Shipping Glossary – A Short List Every Importer Should Know

There are many shipping terms in logistics industry, while a lot of them you don’t need to understand. These essential logistics terminologies have been carefully selected which has a good chance you can encounter when sourcing & importing and shipping from China.

shipping glossary

Whether a beginner or pro, in the line of e-commerce and import-export business, you need to have a good grasp of the jargon used in the industry. Keep reading to learn the glossary used in the logistics and transportation industry.

AAR – Against All Risks (insurance clause).
Aboard – Referring to cargo being put, or laden, onto a means of conveyance.
Act of God – An act beyond human control, such as lightning, flood or earthquake.
Advice of Shipment – A notice sent to a local or foreign buyer advising that shipment has gone forward and containing details of packing, routing, etc. A copy of the invoice is often enclosed and, if desired, a copy of the bill of lading.
Agent – Booking agent, handling agent, shipping agent
Aggregate Shipment – Numerous shipments from different shippers to one consignee that are consolidated and treated as a single consignment.
Air Waybill – The forwarding agreement or carrying agreement between shipper and air carrier and is issued only in nonnegotiable form. Find more about China air freight.
All In – The total price to move shipment from origin to destination, inclusive of all charges.
Arrival Notice – A notification by carrier of ship’s arrival to the consignee, the ‘Notify Party’ of the Bill of Lading.
B/L – Abbreviation for Bill of Lading.
Bonded Warehouse – A warehouse authorized by Customs authorities for storage of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods are removed.
Booking – Arrangements with a carrier for the acceptance and carriage of cargo; i.e., a space reservation.
Booking Number – Reservation number used to secure equipment and act as a control number prior to completion of a B/L.
C&F (Terms of Sale, or INCOTERMS) – Obsolete, although heavily used, term of sale meaning cargo and freight whereby Seller pays for cost of goods and shipping charges up to destination port.Also known as CFR.
Cargo – Freight loaded into a ship.
Carrier – Any person or entity who, in a contract of carriage, undertakes to perform or to procure the performance of carriage by rail, road, sea, air, inland waterway or by a combination of such modes.
CBM (CM) – Abbreviation for Cubic Meter.
CO (Certificate of Origin) – A certified document showing the origin of goods; used in international commerce. Find more about China CO samples.
CIF (Named Port) – Abbreviation for Cost, Insurance, Freight (Named Port) Same as C&F or CFR except seller also provides insurance to named destination.
Clean Bill of Lading – A receipt for goods issued by a carrier with an indication that the goods were received in apparent good order and condition, without damage or other irregularities. If no notation or exception is made, the B/L is assumed to be cleaned.
Commercial Invoice – Represents a complete record of the transaction between exporter and importer with regard to the goods sold. Also reports the content of the shipment and serves as the basis for all other documents relating to the shipment. Find more about shipping documents.
Commodity – Article shipped. For dangerous and hazardous products, the correct commodity identification is critical.
Consignee – A person or company to whom commodities are shipped.
Consolidation – Cargo containing shipments of two or more shippers or suppliers. Containerload shipments may be consolidated for one or more consignees, often in containerload quantities.
Container Booking – Arrangements with a steamship line to transport containerized products.
CNTR NO. – Container number
Cut Off Time – The latest time cargo may be delivered to a terminal for loading to a scheduled train or ship.
Demurrage – A penalty charge against shippers or consignees for delaying the carrier’s equipment or vessel beyond the allowed free time. The free time and demurrage charges are set forth in the charter party or scheduled tariff.
Detention – A penalty charge against shippers or consignees for delaying carrier’s equipment beyond allowed time. Demurrage applies to cargo; detention applies to equipment.
Door to Door – Through transportation of a container and its contents from consignor to consignee. Also known as House to House. Not necessarily a through rate.
Entry – Customs documents required to clear an import shipment for entry into the general commerce of a country.
ETA – Estimated time of arrival
ETD – Estimated time of departure
Export Declaration – A government document declaring designated goods to be shipped out of the country.
EXW – An Incoterm of sale meaning the seller delivers to the buyer at seller’s named premises.
FCL – Full container load
FOB (Free on Board) – Shipped under a rate that includes costs of delivery to and the loading onto a carrier at a specified point.
