Glossary of maritime terminology
A cabin is, simply put, the bedroom on a boat. Cabins come in different shapes and sizes depending on the type of ship or yacht and can be found on everything from container ships to luxury cruise liners. The majority of cabins are 2 berth - which means they sleep 2 people although on a vessel the master (captain) and higher ranking officers will normally have their own cabin. You may also find triple berth cabins that sleep three people - again these people may be crew members on a tanker or cargo ship or guests on a cruise ship or superyacht.
A distance of nautical measurement in shipping terms. A cable is equal to 0.1 sea mile, 185 meters and 200 yards.
Cable Laying Vessel
A cable laying vessel, also called a cable layer or cable ship, is a vessel that has been specifically designed for laying and repairing underwater cables. Cable laying vessels lay a variety of underwater cables, including telecommunications cables, electric power cables, and military cables.
A cable ship, also called a cable layer or cable laying vessel, is a vessel that has been specifically designed for laying and repairing underwater cables. Cable ships lay a variety of underwater cables, including telecommunications cables, electric power cables, and military cables.
In freight terms, cabotage is the act of transporting passengers or cargo, for remuneration, from point A to point B within the territory of the same country.
The capacity is the available space for cargo, or the ability to handle said cargo.
Capesize describes a vessel that is too large to transit canals - such as the Suez or Panama - and must instead plot their course around the capes i.e. Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. Capesize vessels are normally wet or dry bulkers.
The capstan is a mechanical device with a vertical axle which is used onboard vessels, as well as in shipyards, to multiply the force used by a seafarer or dockyard worker, when pulling cables, chains, ropes and hawsers. Consisting of a drum that is powered either by steam, by electricity or by hand, it rotates around its axis to wind in the cable or chain, wrapping it around it. Capstans work on the same principle as windlasses, although the latter have a horizontal axle as opposed to vertical.
The captain's log (sometimes also referred to as the deck log) is a complete nautical record of a ship's voyage and is written up at the end of each watch by the deck officer on watch. Information entered includes distance run, courses steered, compass variations, ship’s position, sea and weather conditions, principal headlands passed and names of lookouts. Any out of the ordinary occurrences are also logged, such as a collision, distress call received or a fire.
Captive Cargo Port
If the majority of a port’s inbound cargo is being shipped only short distances and most of its export products come from locations nearby, the port is a captive cargo port. It is more-or-less the opposite of a transit or through port.
Car Carrier Ship
A car carrier or car carrier ship is a vessel that has been designed for the transportation of either just cars, or a combination of cars, trucks, buses and other wheeled vehicles. Car carriers are a type of roro ship - which means roll-on, roll-off, as this is how their cargo is loaded and unloaded. The ships that carry only cars are known as pure car carriers (PCC), whilst the vessels that carry various types of four-wheeled cargo are known as pure car truck carriers (PCTC).
Cargo, in maritime terminology, is the freight - i.e. the products and goods - that are carried by a vessel.
Cargo battens, also called just battens, are inserted into the hold of a cargo ship to keep cargo away from the vessel's sides in order to allow ventilation.
A cargo crane is normally a rail-mounted gantry crane located at a port. It is used to load and unload shipping containers onto and off vessels.
The act of loading and unloading a cargo ship's goods is called cargo handling.
A cargo plan details the description and quantities of the various products carried by a vessel when cargo loading is complete.
When a percentage of a nation's imports and exports are reserved for vessels carrying that country’s national flag.
Generally speaking, a cargo ship can be classified into eight different types, depending on the freight they carry. These are:
Cargo ships: Carry goods such as clothing, machinery, food, furniture and other freight that can be packaged.
Multi-purpose vessels: Carry a variety of different types of freight of both a dry and liquid nature.
Bulk carriers: Carry loose goods that are not packaged such as coal, cement, sand, etc.
Tankers: Carry oil, chemicals, petroleum, and gas.
Container ships: Also carry packaged goods, like a Cargo Ship, but freight is stored in containers.
Reefer ships: Are refrigerated so they carry perishable goods such as meat and dairy produce.
RoRo ships: Carry wheeled cargo - cars, trucks etc. Feeder ships: Small to mid-sized container ships which ‘feed’ larger vessels with containers.
A carrier is a company, organization, persons or individual who are in the business of transporting goods or passengers.
A catamaran is a type of yacht or boat with twin hulls. It can also refer to a floating raft or platform that is used in shipyards to work from and occasionally as a fender between a vessel and the wharf.
Central Bank CO2 System
A central bank CO2 system, sometimes also known as a CO2 flooding system or fixed CO2 system, is a commonly installed fire detection system on vessels that consists of smoke detectors, alarms and cylinders of carbon dioxide (CO2.) In the event of a fire occurring in the cargo hold, engine room, pump room, purifier room or other protected area, the system releases CO2 to extinguish the fire.
Certificate of Registry
The Certificate of Registry is a document that specifies the national registry of the vessel.
