Get familiar with the
shipping terminology


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Back haul

The return trip from a destination where you receive a lower hire rate for your ship, but ends up in a favourable area.



Materials solely carried to improve the trim and the stability of the vessel. In vessels usually water is carried as ballast in tanks, specially conceived for that purpose.


Bareboat 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.



A flat bottomed inland cargo vessel, with or without own propulsion, ideal for transporting goods on canals and rivers. Some cargoes might be discharged from a vessel onto barges if the vessel is unable to reach port e.g. due to restrictions.


Bill of Lading (B/L)

A document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company that moves freight between specified ports for a specified charge. This is usually prepared by the shipper on forms issued by the carrier, serving as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods.



Palletised packaged goods that are not containerised. To break bulk is to unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car.



A broker/shipbroker is a specialist intermediary/negotiator between shipowners and charterers who use ships to transport cargo, or between buyers and sellers of vessels.


Bulk cargo

Goods that are shipped loose – not in packages or containers (e.g. grain, coal, sulphur).



A maritime term referring to fuel used aboard the ship. Bunker fuel is technically any type of fuel oil used aboard ships. It gets its name from the containers on ships and in ports that it is stored in; in the days of steam they were coal bunkers but now they are bunker-fuel tanks.



Transport of goods between two places in the same country by a transporter from another country.



A vessel whose large size prevents it from entering the locks of the Panama Canal and thus forces it to pass around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.


Charter Party (CP)

A lawful agreement in terms of a written contract between a shipowner and a charterer for the hire of a vessel for either a voyage or period time.



The legal person who has signed a charter party with the owner of a vessel or an aircraft and thus hires or leases a vessel or an aircraft or a part of the capacity thereof.


Contract of Affreightment (COA)

An agreement made by an ocean carrier to provide cargo space on a vessel at a specified time and for a specified price to accommodate an exporter or importer.



Any commercial good that is shipped (coal, iron ores, soya beans, steel slabs etc.).


Deadweight tonnage (DWT)

Deadweight tonnage (also known as deadweight, abbreviated to DWT, D.W.T., d.w.t., or dwt) is a measure of how much weight a ship is carrying or can safely carry. It is the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers and crew. The term is often used to specify a ship’s maximum permissible deadweight, the DWT when the ship is fully loaded so that its plimsoll line is at the point of submersion. 


Demurrage is a charge to be paid by a shipper or consignee to the carrier as penalty for delaying the carrier’s cargo beyond the allowed free time as per agreed in the Charter Party.



A cargo handling area adjacent to the shoreline where a ship ties up.


Dry bulk cargo

Cargo that is not liquid and/or does not require temperature control.



Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator, the total carbon emissions in a given time period per unit of revenue tonne-miles. Variations in the index are mainly caused by three factors: the technical efficiency of the ship, the amount of cargo transported per unit of time, and variations in speed.



A gas produced by many fruits and vegetables that accelerates the ripening and aging process.


Front haul

The front trip to a destination where you receive a higher hire rate for your ship, but ends up in a less favourable area.



A “geared” vessel means that the ship is equipped with equipment with e.g. cranes for loading and off-loading of the cargo. A gearless vessel is a vessel without cranes.



A ship’s hold or cargo hold is a space for carrying cargo.



A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat.



A term used by steamship lines, agents, or port captains who are appointed to handle all matters in assisting the master of the vessel – while in port – to obtain such services as bunkering, fresh water, food and supplies, payroll for the crew, doctors’ appointments and ship repair.


Idle time

The amount of ineffective time whereby the available resources are not used e.g. a container in a yard.



International Maritime Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations which is responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent pollution from ships.





From the verb to lade; loaded aboard a vessel.



Laydays/Cancelling (date); range of dates within which the hire contract must start.



Length overall. The maximum length of a vessel’s hull measured parallel to the waterline. This length is important while docking the ship.



Letter of Indemnity. The guarantee from the shipper or consignee to indemnify a carrier for costs and/or loss, if any, in order to obtain favourable action by the carrier, e.g. sometimes, it is used to allow the consignee to take delivery of goods without surrendering the B/L which has been delayed or become lost. On export shipments, some carriers may permit shippers to issue Letters of Indemnity to the carriers in order to secure from them clean bills of lading in place of foul, however the risk is then high that the Letter of Indemnity is found unenforceable by a court.



