Glossary of Port and Shipping Terms


LASH - Abbreviation for “lighter aboard ship.” A spe- cially constructed vessel equipped with an over- head traveling gantry crane for lifting specially designed barges out of the water and stowing them into the cellular holds of the vessel (load- ing) and unstowing (unloading) as well.

Loaded draught (or draft) - Depth of water to which a ship is immersed when fully loaded.

Landlord port - An institutional structure where the port authority or other relevant public agency retains ownership of the port land and responsibility for port planning and development, as well as the maintenance of basic port infrastructure and aids to navigation.

Lender’s direct agreement - Agreement between parties to a concession or BOT agreement (government or port authority and special purpose vehicle [SPV] or terminal operator) and the lenders (usually banks or a con- sortium of banks) setting out the rights and obli- gations of the lenders in relation to the govern- ment or port authority regarding the facilitation of the financing of a port project. The lender’s direct agreement is used in the event of a pro- posed termination of the concession agreement to induce the lenders to provide the debt to the SPV or operator under the financing documents. These rights and obligations usually comprise assign- ment rights with respect to the concession and the site lease agreement, priority rights with respect to of repayment of the debt, and step-in rights in case of termination as a result of breach of con- tract by the SPV or operator.

Lighter - An open or covered barge towed or pushed by a tugboat or a pusher tug and used primarily in harbors and on inland waterways to carry cargo to or from the port.

Limited recourse financing - Project financing in which sponsors or govern- ments agree to provide contingent financial support to give lenders extra comfort; typically provided during the construction and start-up period of a project, which is generally the riskiest time in the life of an infrastructure project.

Line haul - The movement of freight over the tracks of a transportation line from one location (port or city) to another.

Liner - A vessel sailing between specified ports on a regular basis.

Lloyds’ Registry - An organization engaged in the surveying and classing of ships so that insurance underwriters and others may know the quality and condition of the vessels involved.

Longshoreman (or docker, port worker, or dock worker) - Individual employed locally in a port to load and unload ships.

Lo-lo (lift-on lift-off) - Cargo handling method by which vessels are loaded or unloaded by either ship or shore cranes.

Malacca-max - Maximum size of container and bulk vessels (in terms of draught) that can cross the Malacca Straits. The Malacca-max reference is believed to be today the absolute maximum possible size for future container vessels (approximately 18,000 TEU).

Main port - A large multipurpose port serving a number of countries and regions.

Management contract - An arrangement whereby the operation and management of a facility is contracted by the public authority to a specialized operator for a specified period and under specified conditions relating to performance criteria, economic incentives, and maintenance and infrastructure commitments. The public authority retains ownership of the facility and the commercial risk associated with its operation.

Mezzanine financing - A mix of financing instruments, including equi- ty, subordinated debt, completion guarantees, and bridge financing, the balance of which changes as the risk profile of a project changes (that is, as a project moves beyond construction into operation).

Mixed cargo - Two or more products carried on board one ship.

Mobile crane - General purpose crane capable of moving on its own wheels from one part of a port to another.

Moor - To attach a ship to the shore by ropes.

Neobulk cargo - Non-, or economically not feasible, containeriz- able cargo such as timber, steel, and vehicles.

Nonrecourse financing - Project financing for which no loan guarantees or financial support is provided by the sponsors or governments to lenders for the project.

Nonvessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) - A cargo consolidator in ocean trades who buys space from a carrier and resells it to smaller shippers. The NVOCC issues bills of lading, publishes tariffs, and otherwise conducts itself as an ocean common carrier, except that it does not provide the actual ocean or intermodal service.

On-carrier - Person or company who contracts to transport cargo from the port or place of discharge of a sea-going or ocean-going ship to another desti- nation by a different means of transport, such as a feeder vessel, truck, train, or barge.

Optional cargo - Cargo that is destined for one of the ship’s dis- charge ports, the exact one not being known when the goods are loaded.

Overcarriage - The carriage of cargo beyond the port for which it was intended.

Pallet - A flat tray, generally made of wood, but occasionally steel or other materials, on which goods can be stacked. There are two principal sizes: the ISO pallet, which meas- ures 1 x 1.2 meters, and the europallet at 0.8 x 1.2 meters.

Panamax - Maximum beam that allows vessels to pass through the locks of the Panama Canal (specifi- cally used for dry bulk and container vessels).

Permanent dunnage - Strips of timber fixed to the frames of a ship to keep cargo away from the sides of the ship to avoid damage and condensation.

Pilferage - Stealing of cargo.

Pilotage - The act of assisting the master of a ship in navi- gation when entering or leaving a port or in confined water.

Pilotage dues - Fee payable by the owner or operator of a ship for the services of a pilot; the fee is normally based on the ship’s tonnage, draft, or length.

Platform (or flat) - A shipping container without sides, ends, or a roof. Normally 20 or 40 feet long, it is used for awkwardly shaped cargo that cannot fit on or in any other type of container.

Plimsoll mark/load lines - A series of horizontal lines and a circle with a horizontal line painted amidships of both sides of the hull of a ship marking the level that must remain above the surface of the water for the vessel’s stability.

Pontoon - Flat-bottomed floating structure with a shallow draught.

Pooling - Sharing of cargo or the profit or loss from freight by member lines of a liner conference.

Port dues (or harbor dues) - Charges levied against a shipowner or ship operator by a port authority for the use of a port (see also harbor dues).

Port of refuge - Port, not on a ship’s itinerary, which the ship calls at due to some unforeseen hazard at sea and where the ship may undergo repairs, refuel, or rescue cargo.

Port of registry - Place where a ship is registered with the authorities, thereby establishing its nationality.

Preentry - Presentation to the customs authorities of export or import declarations prior to the clear- ance of goods.

