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Shipping Glossary

ISF filing:
Actual Gross Weight

The sum of the container weight plus the payload contained in it.

Actual Payload

Maximum allowable weight of payload (actual weight minus tare weight).

Actual Weight

Gross shipping weight.

Box Pallet

A pallet with at least three fixed, removable, or collapsible vertical sides.

Break Bulk

Cargo transported not in a container. It may be in loose packages or in loose form, such as machinery.

Break Bulk Cargo

See break bulk.

Cargo Seal

The metal device inserted into the handle assembly on the door of the container to prevent or to detect entry. The seal has a number that is recorded. In addition, this number is often noted on the bill of lading. The sophistication of seals can range from a simple, numbered plastic tag - called an entry seal and used on an empty container - to an electronic seal that immediately indicates through global electronic positioning technology when and where it has been broken.

Cargo Tonnage

The weight ton in the United States is the short ton, 2,000 pounds, or the long ton, 2,240 pounds. In British countries it is the English long ton, or gross ton, of 2,240 pounds. In France and other countries having the metric system, the weight ton is 2,204.62 pounds. The measurement ton is usually 40 cubic feet, but in some instances a larger number of cubic feet is taken as a weight ton. Most ocean freight is taken at weight or measurement (W/M), ship's option.

Cargo Weight

The weight of the cargo. Cargo weight plus tare weight equals gross weight.

Carrying Temperature

A narrow, prescribed range of temperatures in a container during transit that maintains the ideal temperature in the product and protects the product from harm. This information is displayed on a label attached to the container.


A wheeled carriage onto which a container is mounted for over-the-road conveyance. More specifically, it is a skeletal frame, semi-trailer which is equipped with license, lights, reflectors, brakes, etc., to meet the legal operating codes and requirements of the jurisdictions within which it operates. This unit has locking devices that secure the container to the frame. In the case of container yard operations, it is a skeletal trailer, generally without a license for use on the public roads, for moving containers within a yard.

Also, the part of a motor vehicle that includes, the frame, suspension system, wheels, steering mechanism etc., but not the engine or the body.


When used in an intermodal industry context, this refers to a steel or aluminum box into which goods or a commodity are packed for shipment.

Container Contamination

A container is considered contaminated when residue of previous cargo cannot be cleaned by normal sweeping or by normal steam cleaning. The remedy may then be:

  • Structural repair
  • Removal of contaminated floor boards
  • Partial or full refurbishment
  • Chemical cleaning
  • Fumigating
  • Decontamination or
  • Deodorizing.
Container Damage

Defined by one or more physical defects on a container that affects the cargo carrying capabilities of the unit. This could have been caused by a single or a series of events, such as impact, abrasion, or contamination. Damaged containers are inspected and repaired to the ICII standards.

Container Load

A load sufficient in size to fill a container either by cubic measurement or by weight.

Container Load Plan

A list and a graphic picture of the inside of a container showing where and how the cargo is stowed and the loading sequence.

Containerizable Cargo

Cargo that will fit into a container and result in an economical shipment consistent with delivery requirements.

Controlled Atmosphere

A term used in reference to a refrigerated container to indicate it is a type that permits the temperature within the container to be controlled. The reason that this is important is so a gas such as nitrogen can be maintained in a stable condition within the container. Nitrogen reduces the spoilage rate of fruits and vegetables.

Corner Post

A vertical structural member at each of the four corners of a container. These are made onto a square unit by top and bottom horizontal posts. The vertical and horizontal members are connected at the corner castings, thereby forming an end frame or corner structure.

Cubic Capacity

Has two meanings: (1) the carrying capacity of a container in terms of cubic measurement; and (2) the cubic space available for the stowage of cargo.

Cubic Feet per Minute

Unit of measurement for the movement of a volume of gas or liquid per unit of time.

Cubic Foot

A measurement of 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches or 1,728 cubic inches.

Cubic Meter

A measurement of 1 meter by 1 meter by 1 meter. Abbreviated: CBMCM


Dry 20-foot container.


Dry 40-foot container.

Deadweight Tonnage

The number of long tons (see ton) of cargo, stores, water, and fuel a vessel can transport. Relative to cargo, the weights for stores, water, and fuel are not significant. You can use DWT as a quick reference for the cargo carrying capacity of a ship.