Liquefied natural Gas. Natural gas will liquefy at a temperature of approximately -259 F or -160 C at atmospheric pressure. One cubic foot of liquefied gas will expand to approximately 600 cubic feet of gas at atmospheric pressure.



Marpol 73/78 is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978. (‘Marpol’ is short for marine pollution and 73/78 short for the years 1973 and 1978.) Marpol 73/78 is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions. It was designed to minimise pollution of the seas, including dumping, oil and exhaust pollution. Its stated object is: to preserve the marine environment through the complete elimination of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimisation of accidental discharge of such substances.


Master Bill

In case of consolidation, the Master Bill is the B/L of the carrier’s contract of carriage, split among House Bills, the consolidator’s contract of carriage with their clients.


Multi-purpose vessel

A vessel designed for the carriage of different types of cargo: general, bulk, heavy and/or containerised cargo.





Panamax size

‘Panamax ships’ are the largest ships that can pass through the Panama Canal. The size is limited by the dimensions of the lock chambers and the depth of the water in the canal.



Petrochemicals (also known as petroleum distillates; and sometimes abbreviated as petchems) are the chemical products obtained from petroleum by refining. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as maize, palm fruit or sugar cane. The two most common petrochemical classes are olefins (including ethylene and propylene) and aromatics (including benzene, toluene and xylene isomers).



The vessel’s navigator. An especially knowledgeable person qualified to navigate a vessel through difficult waters, e.g. harbour pilot etc.


Plimsoll line

A series of horizontal lines painted on the outside of a ship marking the level which must remain above the surface of the water for the vessel’s stability.


Pool agreement

An alliance of companies to share profit from joint (pooled) operations under a certain ratio formula. The shared use of, for example, equipment by a number of companies, which make together the investments in the equipment mentioned.





A device/system installed in the ship’s funnel to remove some particulates and/or gases from exhaust streams. From 1st of January 2020, ships are not allowed to burn HSFO, a fuel with high sulphur content, unless they had a scrubber installed.


Slow steaming

Slow steaming involves the operation of a vessel at speeds significantly below its maximum speed. The benefits of Slow Steaming include decreasing both fuel consumption (resulting in bunker costs reduction) and CO2 emissions (contributing towards environmental efficiency).



A stevedore (longshoreman, docker, or dockworker) is a waterfront manual labourer who is involved in loading and unloading ships, trucks, trains or airplanes.


Timecharter (T/C)

A time charter is a time-bound agreement, where the shipowner leases a vessel to a charterer for a fixed period of time, making them free to sail to any port and transport any cargo, subject to legal regulations.


The relationship of a ship’s hull to the waterline.



A small vessel designed to tow or push large ships or barges. Tugs have powerful diesel engines and are essential to docks and ports to manoeuvre large ships into their berths. Pusher tugs are also used to push enormous trains of barges on the rivers and inland waterways of the USA. Oceangoing salvage tugs provide assistance to ships in distress and engage in such work as towing drilling rigs and oil production platforms.



General cargo ships with two or sometimes three decks. The upper deck is called the main deck or weather deck, and the next lower deck is the tweendeck. Cargo such as bales, bags, or drums can be stacked in the tweendeck space, atop the tweendeck. Beneath the tweendeck is the hold space, used for general cargo. Cargo ships that have fittings to carry standard shipping containers and retractable tweendecks (that can be moved out of the way) so that the ship can carry bulk cargo are known as multipurpose vessels.



A privately owned shipping company with offices in 15 countries. Through eleven business units, we operate in five market segments: Oil, gas, dry bulk, coastal trades, and towage & offshore. We operate a fleet of gas and chemical carriers, tankers for crude oil and clean petroleum products, bulk carriers, feeder container ships, multipurpose vessels, harbor tugs, PSVs, AHTS, pusher tugs, barges and pilot boats.







Meet the Management Team and the Board of Directors.

Ultranav Group

Ultrabulk is part of the large and diversified shipping group Ultranav, which was founded in Chile in 1960 by Captain Albert von Appen. Ultranav now has offices in 15 countries.

Specialised services

Special cargo? We are specialists in tailor-made transportation and cargo handling solutions.

How we work

Our teams go beyond borders, so no matter where in the world you are, we are ready to assist on any marine transportation need you have.