• AMS The U.S. Customs “Automated Manifest System”
  • Automatic Identification System (AIS)

    It is a system used by ships and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) principally for the identification and the locating of vessels. AIS provides a means for ships to electronically exchange ship data including: identification, position, course, and speed, with other nearby ships and VTS stations.

  • B/L

    Abbreviation for “Bill of Lading”

  • BCO

    Abbreviation for "Beneficial Cargo Owner." Refers to the importer of record, who physically takes possession of cargo at destination and does not act as a third party in the movement of such goods.

  • Bill of Lading (B/L)

    A document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company. It serves as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods.

  • Blocked Trains

    Railcars grouped in a train by destination (hub) so that segments (blocks) can be uncoupled and routed to different destinations (hubs) as the train moves through various junctions. This Eliminates the need to break up a train and sort individual railcars at each junction.

  • 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 freight; 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.

  • Break Bulk Cargo
    • To unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car, container, trailer, or ship
    • Loose, non-containerized mark and count cargo
    • Packages cargo that is not containerized
  • Broker

    A person who arranges for transportation of loads for a percentage of the revenue from the load.

  • C-TPAT Customer Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary supply chain security partnership established by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in November 22200001. Meeting the C-TPAT standards allows cargo owners faster processing through customs formalities and inspections.
  • CFS

    Abbreviation for "Container Freight Station." CFS refers to a shipping dock where cargo is loaded ("stuffed") into or unloaded ("stripped") from containers. Generally, this involves less than container load shipments, although small shipments destined to same consignee are often consolidated. Container reloading from/to rail or motor carrier equipment is a typical activity. These facilities can be located in container yards, or off dock.

  • COFC

    Abbreviation for the Railway Service “Container On Flat Car.”

  • CY Abbreviation for:
    • Container yard
    • The designation for full container receipt/delivery.
  • Chassis

    A frame with wheels and container locking devices in order to secure the container for movement.

  • Consignor

    A person or company shown on the bill of lading as the shipper.

  • Container

    A truck trailer body that can be detached from the chassis for loading into a vessel, a rail car, or stacked in a container depot. Containers may be ventilated, insulated, refrigerated, flat rack, vehicle rack, open top, bulk liquid or equipped with interior devices. A container may be 20 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 48 feet, or 53 feet in length, 8”0” or 8’6” in width, and 8’6” or 9’6” in height.

  • Container Booking Arrangements with steamship line to transport containerized cargo.

  • Container Manifest

    Document showing contents and loading sequence, point of origin, and point of destination for a container. Vessels are required by law to carry such a document for each container carried.


  • Container Security Initiative (CSI)

    A U.S. cargo security program whereby containerized cargoes destined for the Unties Stated may be inspected on a selective basis at many foreign ports before loading on a vessel. As of October 2007, there were 51 approval ports. A multinational program, aligned with the President’s “strategy for Homeland Security”, that extended the United States’ zone of security by pre-screening containers that pose of potential security risk before they leave foreign ports for U.S. seaports.


  • Container Yard (CY)

    A materials-handling/storage facility used for completely unitized loads in containers and/or empty containers. Commonly referred to as CY.

  • Customhouse Broker

    A person or firm, licensed by the treasury department of their country when required, engaged in entering and clearing goods through Customs for a client (importer).

  • Customs Entry

    All countries require that the importer make a declaration on incoming foreign goods. The importer then normally pays a duty on the imported merchandise. The importer’s statement is compared against the carrier’s vessel manifest to ensure that all foreign goods are properly declared.

  • Demurrage

    A penalty charge against shippers or consignors for delaying he carrier’s equipment or vessel beyond the allowed free time. The free time and demurrage charges are set forth in the charter party or freight tariff.

  • Detention A penalty charge against shippers or consignees for delaying carrier’s equipment beyond allowed free time. Demurrage applies to cargo; detention applies to equipment.
  • Dock Receipt

    A form used to acknowledge receipt of cargo and often serves as basis for preparation of the ocean bill of lading.

  • Dockage Dockage is a charge assessed against a vessel for berthing at a wharf, pier, bulkhead structure or bank.
  • 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.

  • Drayage

    Charge made for local hauling by dray or truck. Same as Cartage.

  • Entry

    Customs documents required to clear an import shipment for entry into the general commerce of a country.

