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.

A/B or ABLE BODIED SEAMAN – A member of the deck crew who is able to perform all the duties of an experienced seamen; certificated by examination and has three years sea service. Also called Able Seamen and A.B.

ABS -American Bureau of Shipping: A U.S.-based private classification, or standards setting society for merchant ships and other marine systems.

ADDENDUM – Additional terms at the end of a charter party.

AD VALOREM – means ‘at value’. A rate or tax on the freight based on the value of goods.

AFT – Near or toward the stern of the vessel.

AGENCY FEE – A fee charged to the ship by the ship’s agent, representing payment for services while the ship was in port. Sometimes referred to as the attendance fee.

ANCHOR HANDLING TUG – Tug that moves anchors and tow drilling vessels, lighters and similar. Also
ANCHOR HANDLING TUG/SUPPLY used also for supplies

AIMS – American Institute of Merchant Shipping.

AMIDSHIPS – Generally speaking the word amidships means in the middle portion of a vessel.

ARBITRATION – Method of settling disputes usually applied to a charter party.

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT – The document containing all particulars relating to the terms of agreement between the Master of the vessel and the crew. Also known as ship’s or shipping articles.

ASABOSA – Association of Ships’ Agents & Brokers.

ASL – Association of Shipping Lines

ASTERN – Behind, or a backward direction in the line of a vessel’s fore and aft line. When a vessel moves backwards it is said to move astern; opposite to ahead.

AUTOMATIC PILOT – An instrument that controls automatically a vessel’s steering gear to enable her to follow a pre-determined track through the water.

BAF – Bunker adjustment factor. A freight adjustment factor reflecting the current cost of bunkers.

BAGGED CARGO – Various kinds of commodities usually packed in sacks or in bags, such as sugar, cement, milk powder, onion, grain, flour, etc. Also referred to as breakbulk.

BALLAST – Heavy substances loaded by a vessel to improve stability, trim, sea-keeping and to increase the immersion at the propeller. In the days of sail rocks and sand were used. Modern ships use seawater loaded in ballast tanks placed at the bottom of the ship, or in some cases on the sides called wing tanks. Tankers admit ballast water into the cargo tanks to submerge the vessel to a proper trim. When ballast tanks are not connected with the cargo system they are referred to as SEGREGATED BALLAST TANKS.

BAREBOAT CHARTER – Vessel contract where charterers take over all responsibility for the operation of the vessel and expenses for a certain period of time, and appoints his own master and crew and pays all running expenses.

BARGE – Flat-bottomed boat for carrying cargo on protected waterways, usually without engines or crew accommodations. On inland river systems barges can be lashed together and either pushed or pulled by tugs and handle cargo of 60,000 tonnes or more. Small barges for carrying cargo between ship and shore are known as lighters.

B/d -Barrels per day (measure of petroleum production).

BEAM – The width of a ship. Also called breadth.

BILL OF LADING (B/L) – A document of title to the goods being carried on the ship, which acts as a receipt for the cargo and contains the terms of the contract of carriage.

BIMCO – Baltic and International Maritime Council, to which many shipowners and brokers belong.

B/L TON (also Freight Ton) – the greater weight or measurement of goods where 1 tonnes is either 1,000 kg or 1 cubic metre.

BOATSWAIN (BOSUN) – The highest unlicensed rating on the ship with charge of all deck hands and who in turn comes under the direct orders of the master or chief mate or mate.

BOILERS – Steam generating units used aboard ship to provide steam for propulsion and for heating and other auxiliary purposes.

BONDED WAREHOUSE – An area of security approved by custom authorities for the safekeeping or deposit of goods liable for excise duty but not yet subject to that duty.

BOW THRUSTERS – A propeller at the lower sea-covered part of the bow of the ship, which turns at right angles to the fore-and-aft line and thus provides transverse thrust as a manoeuvring aid.

B/p or BOP – Balance of payments.

BOX – a term used for a container.

BOXTIME – Standard BIMVO time charter for container ships.

BREADTH – See Beam

BREAKBULK VESSEL – A general, multipurpose, cargo ship that carriers cargoes of non-uniform sizes, often on pallets, resulting in labour-intensive loading and unloading.

BREAK BULK CARGO – Goods carried in the hold of ships and not in containers.

BULK – Cargo shipped in loose condition and of a homogeneous nature. Cargoes that are shipped unpackaged either dry, such as grain and ore, or liquid, such as petroleum products. Bulk service generally is not provided on a regularly scheduled basis, but rather as needed, on specialized ships, transporting a specific commodity.

BULK CARRIER – Ship specifically designed to transport large amounts of cargoes such as sugar, grain, wine, ore, chemicals, liquefied natural gas; coal, ore etc. See also LNG Carrier, Tanker, OBO Ship.

BULKHEAD – A name given to any vertical partition which separates different compartments or spaces from one another.

BUNKERS – Fuel consumed by the engines of a ship; compartments or tanks in a ship for fuel storage.

BUOY – A floating object marking the navigable limits of channels, sunken dangers, isolated rocks, telegraph cables etc.