Glossary Of Maritime Terms

This glossary of maritime terms is offered as an aid to better understanding what is meant by those who make their living from ports and ships.

CABLE SHIP – a specially constructed ship for the laying and repairing of telegraph and telephone cables across channels, seas, lakes, and oceans.

CABOTAGE – The carriage of goods or passengers for remuneration taken on at one point and discharged at another point within the territory of the same country.

CABOTAGE POLICIES – Reservation of a country’s coastal (domestic) shipping for its own flag vessels.

CAPESIZE – a term used to describe a ship, usually a dry or wet bulker, that is too large to transit the canals and as a consequence must travel via the ‘capes’, ie Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.

CARGO HANDLING – The act of loading and discharging a cargo ship.

CARGO PLAN – A plan giving the quantities and description of the various grades carried in the ship’s cargo tanks, after the loading is completed.

CARGO PREFERENCE – Reserving a portion of a nation’s imports and exports to national-flag vessels.

CARRIERS – Owners or operators of vessels providing transportation to shippers. The term is also sometimes used to refer to the vessels, i.e. ore carriers.

CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRY – A document specifying the nation registry of the vessel.

CHANDLER – a person who deals in the selling of provisions, dried stores, etc.

CHARTER – Hiring out of a ship by a shipowner.

CHARTERER – The person who has chartered the ship for a specified period of time.

CHARTER RATES – The tariff applied for chartering tonnage in a particular trade.

CHARTER PARTY – A contractual agreement between a ship owner and a cargo owner, usually arranged by a broker, whereby a ship is chartered (hired) either for one voyage or a period of time.

CHEMICAL TANKER – Ship specially designed for the transport of chemicals.

CHIEF ENGINEER – The senior engineer officer responsible for the satisfactory working and upkeep of the main and auxiliary machinery and boiler plant on board ship.

CHIEF MATE – The officer in the deck department next in rank to the master; second in command of a ship.


CLASSIFICATION SOCIETY – Private organisations that undertake inspections and provide advise on the hull and machinery of a ship, also supervise ships during their construction and afterwards in respect to their seaworthiness. Ships are then referred to as being ‘in class’. Although not compulsory, an unclassed ship will find it difficult to attract insurance.

CLEAN SHIP – Refers to tankers which have their cargo tanks free of traces of dark persistent oils, which remain after carrying crudes and heavy fuel oils.

CLOF – Container Liner Operators Forum

COASTAL SERVICE or COASTWISE – Domestic shipping routes along a single coast.

CODE OF LINER CONDUCT (UNCTAD) – A convention drafted under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which provides that all shipping traffic between two foreign countries is to be regulated as far as the quantities of shipments are concerned on the following percentages — 40% for owners of the country of origin, 40% for owners of country of destination, and 20% for owners of the country which is neither the origin nor the destination.

COGSA – Carriage of Goods by Sea

COLLIER – Vessel used for transporting coal.

COLLISION AVOIDANCE SYSTEM – Electronic system commonly used to prevent collisions in inland navigable waterways.

COMPLEMENT – The number of officers and crew employed upon a vessel for its safe navigation and operation.

CONFERENCE and CONFERENCE LINES – An affiliation of shipowners operating over the same route(s) who agree to charge uniform rates and other terms of carriage. A conference is “closed” if one can enter only by the consent of existing members of the conference. It is “open” if anyone can enter by meeting certain technical and financial standards.

CONSIGNEE – The person to whom cargo is consigned as stated on the bills of lading.

CONSIGNOR – The person named in the bill of lading as the one from whom the goods have been received for shipment.

CONTAINER – A steel box of a given measurement used for the carriage of goods, often referred to as a TEU (20ft equivalent). Can be a standard container, usually either 6m or 12m in length (20ft or 40ft), a reefer container for refrigerated cargo, a flatrack standard or collapsible container, or an open top container type.

CONTAINER SHIP – a ship designed to handle containerised cargo. A fully cellular container ship is one that carries no cranes and is reliant on shorebased cranes for loading and discharging. Container ships’ hulls are divided into cells accessible through large hatches into which the containers fit. Specialized types of container ships are the LASH and SeaBee, which carry floating containers (or “lighters,”) and RoRo ships, which may carry containers on truck trailers.

COREBIS – Contract Registration and Billing System, instituted by SA Port Operations from April
2002 – a single electronic billing system in place of paper.

COSMOS – A Belgian electronic computer logistic system used at the SA container terminals.

C/P – Charter Party

CPI – Consumer Price Index.

CREW – The personnel engaged on board ship, excluding the master and officers and the passengers on passenger ships.

CREW LIST – List prepared by the master of a ship showing the full names, nationality, passport or discharge book number, rank and age of every officer and crew member engaged on board that ship and is one of the essential ship’s documents presented to the customs and immigration authorities on arrival at a new port.

CUBIC CAPACITY – The most important commercial measurement when the intrinsic weight of the cargo is so low that the ship becomes full without being loaded to the cargo line. Is expressed in cubic
metres or cubic feet.