Project financing - Financing wherein the lender looks to a project’s cash flows to repay the principal and interest on debt, and to a project’s assets for security; also known as “structured financing” because it requires structuring the debt and equity such that a project’s cash flows are adequate to service the debt.

Rail-mounted gantry (RMG) or rail- mounted container gantry crane - Rail-mounted gantry crane used for container acceptance, delivery, and stacking operations in a container yard.

Reefer - Refrigerated container or vessel designed to transport refrigerated or frozen cargo.

Relay - To transfer containers from one ship to another. 

Ro/ro - A shortening of the term “roll-on roll-off.” Ro/ro is a cargo handling method whereby ves- sels are loaded via one or more ramps that are lowered on the quay.

Rubber-tired gantry (RTG) or rubber - tired container gantry crane - Gantry crane on rubber tires typically used for acceptance, delivery, and container stacking at a container yard.

Shed (also see warehouse) - Covered area for the reception, delivery, consol- idation, distribution, and storage of cargo.

Note: A warehouse usually points at longer term storage, whereas a shed usually is used for shorter term storage.

Ship chandler - An individual or company selling equipment and supplies for ships.

Ship’s tackle - All rigging and so forth used on a ship to load or unload cargo.

Side loader - A lift truck fitted with lifting attachments oper- ating to one side for handling containers.

Spotting - Placing a container where required to be loaded or unloaded.

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

Stackcar - An articulated multiple platform rail car that allows containers to be double stacked.

Stacktrain - A rail service whereby rail cars carry containers stacked two high on specially operated unit trains.

Stevedore - Individual or firm that employs longshoremen (or dockers, dock workers, or port workers) to load and unload vessels.

Stevedoring charges - Fees for loading and stowing or unloading a ship.

Sto-ro - A vessel with capacity for breakbulk cargo as well as vehicles or trailer borne cargo.

Stowage factor - The average cubic space occupied by one ton weight of cargo as stowed aboard a ship.

Straddle carrier - Type of equipment that picks up and transports containers between its legs for movement within a container terminal.

Stripping (unstuffing) - Unloading of a container.

Supply chain - A logistics management system that integrates the sequence of activities from delivery of raw materials to the manufacturer through to the delivery of the finished product to the customer in measurable components.

Tare weight - The weight of wrapping or packing; added to the net weight of cargo to determine its gross weight.

Terminal charge - A charge made for a service performed in a ter- minal area typically referring to handling asso- ciated with receipt, delivery, or inspection of cargo via land-based operations.

Throughput charge - The charge for moving a container through a container yard off of or onto a ship.

Top off - To fill a ship that is already partly loaded with cargo. Typically occurs where there is a draught restriction at the first load port—the ship loads a quantity of cargo corresponding to the per- missive draught, then fills up at the second port where there is no restriction.

Top stow cargo - Goods that are stowed on top of all others in a ship’s hold because of their relatively low densi- ty and the probability that they would be dam- aged if overstowed.

Toplifter - Forklift truck capable of lifting a container by means of its spreader.

Towage - Charges for the services of tugs assisting a ship or other vessels in ports.

Tramp line - An ocean carrier company operating vessels on other than regular routes and schedules.

Transshipment - A distribution method whereby containers or cargo are transferred from one vessel to another to reach their final destination, compared to a direct service from the load port of origin to the discharge port of destination. This method is often used to gain better vessel utilization and thereby economies of scale by consolidating cargo onto larger vessels while transiting in the direction of main trade routes.

Transshipment port - A port where cargo is transferred from one car- rier to another or from one vessel of a carrier to another vessel of the same carrier without the cargo leaving the port.

Turnaround time - The time it takes between the arrival of a vessel and its departure from port; frequently used as a measure of port efficiency.

Twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) - Container size standard of twenty feet. Two twenty-foot containers (TEUs) equal one FEU. Container vessel capacity and port throughput capacity are frequently referred to in TEUs.

Unitization - The consolidation of a quantity of individual items into one large shipping unit for easier and faster handling through methods such as pal- letizing, stripping, slinging and containerization.

Unloader - Port equipment employed to unload ships carry- ing dry bulk cargo. (Note: Small movable and hoistable unloaders are sometimes referred to as “vacuvators.”)

Unmoor - To remove the ropes that attach a ship to the shore.

Unstuffing (or stripping) - Unloading of a container.

Variable cost - Costs that vary directly with the level of activity within a short time. Examples include costs of moving cargo inland on trains or trucks, stevedor- ing in some ports, and short-term equipment leases.

Vessel manifest - Declarations made by international ocean carri- ers relating to the ship’s crew and contents at both the port of departure and arrival. All bills of lading are registered on the manifest.

Vessel traffic management system - Vessel control and management system (VTMS) usually under the authority of the harbormas- ter, comprising equipment (such as radars, tracking software, and radio communications), personnel (traffic operators), and regulations. Most larger maritime ports have relatively advanced vessel traffic management systems for maritime safety, protection of the environment, and coordination of marine services.

Warehouse (see also shed) - Covered area for the reception, delivery, consol- idation, distribution, and storage of cargo.

Note: A warehouse usually points at longer term storage, whereas a shed usually is used for shorter term storage.

Waybill - Document, issued by a shipping line to a ship- per, which serves as a receipt for the goods and evidence of the contract of carriage.

Wharf - Structure built alongside the water or perpendi- cular to the shore where ships berth for loading or discharging goods.

Wharfage - The charge that an owner of a facility (terminal or port) charges for the movement of cargo through that facility.

Sources: Brodie, Peter. Dictionary of Shipping Terms, Third Edition, 1997, and Sullivan, Eric, The Main Encyclopedic Dictionary, Fifth Edition, 1996.