials. It is listed as per the BoL.  

Master Bill of Lading 

A document prepared for ship owner or carrier furnishing a summary of shipping contents and also a description of the freight under each bill of lading. 

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) 

It is in other words, a chemical safety data sheet used by chemical manufacturers and importers providing information on the physical and chemical properties of materials and its possible health hazards on the user. Often in European countries, it is referred to as Safety Technology/Data Sheet (Safety Data Sheet). The International Standardisation Organisation uses SDS terminology and in countries like US, Canada, Australia and some countries in Asia use the term MSDS. 

Notify Party 

The party of company to be notified when the ship arrives at the delivery destination and is always indicated on the Bill of Lading (BoL). 

Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) 

It is an ocean a carrier organises and arrange shipments for firms and individuals under their own BoL or any equivalent documentation but without owning or operating their own vessels. 

Out-of-Guage (OOG) 

When goods are large and bulky and exceeds the dimensions of a shipping container, or if it is dangerous to load into a standard container, it is often termed as OOG. Depending on the country to which it is transported, OOG transportation should follow the rules and regulations applicable. 


It is used to describe ships that are on a ship but indeed not included in the Manifest. Infact, such goods arrive at the port unexpectedly for delivery and has to be included in the shipment. 

Packing List 

A document prepared by the shipper, listing the types and quantities of goods in the container. Generally, it includes the dimensions and weight of the goods shipped. A copy of the packing list is sent to the receiver/buyer of goods to help check if all the goods are present while the shipment gets delivered at the intended destination.  


It is a structural foundation where unit load of goods are transported and stored. Goods for shipment are placed on the pallet and fastened with straps, stretch wrap or shrink wrap prior to its loading into the container. Pallets are made from different materials such as wood, plastic and metals. Depending on the shipment to be sent, the selection on the types of pallets is made.  


It is the maximum weight of the cargo including the padding material that can be loaded into the container.  


Certain countries give limits on the amount of goods to be imported and the importer has to be aware of this limit which is termed as quotas. If quota exceeds, it attracts additional duty.  

Reefer Container 

Temperature controlled transportation is often required for goods that cannot withstand the changes in climate conditions. For such perishable items like food, flowers, refrigerated containers are used for shipping which features temperature below 15-degree Celsius. 


Certain vessels capable of accommodating wheeled or self-propelled cargo, for example, cars, truck, trailers, semi-trailer trucks through a loading ramp to help these goods into it.  


The most commonly used and least technical of all shipping terms, shipment refers to quantity of goods transported via sea.  


The person, or manufacturer or company responsible for sending goods. Also, referred to as a consignor.  

Shipping Cost Per Unit 

The cost incurred on shipping on a unit of cargo and is calculated by dividing the total cost of shipping by the total units of goods shipped. 


It is that goods or container that have been entered on the Manifest but are not loaded to the destination port. 

Spot freight rates 

Sport freight rates are arrived at on the basis of supply and demand for trucks in the present time and are usually for one-time, for inconsistent load volumes toward specific destinations. The shipper purchases the trucking capacity from the spot market and pays the spot rate. Spot rates are influenced by external factors and hence it is subjected to fluctuations every day.  


Tare or Tare weight (Unladen weight) is the weight of an empty vehicle or shipping container. The weight of the goods can be determined by subtracting the tare weight from the gross weight. 

TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) 

TEU is often attributed to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals. 

UCR (Unique Consignment Reference) 

A unique number which is assigned to identify a particular shipment on its way. The UCR number is used by ports, shipping company and authorities.  

Ventilated Container 

A container used for transporting goods for protecting it from condensation. The ventilation systems in the transporting containers’ wall prevents the moisture build-up. 


Wharfage is a charge for covering the cost for handling goods arrived or left a port. This charge is collected by the port and paid by importer/ buyer. 


A weighbridge is a set of scale mounted on a concrete foundation to weigh trucks and its contents. Container weight is calculated by deducting the tare weight from the total weight.  

Final Words 

Knowing the most frequently used shipping terms would always help parties to the shipping process, shippers, carriers as well as importers. Be it at the time of shipment getting ready for dispatch or at the time of delivery, it can avoid any last-minute hassles. 

If you are waiting to get your shipment for export or sending goods across Europe, you can send enquiry with the details of pick-up and delivery location alongside the weight of shipment to be transported at Ianis Cargo. The top freight and logistics services in Romania supported by state-of the art technology alongside experience gained through the decades, focuses on helping customers avail shipping services at low prices while enjoying the benefits of delivery on time with absolute security of the cargo-in-transit and many more.  

Find solutions for all your shipping concerns at logistics service providers in Romania- Ianis Cargo. Being able to focus on customer requirements alongside incorporating safe and sophisticated technology makes Ianis Cargo the most sought after among Romania logistics companies.  

Post your comments if there is any clarification required. Let our logistics experts team assist you in finding solutions for your queries.

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