Shipping Jargon

shipping jargon

We deal with a lot of shipping jargon and abbreviations on a daily basis, but not all of us know what it means and implications of incorrect usage of the jargon..

Here are several of the jargon we use in day to day shipping work..

This list will be a dynamic list, so please feel free to contribute to this weekly update and send me your jargon and abbreviations (with explanations) that you would like me to add to this list..


ETA = Estimated Time of Arrival – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to arrive at a port.. Usually seen in shipping schedules circulated by shipping lines or information provided to the port..

ETB = Estimated Time of Berthing – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to berth at a port/terminal.. This term is usually seen in pre-arrival notifications sent to the ships..

ETC = Estimated Time of Completion – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to complete its cargo operations.. This term is usually seen in arrival reports sent to ship owners..

ETD = Estimated Time of Departure – commonly used to denote the date and time at which a ship is expected to depart from a certain port/terminal.. This term is usually seen in arrival reports sent to ship owners and also in shipping schedules circulated by shipping lines or information provided to the port..

ETS = Estimated Time of Sailing – similar to ETD

FCL Full Container Load – means that the container has cargo that is shipped by one shipper for delivery to one consignee.. For further details refer to the article about Container Service Types..

LCL Less than Container Load – this is when the same container is used for cargoes belonging to multiple shippers and consignees.. The clients deliver their cargo to the lines packing station (CFS – Container Freight Station) and the line then packs the delivered cargo on behalf of the client.. For further details refer to the article about Container Service Types..

Port and Starboard – There are several ideas and versions of the origin of these words, but in simple shipping terms, it means the LEFT SIDE and RIGHT SIDE of the ship respectively.. You can read the fully story on Port and Starboard and what it means..

MSDS – The abbreviation stands for Material Safety Data Sheet.. An MSDS is a form containing all possible information relating to the hazardous cargo in question.. It provides guidance in handling the commodity and the properties and composition of the item in question.. You can read the fully story on here MSDS..

MBL – The abbreviation stands for Master Bill of Lading used extensively in freight forwarding circles.. You can read the fully story about MBL and what it means, here..

HBL – The abbreviation stands for House Bill of Lading used extensively in freight forwarding circles.. You can read the fully story about HBL and what it means, here..

SLAC – The abbreviation stands for “Shippers Load Stow and Count” and is used extensively and mainly in containerised shipping.. You can read the fully story about SLAC and what it means, here..

NVOCC – this abbreviation stands for Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier.. You can read the fully story about NVOCC and what it means, here..

STC – this abbreviation stands for Said To Contain.. You would see this abbreviation on bills of lading for containerised cargo which means the Shipping line is saying that based on the shippers declaration, the container is said to contain XYZ cargo and they haven’t verified the contents.. You can read the fully story about STC here..

If you wish to share any shipping jargon, please do post your comment in the comments section..

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13 comments on “Shipping Jargon”

  1. By Hariesh Manaadiar Reply

    Hi Rajamanickam, ETD means Estimated Time of Departure which usually refers to the departure from the berth.. ETS means the Estimate Time of Sailing which usually refers to the ship sailing from the port.. SOMETIMES the ship may depart from the berth but not actually sail as they could be waiting for something like a spare or some courier documents or some crew change etc which in some ports maybe done at Outer Anchorage as well..

    So yes there is a difference between the two but the line is quite blurred unless it involves a specific charter party..

  2. By annie gonzalez Reply

    Thanks for the info. Does anyone know where I can find a blank shippers declaration form to fill out?

  3. By Frikieflowers Reply

    Great initiative this Jargon. You should add LCL (less than container load – used when there are various shippers and/or cnees.).

    Also TBN (to be nominated, that means that they still do not know vessel’s name), and SOC (shipper’s own container).

    And I do not know if it should be added DN (debit note) CN (credit note).

  4. By Ivailo Reply

    That would be of a great use for everyone! Looking forward to “The jargon shipping terms”!

  5. By Olga Reply

    I think this rubric will be very useful for both new-comers to the industry and for experienced ones. Thank you for your work 🙂

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