CEU stands for Car Equivalent Unit. A CEU is used to measure the capacity of vehicle or car carriers. A CEU is generally based on the dimensions of a 1966 Toyota Corona RT43: 4125 mm x 1550 mm x 1400 mm.
A chandler is a retailer who sells provisions, dried goods, equipment and other marine supplies for ships. A chandler’s store is called a chandlery.
Charlie stands for the letter C in the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, which is most often referred to as the NATO Phonetic Alphabet or simply the Phonetic Alphabet. This is the most commonly used group of code words used to clearly communicate the letters of the Roman alphabet, particularly over the radio and is essential in helping seafarers give and receive messages, orders and instructions clearly and correctly.
A charter in maritime terms is the act of renting or leasing out a vessel by its owner.
The charterer is the person or group who has chartered (hired) a vessel from its owner.
A chemical tanker is a vessel that has been designed for the safe and efficient transportation of chemicals. The chemicals that tankers transport are varied and range from sulfuric acid (used in everything from drugs to explosives) to caustic soda (used in soap and candle making.)
The Chief Engineer or CE is the senior-most engineer officer onboard a ship. He or she reports directly to the Master (Captain) of the vessel. Chief Engineers are responsible for the safe and efficient operation and maintenance of the main and auxiliary machinery and boiler plant on board.
Also known as the Chief Officer, the Chief Mate is the highest ranking officer in the Deck Department and is its head. The Chief Mate has ultimate responsibility for the way the vessel is run and reports to the Master (Captain). They will take over command of the vessel should something render the Master unable to work.
Also known as the Chief Mate, the Chief Officer is the highest ranking officer in the Deck Department and is its head. The CO has ultimate responsibility for the way the vessel is run and reports to the Master (Captain). They will take over command of the vessel should something render the Master unable to work.
A Chief Steward, or Chief Stewardess, typically works on a cruise ship, a yacht or a superyacht. They are a department head and are responsible for ensuring that the guests onboard receive first rate food and service, and that all of their needs are catered to satisfactorily. A Chief Steward or Stewardess is expected to perform five star (and above) service at all times.
A chip log, also sometimes referred to as a ship log, common log or speed log, is an instrument which is used to measure a ship’s speed and the distance it has traveled. The speed is determined by referencing the water flowing past the hull (water reference speed) or by the seabed (ground reference speed).
There are five different types of chip log which all work on different principles: the electromagnetic chip log, the pitometer chip log, the doppler chip log, the impeller chip log and the satellite chip log. See their individual glossary entries for more information on each.
A chock is a piece of wood or other material that is placed next to cargo to stop it from shifting.
A Classification Society is a private organization that supervises the construction of vessels, provides advice and undertakes safety inspections. Once a ship has been through the process it is referred to as being ‘in class’. Although this is not compulsory, a vessel that is not ‘classed’ may find it difficult to get insurance.
A port-based job in the maritime industry, a clerk checks the actual number of the goods (number of containers, drums, bundles, sacks etc.) unloaded from vessels versus the amount listed on the ship’s manifest. Any shortages, overages or damage will be duly noted in case a claim will need to be made.
CO2 Flooding System
A CO2 flooding system, sometimes also known as a fixed CO2 system or central bank CO2 system, is a commonly installed fire detection system on vessels that consists of smoke detectors, alarms and cylinders of carbon dioxide (CO2.) In the event of a fire occurring in the cargo hold, engine room, pump room, purifier room or other protected area, the system releases CO2 to extinguish the fire.
Sometimes also referred to as coastwise or intracoastal, coastal aervice is the term used for a domestic shipping route that runs along a single coastline.
In shipping terminology, a collier is a type of bulk cargo ship that has been designed or is now used to carry coal.
Collision Avoidance System
A Collision Avoidance System is an electronic system that is used to stop collisions from happening in inland waterways.
A common log, also sometimes referred to as a ship log, speed log or chip log, is an instrument which is used to measure a ship’s speed and the distance it has traveled. The speed is determined by referencing the water flowing past the hull (water reference speed) or by the seabed (ground reference speed).
There are five different types of common log which all work on different principles: the electromagnetic common log, the pitometer common log, the doppler common log, the impeller common log and the satellite common log. See their individual glossary entries for more information on each.
A compass is an instrument that helps a ship’s navigator determine direction and measure the boat's heading (the direction at which the vessel is pointing.) There are different types of compass but the magnetic compass is the most widely used and known.
It contains a free-floating magnetic element that will align in a north-south direction, pointing towards the earth's magnetic North Pole. The magnetic North Pole is approximately 1,000 miles from the geographic North Pole however a skilled navigator will be able to determine true North by finding the magnetic North and then correcting for deviation and variation.
Otherwise known as the ship’s company, the complement is the number of people onboard a ship, excluding passengers - i.e., the officers and crew.
Normally used in conjunction with diesel machinery, a composite boiler on a ship consists of oil-fired boilers and exhaust gas economizers. Composite boilers on a vessel are categorized as small, steam-generating auxiliary boilers.
