Freight Terms Glossary

Augmented Reality

An interactive technology that uses a digital image over real world images and objects to create an enhanced reality.

ATA Carnet

An ATA (Admission Temporary Admission) Carnet is a document supplied by international customs brokers that allows temporary import of commercial samples, professional equipment, or goods that are heading to a trade fair or exhibition. This occurs in countries that are part of the ATA Carnet system only.


Backhaul refers to the return trip of a commercial truck that is transporting freight back from the current destination to the point of origin where it began.

Back To Back Letter Of Credit

This is a particular letter of credit that is opened on behalf of a beneficiary, based on the fact that a letter of credit already exists, that is not transferable. It is used for trade intermediaries to open a second credit in favour of a supplier.

Big Data

This is data that is both structured and unstructured – a great variety and large volumes. It’s complex data, particularly from new data sources that can’t be analysed in traditional data mining methods.

Bill of Landing

This document is issued by a carrier to a shipper as a legal document or contract for the carriage of goods.

Blank Sailing

Blank sailing refers to a trip that was scheduled to sail, but which has been cancelled by the carrier or shipping line. For this reason, the ship will skip certain ports or even the route in its entirety.


This decentralised system or ledger records transactions made digitally through a peer-to-peer network.

Bonded Warehouse

This secure warehouse houses goods until customs duties are paid.

Breakbulk Cargo

Large cargo that is generally oversized and does not fit into standard containers. This cargo must be loaded individually.

Bunker Adjustment Factor

As fuel prices fluctuate so too does the on shippers. This factor refers to the additional charge levied on shippers reflecting fuel price changes.

Blue Economy

The blue economy refers to the use of our ocean resources sustainably. It is the sustainable use of our oceans for economic growth, improved livelihood and job creation, while maintaining and protecting the health of the ocean ecosystem.


Cabotage refers to the legal right to operate and work sea, air and other transport mediums within a particular territory.

Certificate of Inspection

A legal document that certifies that merchandise (for example perishable goods) was in good condition at the time of inspection prior to shipment. When importing goods to most developing countries, pre-shipment inspection is a prerequisite. If used as a required document under letter of credit terms, the details and identity of the responsible person/s providing the inspection should be mentioned. If this is not done, banks will accept any document appearing at face value to be an inspection certificate issued by any party other than the beneficiary. Companies specialising in the inspection of goods at ports (for example the Swiss SGS or the French Bureau Veritas have offices in most main exporting countries. There are also companies that specialise in inspections in certain countries such as Asia Inspection in China and other Asian countries.

Circular Economy

An economic model that supports sustainability, focuses on minimising waste and makes efficient use of resources.

Cold Chain

The storage and transportation along a supply chain of cargo that is sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Cargo is moved and monitored under controlled conditions.

Consignment / Consignor / Consignee

Terms used in the process of sending goods – the package, the sender and the received.

Control Tower

The central location that supplies end-to-end supply chain oversight as well as real time analytics that manage logistics, performance and controls costs.


The procedure of off loading cargo from inbound delivery trucks and reloading the cargo straight onto outbound vehicles.


A virtual currency that is encrypted, decentralised and runs blockchain technology.

Customs Brokerage

Licensed professionals with the skills, expertise and knowledge of rules and regulations that provide a service of managing customs clearance.

Dangerous Goods

Items or substances that may pose a notable risk to health, safety, or property when transported by air. These goods are classified according to the most current edition of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations.

Dangerous Goods Declaration

When shipping dangerous goods, shippers are required to declare these to carriers, as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and any applicable additional local regulations.


An individual that facilitates the buying and selling of international products on behalf of a customer in mainland China.

De Minimis

The value under which items can be shipped into a country, before duties and taxes are assessed and applied.


A penalty charge issued by shipping lines on merchants who do not pick up the containers from the port in due time.


A payment levied by shipping companies to clients for the use of their containers outside the free period, once the container has left the terminal.

Digital Twinning

Virtual replication of a physical product, process or system.

Drop Shipping

A process completed by an online retailer where they do not keep goods in stock, but rather sell a product through shipping it directly from a 3rd party supplied to the client.

Elastic Logistics

Flexibility that allows for the expansion or reduction of capabilities to allow for changing demands in the supply chain.

ECTN - Electronic Cargo Tracking Note

Waiver certificates that are required by certain African countries to control, supervise and manage import / export traffic to the country.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

The electronic exchange of information or documents between companies.