  • Equipment Interchange Receipt (EIR) A document transferring a container from one carrier to another, or to/from terminal.

  • FAK

    Abbreviation for “Freight All Kinds.” Usually refers to full container loads of mixed shipments.

  • FCL

    Abbreviation for “Full Container Load.”

  • FEU

    Abbreviation for “Forty-Foot Equivalent Units.” Refers to container size standard of 40 feet. Two 20-foot containers or TEU’s equal one FEU.

  • FMC (F.M.C.)

    Federal Maritime Commission. The U.S. Governmental regulatory body responsible for administering maritime affairs including the tariff system, freight forwarder licensing, enforcing the conditions of the Shipping Act and approving conference or other carries agreements.

  • First Available Date The First Available Date determines when a container becomes available for pickup after vessel discharge. The First Available Date is noted as FA.
  • Flat Rack/Flat Bed Container

    A container with no sides and frame members at the front or rear. Container can be loaded from the sides and top.

  • Free Alongside (FAS)

    The seller must deliver the goods to a pier and place them within reach of the ship’s loading equipment.

  • Free Time

    The amount of time that a carrier’s equipment may be used without incurring additional charges.

  • Freight Forwarder

    A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of the shipper. A freight forwarder frequently makes the booking reservation. In the United States, freight forwarders are now licensed by the FMC as “Ocean Intermediaries.”

  • General Order (G.O.)

    When U.S. Customs orders shipments without entries to be kept in their custody in a bonded warehouse.

  • General-Average

    In water transportation, the deliberate sacrifices of cargo to make the vessel safe for the remaining cargo. Those sharing in the spared cargo proportionately cover the loss.

  • Gross Weight

    Entire weight of goods, packaging and freight car or container, ready for shipment. Generally, 80,000 pounds maximum container, cargo, and tractor for highway transport.

  • Group Code Dispatch A code that can be used to identify containers with like attributes to assist with efficient delivery of containers from the CY stack area. Also known as Free Flow, Peel Away, Gray Box

    For more information about how to participate in the group code dispatch program, please contact Port of Virginia Customer Service
  • House-to-House

    Through transportation of a container and its contents from consignor to consignee.  Not necessarily a through rate. Also known as door to door or a door move.

  • House-to-Pier

    Cargo loaded into a container by the shipper under shipper’s supervision. When the cargo is exported, it is unloaded at the foreign pier destination.

  • I.M.D.G. Code

    International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. The regulations published by the IMO for transporting hazardous materials internationally.

  • I.T.

    Abbreviation for “Intermediate Transport.” The document (prepared by the carrier) allows shipments to proceed from the port of entry in the U.S. to Customs clearing at the destination. The shipment clears Customs at its final destination. Also called an “In-Transit” Entry.

  • In Bond

    Cargo moving under Customs control where duty has not yet been paid.

  • In-Transit Entry (I.T.)

    Allows foreign merchandise arriving at one port to be transported in bond to another port, where a superseding entry is filed.

  • Intercostal

    Water service between two coast; in the U.S., this usually refers to water service between the Atlantic and Pacific or Gulf Coasts.

  • Intermodal

    Used to denote movements of cargo containers interchangeably between transport modes, i.e., motor, rail, water, and air carriers, and where the equipment is compatible within the multiple systems.

  • LCL

    Abbreviation for “Less than Container Load.” The quantity of freight which is less than that required for the application of a container load tare. Loose freight.

  • Landbridge

    Movement of cargo by water from one country through the port of another country, thence using rail or truck, to an inland point in the country or to a third country. As example, a through movement of Asian cargo to Europe across North America.

  • Low Boy

    A trailer or semi-trailer with no sides and with the floor of the unit close to the ground.

  • MTSA

    The Maritime Transportation Act of 2002, is designed to protect ports and waterways from terrorists attacks. The law is the U.S. equivalent of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), and was fully implemented on July 1, 2004. It requires vessel and port facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans that may include passenger, vehicle, and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; establishing restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and/or installation of surveillance equipment.

  • NCB

    National Cargo Bureau, established in 1952 as a non-profit marine surveying organization that inspects and surveys ships and cargoes incidental to loading and discharging. It issues certificates as evidence of compliance with the provisions of the Dangerous Cargo Act and the Rules and Regulations for Bulk Grain Cargo.