Deadweight Cargo

Cargo of such a nature that one long ton is stowed in less than 70 cubic feet. dry cargo When used in a tariff, this means cargo other than liquid cargo or cargo requiring temperature control.

Dry Cargo

When used in a tariff, this means cargo other than liquid cargo or cargo requiring temperature control.


Material used in stowing or bracing cargo to prevent movement.


Abbreviation for the International Standards Organization designated "Forty-Foot Equivalent Unit."

Flat Rack

See flat rack container.

Flat Rack Container

A special container for cargo too long or wide for standard containers.

Floor Loading

Static weight of cargo and the dynamic force of handling equipment, such as a forklift, for a particular container

Forklift Pockets

Openings in the sides of containers for the insertion of forks by a forklift.

Forklift Truck

A three or four wheeled mechanical unit with forks at the front designed for lifting, carrying, and stowing cargo, pallets, or containers.

Forty-foot Equivalent unit

Abbreviated FEU. Refers to container size standard of 40 feet. 1 40-foot container equals 2 TEU. This equivalency standard was set by the ISO.

Full Container Load

A container loaded, completely or almost, to its maximum weight limit or cubic content.


One U.S. gallon equals 231 cubic inches or 0.1337 cubic feet.


Generator used to supply power to a refrigerated container.


Garment on hangar. Indicates a container that has been converted from a dry box to a garment container.


On a drop-frame chassis, the gooseneck is the upper level at the front of the chassis together with the structure connecting it to the lower level behind it. The gooseneck on the chassis structure fits into the gooseneck tunnel recess of containers built with this feature. This provides the securing and stability for the container at the front. The rear of the container is secured with the normal twistlock assembly.

Gooseneck Tunnel

The recess in the front portion of a container understructure into which the gooseneck structure of a chassis fits.

Gross Ton

2,240 pounds. See short ton.

Gross Tonnage

This is not a measurement of weight as we traditionally think of it. It is a measurement of the amount of vessel space: a ton is 100 cubic feet. A ship's gross tonnage is all the cubic feet in its enclosed spaces: cargo holds, engine room, and deck house divided by 100. See net tonnage.

Gross Weight

As a measurement, gross means the item you are evaluating consists of the overall total exclusive of deductions. When, for example, referring to an in-gate operation this is the total weight of the equipment - such as tractor, including fuel and driver - and chassis and cargo. But, if you were referring to the gross weight of the container only, this would be a combination of the container tare weight plus the cargo weight.


Removing the container from the stack train and putting it on a chassis.

Half Height Container

An open top container, sometimes fitted with removable covers, that is 4'3''/1.30m high.

High Cube

A container that exceeds 8 feet 6 inches in height.

In Transit

In passage.

Inflatable Dunnage

Flexible bags usually made from vinyl material; can be inflated within the void spaces of a stow to prevent movement of the cargo.

Insulated Container

A container insulated on the walls, roof, floor and doors, to reduce the effect of external temperatures on the cargo.

International Standards Organization

An organization founded in the late 1940's and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Through the participation of its members, it establishes many world standards; for example, ISO 9002 as a business practice. In the intermodal area, the ISO is best known for establishing in the mid 1960's the standard for the size of a container, including all its components, such as the specifications for the corner casting. This reversed the situation where, by the time there were 20,000 containers worldwide in 1965, there were 11 different sizes. The resulting uniformity coordinated and established by the ISO permitted the evolution from containerization to intermodalism.


See International Standards Organization.

Known Damage

Damage discovered before or at the time of delivery of a shipment.

Known Loss

A loss discovered before or at the time of delivery of a shipment.


Kilo or metric ton. Equals 2,204.6 pounds.


Means the same as "loaded (aboard a vessel)."


To hold goods in position by the use of securing devices such as wire rope, lines, chains and straps.

Lashing Fitting

A cargo securing device in the floor fixed to the interior side panels of a container that provide for the lashing or securing of cargo.

Lashing Point

See lashing fitting.

Lashing Rod

A stout metal rod used in on-deck container stowage that secures containers to the deck. It ties a container corner casting to a fitting on the deck or on the lashing bridge. Used in conjunction with the interbox connector, this stabilizes the stacks on deck. This is necessary to compensate for the effects of ship movement in the open sea.


To load a vehicle or container. The freight in a vehicle or container. A container filled with freight that is moved from the customer-designated origin to the customer-designated destination. To load a program into a computer after the program has been translated into machine code. Any procedure for getting a computer or other device ready to operate by providing that device with the magnetic tape or disks that it needs to function.

