General Shipping Definition


Aframax A tanker of such size as to take commercial advantage under worldscale (generally, tankers 80 000 – 119 000 dwt).
Aft At or towards the stern or rear of a ship.


Ballast Seawater taken into a vessel’s ballast tanks in order to submerge the vessel to maintain proper stability, trim or draft.
Bareboat charter Where the charterer hires a ship without crew and the charterer takes responsibility for the ship maintenance, crewing and insurance as though the vessel was owned (similar to a lease).
Bill of Lading A record of agreement between the Shipper and the Shipping Line regarding the transport of goods from one port to another.
BIMCO Baltic and International Maritime Council information and support service located in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Bow The forward most part of a vessel.
Breakbulk Dry, loose cargo that is handled individually eg. pallets of drummed chemicals or bales of wool.
Break-bulk vessel General, multipurpose, cargo ship that carries cargoes of non-uniform sizes, often on pallets, resulting in labor-intensive loading and unloading. Also loosely known as “multi-purpose” vessels.
Bulk cargo Unpacked homogenous cargo transported in large volumes eg. grain or coal.
Bulk carrier Ship designed to carry dry, loose cargoes in bulk. Also known as a “Bulker”.
Bunkers A maritime term referring to a ship’s fuel.


Capesize bulk carrier Bulk carrier between 130 000 and 180 000 dwt.
Charter Hiring out of a ship by a ship-owners.
Charterer Hirer of a ship.
Charterparty Contract of agreement to hire a ship.
Chemical tanker A tanker, usually not larger than 40 000 dwt, designed to carry numerous bulk liquid chemical products in specially-coated or stainless-steel cargo tanks.
Conference An affiliation of ship-owners operating over the same route(s) who agree to charge uniform rates and other terms of carriage.
Container ship Ship designed to carry containerised cargo.


Deadweight or DWT The greatest weight of cargo, stores and all other consumables on the ship that a ship can carry, expressed in metric tonnes.
Demurrage The sum which has been fixed in a charter party for delay to a ship.
Draft The depth of a ship in the water. This distance is measured from the bottom of the ship to the surface of the water..


FEU (Forty foot Equivalent Unit) Refers to container size standard of forty feet. Two twenty-foot containers or TEU’s equal one FEU.
Flat rack container A container with no sides and frame members at the front and rear.
Forward Toward the bow of the ship.


Handysize bulk carrier Bulk carrier between 22 000 and 38 000 dwt.


IMO The United Nations International Maritime Organisation


Liner Ships that move along regular routes at scheduled rates and specific times.


Off-hire or downtime When a ship is temporarily out of operation with a loss of agreed charter hire as a result of dry-docking, breakdown etc.
Officer Senior members of a ship’s crew, qualified by examination, training and experience who are authorised and responsible in terms of STCW for bridge or engine room watch keeping, or command, of a ship and generally for its safe management.
Operator The holder of a freight contract with a cargo shipper.


Panamax bulk carrier Bulk carrier between 60 000 and 75 000 dwt with a beam not exceeding the Panama Canal limit of 32.2 metres.
Port The left side of a vessel looking forward toward the bow.
Products tanker A tanker designed to carry refined petroleum products in bulk. Modern examples are often also able to carry a limited range of so-called “easy” chemicals. Not normally larger than 50 000 dwt.


Rating Junior members of a ship’s crew, subordinate to the Officers, qualified by training and experience, responsible in terms of STCW for deck, engine room and catering tasks on board ship.
Reefer An insulated container designed to carry cargoes requiring refrigeration. It’s fitted with a refigeration unit which is connected to the carrying ship’s electrical power supply.
Reefer ship Refrigerated vessel fitted with refrigerated holds, used to transport frozen meat, fish and other cargo products requiring refrigeration.
Ro-Ro Abbreviation for Roll on / Roll off. A vessel with ramps, which allows vehicles and wheeled cargo to be loaded and discharged without cranes.


SAMSA South African Maritime Safety Authority
Ship’s agent A person or firm who transacts all business in a port on behalf of ship-owners or charterers.
Shipping pool An organised group of ship owners and / or charterers who have pooled their fleets to more efficiently cover the market, and where profits and losses are shared.
Starboard The right side of a vessel looking forward toward the bow.
STCW Standards for Training and Certification of Watch keepers – the IMO uniform standard governing seafarers’ qualifications.
Stern The back (aftermost) part of a vessel.
Suezmax A tanker of the maximum size capable of transit of the Suez Canal (Approximately 150 000 – 200 000 dwt).
Surveyor A duly qualified person who examines ships to ascertain their condition, on behalf of owners, classification societies, underwriters, maritime authorities, etc.


Tank container A tank for liquid cargo fitted into a TEU container frame.
Technical management Collectively the maintenance, crewing, storing and insurance management functions of a ship or fleet.
TEU (Twenty foot Equivalent Unit) The standard length of a container and the unit used to express the container carrying capacity of a ship.
Time charter Where the charterer hires a ship, which is crewed, maintained and ready for operation for an agreed fee and for an agreed period.
Tramp ship Ships which move from port to port in search of cargo. Tramps carry bulk cargoes such as coal, grain and fertiliser. Most bulk carriers operate as tramps.


ULCC Ultra Large Crude Carrier with a deadweight above 300 000 dwt.


VLCC Very Large Crude Carrier with a deadweight between 160 000 – 320 000 dwt.
Voyage charter Ship chartered for a single voyage.


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