E & OE Errors and Omissions Excepted

When added to a signature on a shipping document, this indicates a disclaimer of responsibility for any spelling, typo or clerical errors.

EUR 1 Movement Certificate

A certificate for goods transport and proof of preference for export in countries and regions associated with the European Union through free trade agreements, association of preferential agreements, as long as the goods concerned are included in the tariffs preference.


Full Container Load


Less-than-container Load

First Mile Delivery

The transit of products from the place of production to a warehouse or courier managing delivery all the way to the end user.


A bag (or bladder pouch) that can be filled with bulk liquids and fitted into a standard-size shipping container.

Freight All Kinds (FAK)

A pricing system that combines different types of shipments into a given classification, ready to be transported as one shipment at a fixed rate.


Regulations that protect the privacy and personal data of EU citizens.

General Average

A legal principle of maritime law that states vessels and cargo owners share the incurred losses in proportion following a maritime accident.

HS Code

A standard system for organising goods that are shipped all over the world.

Humanitarian Logistics

A special branch of logistics which focuses on organising and delivering humanitarian aid to people affected by emergencies or natural disasters.

IATA International Air Transport Association

IATA, established in 1945, promotes safety and standardization, and serves as a trade association serving air carriers, passengers, shippers, travel agents and governments. They are the air transport industry association and issuer of standard air waybill form.


Industry rules that define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers for the distribution of goods under sales contracts.

Intermodal Transportation

The movement of goods (freight) that utilises multiple means of transport.

Internet of Things

Refers to the network of billions of devices around the world that are connected and exchange data over the internet.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

A set of financial values used to measure the success of an activity or or organisation i.e. project deliverables.

Landed Costs

The total cost of imported goods at the port or point of entry into a country. This includes the cost of freight, insurance and port and dock charges. Charges that occur once items have left the import point are excluded.

Lead Logistics Partner

The fourth party logistics supplier that manages all parts of the supply chain for a client.

Micro- Fulfilment

The placement of small warehouse facilities in easily accessed urban locations, close to the end-consumer.

Multimodal Logistics

The movement of freight using multiple modes of transportation, through one contract and operator.


Outsourced business processes to a company based in a nearby country or location.

NVOCC (Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier)

A transportation company that doesn’t operate ocean transport vessels, but that moves goods under its own House Bill of Lading, or similar documentation.

Omni-Channel Logistics

Logistics model that is created to offer a seamless retail experience for the end user any time, anywhere and from any device.


Placing goods on pallets.

Parcel Lockers

Storage lockers for customers, that allows them to pick up goods at any time. These are self-service.


The formation of a group of vehicles that travel in convoy is called platooning.

Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI)

The inspection of goods prior to shipment to ascertain quality, quantity or price. Some importers expect a PSI, which requires a certificate of inspection from the exporter – issued by neutral, internationally respected firms such as SGS of Bureau Veritas – to ensure goods received are of quality and quantity specified in the sales document. Some government agencies may require inspection certificates as regards price, to prevent parties from under or over invoicing in an attempt to pay lower customs duties or evade foreign exchange restrictions.

Reefer Container

Containers for cargo which have built-in refrigeration units to maintain the correct temperature for chilled or frozen goods.

Reverse Logistics

Moving goods from the point of consumption back to their origin point, either for reuse or for disposal.


The exportation of merchandise from a foreign land that was previously imported.

Tare Weight

The total weight of only the container and/or packing materials, not the goods being shipped i.e. the gross weight of a shipment minus the net weight of the goods being shipped.


A schedule of duties or taxes in customs that is assessed by a government on goods as they enter a country. Tariffs are imposed when necessary to protect domestic industries from imported goods and/or to generate revenue.


Technology used to gather and track data that relates to an individual vehicle or an entire fleet.


Containers transferred from one vessel to another vessel at a certain location, before being shipped to their final destination.

Unit Load Device

An item that holds a large quantity of air cargo within a single unit.

Warehouse Management System

A particular software system that helps an organisation to manage operations in the warehouse.


Documentation that holds all the information required about a shipment – its contents, point of origin, route and final destination.


Weight or measurement is a method of quoting freight rates:

1. for sea freight, per metric ton (1.000 kilograms) or per cubic meter (35.3 cubic feet) whichever is greater;

2. for air freight, per kilogram or per 7,000 cubic centimetres (1 cubic foot) whichever.

Zone Picking

The allocation of a specific zone in a warehouse to an operator, or operators, for smooth order picking.