Long Ton

2,240 pounds. See also ton.


Abbreviations for: A meter, or 39.37 inches.



Maximum Cube

A level of cube utilization that closely approximates the stated cubic capacity of a container.

Maximum Gross Weight

Weight of a container and its payload.

Maximum Payload

Maximum cargo that can be loaded into a container either by weight or volume.


1,000 board feet. 1 MBM equals 2,265 C.M.


1 meter equals 39.37 inches. Also spelled metre.


An alternative spelling of meter.

Metric Ton

2,204.6 pounds; or 40 cubic feet - used in water transportation rate-making. The same as a measurement ton. Also see ton.



min. wt.

Minimum Weight.

Modified Atmosphere

Abbreviated MAMOS. A blend of gases tailored to a specific load of cargo that replaces the normal atmosphere within a container.


Measurement ton. See metric ton.

Net Short Ton

2,000 pounds.

Net Tare Weight

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

Net Ton

Metric ton.

Net Tonnage

Net tonnage measures volume of airspace. Like deadweight tonnage, it is used to rate a ship's cargo carrying capacity.

To determine NT, the cubic footage of all non-cargo spaces - crew accommodations, machinery and navigation areas, the engine room, and the fuel and water tanks - are measured. This measurement is divided by 100 to convert it to net tons. This figure is then subtracted from the gross tonnage figure. The result is net tons of cargo carrying capacity in cubic measure. See also gross tonnage.

Net Weight

When referring to goods, this is the weight of the product exclusive of all packaging.


Front of the container.


Net ton.

Obnoxious Cargo

Cargo that can by its nature contaminate its container, the vessel, or other cargo, for example: hides or fish meal.

Open Top

See open top container.

Open Top Container

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

Optimum Cube

The highest level of cube utilization that can be achieved when loading cargo into an ocean-freight container.

Overheight Cargo

Cargo extending above the height of an open top container.


Standard size platform on which packages can be stacked and then unitized - for example, with bands or plastic wrap for easy movement by a forklift truck. See pallet wrapping machine. Europe, the 1,200mm by 1,000mm pallet is in general use. The U.K. equivalent is 48 inches by 40 inches. Growing in popularity is the 48 inch by 48 inch pallet.

Palletized Cargo

Individual items of cargo loaded on a pallet.


General, this is the revenue-producing or useful load a means of transportation can carry. Translated to intermodal language, it is a container's maximum permitted cargo weight, not including cargo securing devices and dunnage.


Refrigerated container, equipment or cargo.

Reefer Cargo

Industry language for the term "refrigerated cargo," which cargo requiring temperature control. See refrigeration.

Reefer Container

Industry language for the term "refrigerated container."

Refrigerated Container

See refrigeration.


In its simplest terms, refrigeration is simply the removal of heat from one medium to another by use of inert gas. In the case of refrigerated containers, it is removal of heat from inside the box - the cargo and surrounding air - to outside the box. The inert gas most commonly used is named R-12.

Relative Humidity

A percentage of the amount of moisture in air relative to saturated air at the same temperature.




Metal strip and lead fastener used for locking freight car or container doors. Seals are numbered for recording purposes. A seal is generally affixed after Customs exams have been completed, and prior to the container being loaded on the first conveyance. See cargo seal.

Set point temperature

The point, or points, at which the thermostat in a refrigerated container is set, that will maintain the ideal pulp temperature in the product.


A notation on the transport document, known as a bill of lading in the case of ocean carriage, stating the temperature at which the cargo must be maintained. This term is most commonly used in relation to a refrigerated container. Also known as air delivery temperature.

Setting/air delivery temperature

See setting.

Short ton

Abbreviated ST. 2,000 pounds. See also ton.


Refers to planks placed under a box, crate or piece of machinery to enable the piece to be easily handled by a mechanical lifting device. Battens, or a series of parallel runners, fitted beneath boxes or packages to raise them clear of the floor to permit easy access of forklift blades or other handling equipment.

Skip Sheet

A flat piece of cardboard that replaces a pallet.

Special Commodities

Highly perishable commodities that require special handling to arrive at their destination in optimum condition. Some examples are fish, meat, photographic film, fruit, and some candies.

Special Container

A container designed to carry overheight (open-top container), overwidth (flat rack container) or liquid (tank container) cargo.