A conference is a group of shipowners who operate the same route or routes and who have mutually agreed to charge equal rates and other fees and terms of carriage. An open conference is one that any shipowner can join providing they meet specific financial and technical requirements. A closed conference will only accept new members if all existing shipowners agree.
The consignee is the person or organization to whom cargo is consigned as stated on the bill of lading. i.e. the entity who is receiving the goods. They are financially responsible for the receipt of a shipment and will normally (but not always) be the receiver.
A consignment is a shipment of goods sent by a consignor to a consignee.
The consignor is the person named in the bill of lading as the entity from whom the goods have been received for shipment i.e. the sender or the seller.
A consolidator is a person or company that combines cargo from a number of shippers (consignors) into a container. These goods will eventually be delivered to a number of different buyers (consignees.)
A container is an aluminum, fiberglass or steel box that freight is loaded into so it can be transported by ship. Shipping containers most commonly come in two sizes: TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) which measures 20' x 8’ x 8' and FEU (Forty-foot Equivalent Unit) which measures 40' x 8' x 8'
Containers are normally referred to simply as ‘boxes’ in the industry. They can also come in different versions including tank containers for liquid, collapsible containers, and open-topped containers covered by a tarpaulin for freight that is too long/bulky to fit neatly inside a regular container.
A container crane is normally a rail-mounted gantry crane located at a port. It is used to load and unload shipping containers onto and off vessels.
A container ship is a vessel that is designed to transport cargo in containers. Container ships can be broken down into different types, including vessels that carry floating containers (lighters) and roro ships which carry wheeled cargo such as cars, but also containers that are loaded onto trucks.
The hull of a container ship is split into cells and the containers themselves will be loaded into these through large hatches. Some container ships have their own cranes onboard while some are dependent on cranes located at the port or terminal - these are called fully cellular container ships.
A container terminal is a facility where container ships load and unload their containers.
Containerization is the process of using shipping containers to transport cargo from one destination to another.
Contraband is goods that are prohibited in trade. Smuggled goods.
Controllable Pitch Propeller
A Controllable Pitch Propeller (CPP) has blades that can rotate around their longitudinal axis, unlike a FPP - a fixed pitch propeller - which cannot rotate. A Controllable Pitch Propeller influences the direction of thrust and allows the vessel to operate with optimal fuel efficiency. This makes it able to save energy, in turn making it more environmentally friendly and economical.
The direction in which a vessel is heading. The course is usually given in degrees, true, magnetic or compass.
A CPP - Controllable Pitch Propeller - has blades that can rotate around their longitudinal axis, unlike a FPP - a fixed pitch propeller - which cannot rotate. A CPP influences the direction of thrust and allows the vessel to operate with optimal fuel efficiency. This makes it able to save energy, in turn making it more environmentally friendly and economical.
A crane vessel - also known as a floating crane, crane ship or sometimes a heavy lift vessel - is an ocean-going vessel which has one or more cranes mounted on it. These gigantic ships are incredibly powerful and can handle extremely heavy loads. A crane vessel’s main purpose is to assist in the construction of offshore structures, as well as conduct salvage operations.
The personnel who are employed to work on board a ship, but excluding the Master and Officers. So, the crew, for example includes Deckhands, Messmen and Able Seamen.
Crew change is the name given to the date when one set of seafarers replaces another onboard a vessel while it is in port, mid voyage. Not all seafarers will change over, it may just be one or two disembarking and embarking. Crew change is essential for swapping seafarers out so that those who have served their contract can get some rest before looking for another job or returning to that vessel.
The crew list is a document that is shown to customs and immigration authorities in each port docked at that shows the full name, age, nationality, rank, and passport or discharge book number of every crew member and officer onboard a vessel.
Crew planning is the act of an employer / shipowner / crew manager or crew planner planning which seafarers are onboard their vessels so that they know they have a full complement of crew at all times. To do this, modern employers will use a crewing system or crewing software solution.
A Crewing Agency, or Manning Agency, is a company who works with their client, the shipowner, to find seafarers to work onboard their vessels. The Crewing Agent checks that the seafarer has the right certifications and documentation for the position, as well as the correct travel documents. The agent also arranges visas and medical checks for the shipowner.
Crewing software is a technology solution that helps employers / shipowners / crew managers and manning agents plan which seafarers are onboard their vessels so that they know they have a full complement of crew at all times.
A crewing system is a software solution that helps employers / shipowners / crew managers and manning agents plan which seafarers are onboard their vessels so that they know they have a full complement of crew at all times.
Cross Track Error
Cross track error (XTE) is a way for sailors and navigators to tell at a glance what their distance to port (left) or starboard (right) of their intended straight track between two waypoints is.
These waypoints may be departure, arrival or transit points that are set on a chart. Cross track error is most commonly caused by drift due to environmental reasons and corrective action should be taken as soon as possible.
A cruise ship is a vessel that carries passengers on voyages for pleasure. The destinations called at on the voyage are part of the attraction but the voyage itself and the vessel’s facilities and activities are also a big part of the experience.
Custom is a duty or tax on imported goods.