  • NOS

    Abbreviation for “Not Otherwise Specified.”

  • Net Tare Weight

    The weight of an empty cargo-carrying piece of equipment plus any fixtures permanently attached.

  • Ocean Bill of Lading (Ocean B/L)

    A contact for transportation between a shipper and a carrier. It also evidences receipt of the cargo by the carriers. A bill of lading shows ownership of the cargo and, if made negotiable, can be bought, sold, or traded while the goods are in-transit.

  • Open Top Container

    A container fitted with a solid removable roof, or with a tarpaulin roof so the container can be loaded or unloaded from the top.

  • Out of Gauge Cargo (O.O.G.) O.O.G. cargo exceeds the internal dimensions of a container by length, width or height. Depending on its dimensions, O.O.G. cargo is loaded on an open top or flat rack container.
  • Owner Code - Container/Chassis

    Standard Carrier Abbreviation Code identifying an individual common carrier. A three letter carrier code followed by a suffix identifies the carrier’s equipment. A suffix of “U” is a container and “C” is a chassis.


  • Panamax Vessel

    The largest size vessel that can traverse the Panama Canal. Current maximum dimensions are: Length 294.1 meters (965 feet); width 32.3 meters (106 feet); draft 12.0 meters (39.5 feet); in tropical fresh water; height 59.91 meters (190 feet) above the water.

  • Phytosanitary Inspection Certificate (PHYTO)

    A certificate issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to satisfy import regulations of foreign countries; indicates that a U.S. shipment has been inspected and found free from harmful pests and plant diseases.


  • Pier-to-House

    A shipment loaded into a container at the pier or terminal, thence to the consignee’s facility.


  • Pier-to-Pier

    Containers loaded at port of loading and discharge at port of destination.

  • Rag Top

    A slang term for an open-top trailer or container with a tarpaulin cover.

  • Rail Ready Date The Rail Ready Date is the date a container meets all of the following three conditions: 1) A rail waybill has been submitted and received by VIT; 2) All Customs holds have been released; 3) All Line Holds have been released.

    Until these three conditions are met, a container will not be planned and loaded to a rail carrier. Normally, containers are placed in the loading queue in Rail Ready Date order. Containers with an earlier Rail Ready Date are considered first, regardless of the vessel discharge date or last free day. 

  • Ro/Ro

    A shortening of the term, "Roll On/Roll Off." A method of ocean cargo service using a vessel with ramps which allows wheeled vehicles to be loaded and discharged without cranes. Also refers to any specialized vessel designed to carry Ro/Ro cargo.

  • SOLAS The SOLAS Convention (Safety of Lives at Sea) is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The main objective of the SOLAS Convention is to specify minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, compatible with their safety. Recently, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to require, as a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship for export, that the container has a verified weight. (Also known as verified gross mass (VGM)). This requirement is effective July1, 2016
  • Side Loader

    A lift truck fitted with lifting attachments operating to one side for handling containers.

  • Stripping

    Removing cargo from a container (devanning).

  • Stuffing

    Putting cargo into a container.

  • TOFC

    Abbreviations for “trailer on Flat Car.” The movement of a highway trailer on a railroad flatcar. Also known as Piggyback.

  • Tare Weight

    In railcar or container shipments, the weight of the empty railcar or empty container.

  • Third Party Logistics (3PL)

    A company that provides logistics services to other companies for some or all of their logistics needs. It typically includes warehousing and transporting services. Most 3PL’s also have freight forwarding licenses.

  • Waybill

    A document prepared by a transportation line at the point of a shipment; shows the point of the origin, destination, route, consignor, consignee, description of shipment and amount charged for the transportation service. It is forwarded with the shipment or sent by mail to the agent at the transfer point or waybill destination. Abbreviation is WB. Unlike a bill of lading, a waybill is NOT a document of title.

  • Wharfage

    Wharfage is a charge for use of the wharves, pier or bulkheads by all cargo passing or conveyed over, onto, or under wharves or between vessels when berthed at wharf or when moored in slip adjacent to wharf. Cargo placed in piers or at shipside or on the apron shall be considered to have earned wharfage which will be collected whether or not the cargo eventually is loaded aboard vessel.

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