Free Trade Zone – A port designated by the government of a country for duty-free entry of any non-prohibited goods. Merchandise may be stored, displayed, used for manufacturing, etc., within the zone and reexported without duties.
Freight – Refers to either the cargo carried or the charges assessed for carriage of the cargo.
Freight Forwarder – A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of the shipper. A forwarding company frequently makes the booking reservation.
Gross Weight – Entire weight of goods, packaging and freight car or container, ready for shipment.
Landed Cost – The total cost of a good to a buyer, including the cost of transportation.
Lead Time – This important metric in basic logistics terminology signifies the time passed from when an order is made to when it is delivered. Precise lead time estimation is essential for effectively managing customer expectations, optimizing inventory levels, and coordinating various supply chain activities.
Marine Insurance – Broadly, insurance covering 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.
Marking – Letters, numbers, and other symbols placed on shipment packages to facilitate identification. Also known as marks.
Measurement Cargo – Freight on which transportation charges are calculated on the basis of volume measurement, also known as dimensional weight.
Metric Ton – 2,204.6 pounds or 1,000 kilograms.
Net Weight – Weight of the goods alone without any immediate wrappings, e.g., the weight of the contents of a tin can without the weight of the can.
Ocean B/L – A contract for transportation between a shipper and a carrier. It also evidences receipt of the cargo by the carrier. A B/L shows ownership of the cargo and, if made negotiable, can be bought, sold or traded while the goods are in transit.
Original Bill of Lading (OBL) – A document which requires proper signatures for consummating carriage of contract. Must be marked as ‘original’ by the issuing carrier.
Packing List – Itemized list of commodities with marks/numbers but no cost values indicated.
Pallet – A platform with or without sides, on which a number of packages or pieces may be loaded to facilitate handling by a lift truck.
Port of Discharge – Port where container is discharged from means of transport.
Port of Loading – Port where container is loading to means of transport.
Shipment – The tender of one lot of cargo at one time from one shipper to one consignee on one B/L.
Shipper – The person or company who is usually the supplier or owner of commodities shipped. Also called Consignor.
Shipping – Includes the detailed processes of moving goods from one place to another. It necessitates thorough planning, secure packaging, accurate documentation, and compliance with both domestic and international regulations.
Supply Chain – Refers to the interconnected system of businesses, institutions, and processes involved in creating, acquiring, modifying, and distributing products and services. It incorporates several entities and functions into a unified operating system, beginning with the extraction of raw materials and ending with the delivery of finished goods.
Terminal – An assigned area in which containers are prepared for loading into a vessel, train, truck, or airplane or are stacked immediately after discharge from the vessel, train, truck, or airplane.
TEU – Twenty feet Equivalent Unit, learn more about China sea freight.
Transportation – Moving items from one place to another via road, rail, air, and sea. Several factors and variables, including the kind of cargo, the distance to be covered, and the costs, affect the final decision of which transportation you choose.
UN Number – An internationally accepted 4-digit number used to identify hazardous material.
Warehousing – A safe place to temporarily store items before they can be shipped. These facilities can vary in size – they can be as small as a single locker or as massive as a whole center. Warehouses play an important role for efficient distribution and management of stock.
W.M. (W/M) – Abbreviation for Weight or Measurement; the basis for assessing freight charges. The rate charged under W/M will be whichever produces the highest revenue between the weight of the shipment and the measure of the shipment. The comparison is based on the number of metric tons the goods weight compared to the number of cubic meters of space the goods measure.

Logistics involves many different parties working together – suppliers, manufacturers, carriers, and customers, to name a few. Understanding logistics terms helps in creating backup plans and putting strategies in place to reduce risks. This ability to bounce back is crucial in today’s constantly changing and uncertain business world.

Using common terminology makes sure that everyone speaks the same language. It reduces confusion, and misunderstandings, and allows for clear and effective communication across the supply chain.

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