Glossary of Shipping Terms
AAOSA- Always afloat or safe aground. The condition for a vessel whilst in port. Also NAABSA
Not always afloat but safely aground.
ABLE BODIED SEAMAN - A member of the deck crew who is able to perform all the duties of an
experienced seamen; certificated by examination; must have three years sea service. Also called
Able Seamen and A.B.
ABS -American Bureau of Shipping: A U.S.-based private classification,or standards setting
society for merchant ships and other marine systems.
Accommodation unit - Fitted with cabins and catering facilities for offshore crews.
Semisubmersible accommodation units are ofte called "Flotels".
ADDENDUM- Additional terms at the end of a charter party.
ADMEASUREMENT- The confirmed or official dimensions of a ship.
AFT -In, near, or toward the stern of the vessel.
AGENCY FEE- A fee charged to the ship by the ship's agent, representing payment for services
while the ship was in port. Sometimes called attendance fee.
AHT (Anchor-handling tug) - Moves anchors and tow drilling vessels, lighters and similar.
AHTS (Anchor-handling Tug/Supply) - Combined supply and anchor-handling ship. Seismic ship:
Conducts seismic surveys to map geological structures beneath the sea bed.
AID -Agency for International Development.
ALLISION- The act if striking or collision of a moving vessel against a stationary object.
AID - Agency for International Development
AIMS - American Institute of Merchant Shipping.
AMC -American Maritime Congress.
API -American Petroleum Institute.
AWO -American Waterway Operators. The national trade association for the barge and towing
industry and the shipyards employed in the repair and construction of these craft.
AMIDSHIPS - Generally speaking the word amidships means in the middle portion of a vessel.
ARBITRATION- Method of settling disputes which is usually binding on parties. A clause usually
in a charter party.
BACKFREIGHT- The owners of a ship are entitled to payment as freight for merchandise
returned through the fault of either the consignees or the consignors. Such payment, which is
over and above the normal freight, is called backfreight.
BACKHAUL- A deviation to move cargo on the return leg of a voyage for the purpose of
minimizing ballast mileage and thereby reducing transportation costs.
BACKLETTER- Where a seller/shipper issues a 'letter of indemnity' in favour of the carrier in
exchange for a clean bill of lading. May have only a limited value. Example: P & I problems.
BAF- Bunker adjustment factor
BAGGED CARGO- Various kinds of commodities usually packed in sacks or in bags, such as
sugar, cement, milk powder, onion, grain, flour, etc.
BALE CAPACITY- Cubic capacity of a vessels holds to carry packaged dry cargo such as
BALLAST - Heavy substances loaded by a vessel to improve stability, trimming, sea-keeping and
to increase the immersion at the propeller. Sea water ballast is commonly' loaded in most vessels
in ballast tanks, positioned in compartments right at the bottom and in some cases on the sides,
called wing tanks. On a tanker, ballast is seawater that is taken into the cargo tanks to submerge
the vessel to a proper trim.
BALLAST BONUS- Compensation for relatively long ballast voyage
BALLAST MOVEMENT- A voyage or voyage leg made without any paying cargo in a vessel's
tanks. To maintain proper stability, trim, or draft, sea water is usually carried during such
BALLAST TANK- Compartments at the bottom of a ship or on the sides which are filled with
liquids for stability and to make the ship seaworthy. Any shipboard tank or compartment on a
tanker normally used for carrying salt water ballast. When these compartments or tanks are not
connected with the cargo system they are called segregated ballast tanks or systems.
BARE BOAT CHARTER- A charter in which the bare ship is chartered without crew; the
charterer, for a stipulated sum taking over the vessel for a stated period of time, with a minimum
of restrictions; the charterer appoints the master and the crew and pays all running expenses.
See Demise Charter.
BAREBOAT CHARTER- Vessel contract where charterers take over all responsibility for the
operation of the vessel and expenses for a certain period of time.
BARGE -Flat-bottomed boat designed to carry cargo on inland waterways,usually without engines
or crew accommodations. Barges can be lashed together and either pushed or pulled by tugs,
carrying cargo of 60,000 tons or more. Small barges for carrying cargo between ship and shore
are known as lighters.
BARGE ABOARD CATAMARAN - A way of loading cargo into large barges and then in turn
loading the barges into a ship.
BARGE CARRIERS- Ships designed to carry either barges or containers exclusively, or some
variable number of barges and containers simultaneously. Currently this class includes two types
of vessels, the LASH and the SEABEE.
BBB- Before breaking bulk. Refers to freight payments that must be received before discharge of
a vessel commences.
B/d-Barrels per day (measure of petroleum production).
BEAM -The width of a ship. Also called breadth.
BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP- Designates the owner who receives the benefits or profits from the
BERTH CARGO- When a liner cargo vessel accepts extra cargo to fill up the empty space
BERTH C/P- Term used in a voyage charter party, e.g. vessel shall proceed to Berth 2 at
BILL OF LADING- A document by which the Master of a ship acknowledges having received in
good order and condition (or the reverse) certain specified goods consigned to him by some
particular shipper, and binds himself to deliver them in similar condition, unless the perils of the
sea, fire or enemies prevent him, to the consignees of the shippers at the point of destination on
their paying him the stipulated freight. A bill of lading specifies the name of the master, the port
and destination of the ship, the goo4s, the consignee, and the rate of freight.
B/L - Bill of Lading
BLACK CARGO- Cargo banned by general cargo workers for some reason. This ban could be
because the cargo is dangerous or hazardous to health.
BLACK GANG - A slang expression referring to the personnel in the engine department aboard
BLS - Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.