Glossary of maritime terminology

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A wake is the name given to the waves that are created by the hull of a vessel as it moves through the water.

Waste Heat Boiler

A ship’s waste heat boilers are an intrinsic part of the Waste Heat Recovery System (WHRS) whereby waste heat from exhaust gasses from the engine is used to generate steam and heat for various purposes, including providing heat for the passenger and crew accommodation areas.

Waste Heat Recovery System

A waste heat recovery system (WHRS) in shipping terms, works to recover and transfer the waste heat from a vessel's process or product such as the exhaust gas, and then convert it into electrical energy. This additional source of energy can then be used to power anything from machinery to create hot water or steam. 

Waste Operator

The Waste Operator also called the Waste Disposal Operator or Garbage Operator on a ship is someone who is responsible for ensuring that waste is handled properly and disposed of correctly. Most Waste Operators are employed on cruise and passenger ships.


Each twenty four hour period at sea is divided into six four-hour segments, otherwise known as a watch. There will be three groups of crew members who will stand watch. They will be on duty for four hours and then off for eight, then back to duty.

Water Based Local Fire Fighting System

A water based local fire fighting (FiFi) system is used on a vessel to quickly suppress a fire in an area that houses machinery. The word ‘local’ is used to indicate that the system will be deployed immediately without evacuating the area, sealing openings or preventing ventilation.

These will be actioned once the water based local fire fighting system has started and then the ship’s main fire fighting system will be activated. The system will usually consist of water spray, high and low pressure mist, and high and low expansion foam.

Water Boat

A water boat is a craft that is fitted with large water tanks and a pump and hose. It supplies ocean-going vessels with fresh water whilst they are in a harbor.

Water Ingress Detection System

A water ingress detection system is a monitoring system that detects water and alerts crew if that water has entered a specific area or compartment on a ship. The system is strategically placed throughout the vessel and consists of a series of alarms, sensors and monitoring devices.


A waybill, in maritime terminology, is a non-negotiable document prepared by the carrier of a shipment of goods. It contains details of the shipper, the consignee, the goods themselves, the weight, the route, and the charges. The waybill acts as evidence of the contract and as a receipt for the goods.

Weather Deck

The weather deck on a ship is the topmost deck that is open aired and exposed to the elements.

Weather Side

The weather side refers to whichever side of the ship is currently exposed to the wind.

Weigh Anchor

To weigh anchor is a maritime term used to describe hauling the anchor up in preparation for setting sail.


Also sometimes called a terminal the Wharf is the place where cargo and shipping containers are handled. Vessels dock at a Wharf to load and offload their cargo or containers.

Wharfage Fee

In freight terms, the wharfage fee is a sum charged by a wharf (or pier) owner for their incoming and/or outgoing cargo handling services.


The wheelhouse is also often called the bridge or pilothouse and is the place where the ship's wheel is located on a vessel.


Whiskey stands for the letter W 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.


WHRS is the abbreviation given to a ship's waste heat recovery system. This system works to recover and transfer the waste heat from a process or product such as the exhaust gas, and then convert it into electrical energy. This additional source of energy can then be used to power anything from machinery to create hot water or steam. 


The windlass is a mechanical device with a horizontal axle which is used onboard vessels to multiply the force used by a seafarer, 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. Windlasses work on the same principle as capstans, although the latter have a vertical axle as opposed to horizontal.

Window Wiper

Just as cars and other vehicles have windshield wipers, so too do ships. The window wiper system on a ship works in the same way as a car but must obviously be strong enough to withstand the elements. The wiper system consists of a metal arm and rubber wiping blade, as well as a small motor to move the wiper back and forth, ensuring clear visibility during bad weather and rough seas.


Wiper is one of the most junior entry level cargo ship jobs and the job involves wiping down the vessel’s engine spaces, equipment and machinery and making sure they are kept clean so that they can operate correctly and efficiently. The Wiper's job also involves greasing and degreasing and generally making sure that the engine room and work spaces are kept clean and tidy.

Working Gear Provider

A working gear provider in the maritime industry is a company who supplies shipping companies with all of the clothing and accessories needed for their seafarers. For example, boots, hard hats, overalls and high visibility clothing.

Working gear providers can connect with these shipping companies by adding their details to an online maritime directory or crewing marketplace website so that those in need of their products and services can more easily find what they are looking for.

World Maritime Day

World Maritime Day is a day of observance as decreed by the United Nations. It is celebrated annually on September 28th with a different theme and topic being highlighted each year. The day aims to shine a spotlight on the global importance of the maritime industry and of those working within it, both on land and at sea.