Containers stowed more than one high and in a orderly way in one place in a Container Yard, CFS, depot, or on a vessel.

Standard Ton

Same as short ton. See also ton.


The placing and securing of cargo or containers on a vessel or on an aircraft. This also includes placing and securing cargo in a container.

Stow Plan

A diagrammatic picture of the vessel's cargo hatches showing the location of cargo or containers.


A marine term referring to loading freight into ships' holds.

Stowage Factor

The ratio of a cargo's cubic measurement to its weight, expressed in cubic feet to the ton or in cubic metres to the tonne. It is an expression of the total quantity of cargo which can be loaded in a space.

Stowage Instructions

Details given by the shipper or his agent about the way cargo is to be stowed.

Stowage Plan

See stow plan.


To load a container.


Loading cargo into a container. Also known as vanning.

Superimposed Load

The static and dynamic load forces imposed downward externally and vertically on the structure of a container.

Tank Container

A specially constructed container for transporting liquids and gases in bulk.

Tare Weight

The weight of equipment that is empty, that is, not carrying cargo. For example, an empty FEU of steel construction weighs between 6,000 to 8,380 pounds/2,860 to 3,800 kilograms. See also cargo weight and gross weight


Waterproof fabric used for covering the top of an open top container.

Temperature Recorder

A waterproof device to permanently record the inside temperature of operating refrigerated containers. The device may be computerized, mechanical, or both. The chart onto which the information is inscribed mechanically is called the Partlow chart. Mr. Partlow was the inventor.


Abbreviation for the International Standards Organization designated "Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit".


A weight allowance made to reconcile weight variations of certain commodities.


A measurement of weight: . A short ton, used for rough calculations, is 2,000 pounds. This "abbreviated" ton is used in cargo operations, particularly when working with break bulk cargo. It useful for doing mental quick calculations. . A long ton, also known as gross ton, used for more precise calculations, is 2,240 pounds. The genesis of the long ton goes back to the 13th century, when merchant ships carried large cargoes of wine in giant casks, which were called "tuns." The number of tuns a ship could carry was a rough gauge of her capacity. By the 15th century, England had established a standard for the wine-filled tun: a capacity of 250 gallons, which converted to 2,240 pounds. In the 17th century, long after wine ceased to be a major cargo, usage brought about the modern spelling of ton.

A measurement of cubic volume

Measurement ton is 40 cubic feet. Cargo can be taken at either weight or cubic volume.


This term is used in various contexts in the maritime industry to describe:

  • The cubic capacity of a vessel
  • The displacement of a vessel in tons of water
  • The total weight of the cargo or
  • A fee charged per ton of cargo at a port, pier, dock or canal.

Another way to spell the word ton.

Twenty-foot equivalent unit

Abbreviated TEU. Refers to container size standard of 20 feet. 2 20-foot containers equal 1 FEU. This equivalency standard was set by the ISO.

Two-way Pallet

A pallet so designed that the forks of a fork lift truck can be inserted from 2 sides only.

Unit Load

Packages loaded on a pallet in a crate or any other way that enables them to be handled at one time as a unit.


Loading 1 or more large items of cargo onto a single piece of equipment, such as a pallet. The consolidation of a quantity of individual items into 1 large shipping unit for easier handling.


To consolidate several packages into 1 unit; to strap, band, or otherwise attach the several packages together.

Unitized Cargo

See unitize.

Unitized Load

A number of cartons or other pieces of cargo that are loaded onto a container as a single unit, typically either on a platform called a pallet, or a slipsheet. This type of handling fa ciliates handling by a load truck.


Unloading a container.


See stuffing.


A tonne of one thousand kilogrammes. See also ton.

Weight Cargo

A cargo on which the transportation charge is assessed on the basis of weight.

Weight Limits

Once a container loaded with cargo has been put on a chassis and this unit has been attached to a tractor, there is another consideration: the limitations of the weight-bearing capacity of the road system between the beginning and end of the over-the-road segment. In the U.S., these limitations are called "bridge laws," as they are usually based on the weight that can be supported by a bridge.

Weights and Measures

Measurement ton = 40 cubic ft. Net ton, or short ton = 2,000 lbs. Gross ton/long ton = 2,240 lbs. Metric ton/kilo ton = 2,204.6 lbs. Cubic meter = 35.314 cubic ft.

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