11 Shipping Terms Every Importer / Exporter Must Know

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11 Shipping Terms Every Importer / Exporter Must Know

Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a new business venture – importing or exporting goods. But before you take the plunge, you should know a few essential shipping terms.

These 10 shipping terms are essential for any importer or exporter. They’ll help you understand the shipping process and make sure your goods arrive at their destination safely and on time. So let’s get started – here are the 10 shipping terms you need to know:

FCL Shipping (Full Container Load)

You’re probably familiar with the term FCL, but do you know what it means? FCL shipping is when you ship full containers of goods (either 20ft or 40ft) from one port to another.

In order to qualify for FCL shipping, your goods must fill up an entire container. This can be a bit of a challenge if you’re importing or exporting a variety of items, but it’s definitely doable with the right planning.

One thing to keep in mind is that FCL shipping is often more expensive than LCL shipping, so it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

LCL Shipping (Less than Container Load)

You’ll likely come across the term LCL shipping when you’re importing or exporting goods. But what does that mean?

LCL shipping (less than container load) is when your goods are shipped in a container, but they’re not all going to the same place. So instead of filling up an entire container with your products, they’re combined with other shipments and sent to their destinations separately.

This can be a great option if you’re not shipping a lot of goods or don’t have enough to fill up an entire container. It’s also cheaper than shipping your products in a full container.

Change of Destination (COD)

You’re probably aware that when you’re shipping goods, you have the option to change the destination. You may not know that this is referred to as a Change of Destination or COD.

There are a few reasons why you might want to use a COD. Maybe the original destination is no longer an option—perhaps it’s been closed down or the contact has left the company. Or maybe you’ve decided to ship to a different country altogether.

Using a COD is a great way to ensure your goods get to their destination safely and securely. When you use a COD, you’re basically telling your shipping company, “Hey, I’m not sure where I want these goods to go yet, so hold on to them until I figure it out.” This can save you time and money in the long run.

Demurrage (DM)

You need to know about demurrage if you’re an importer or exporter. Demurrage is a charge assessed when goods are held in a port past the free time allowed. The free time usually ranges from 2 to 5 days, depending on the port and the shipping company.

You’ll be charged a demurrage fee if your goods are held in port after the free time has expired. This fee can be costly, so it’s important to ensure your goods are cleared for export as soon as possible.

To avoid demurrage fees, make sure you have all the necessary documents in order and are up-to-date on your import/export regulations.

Container Yard to Container Yard (CYCY)

When shipping goods, you need to be aware of the CYCY terms. This stands for Container Yard to Container Yard, which is when the goods move between two container yards.

There are three main types of CYCY: Inland, Coastal, and Overseas. Inland is when the goods are transported by truck or rail, Coastal is when they’re shipped by sea, and Overseas is when they go by air.

It’s important to be aware of these terms because they’ll impact the cost of shipping your goods. So make sure you’re familiar with them and always negotiate the best rates possible!

Detention (DT)

When your cargo is held at the port for whatever reason, it’s called detention (DT). It might be that the customs authorities need more time to clear your goods, or there might be something wrong with the documentation. Whatever the reason, DT is a major headache for importers and exporters. Not only does it cost you money, but it also causes delays that can seriously disrupt your business operations.

The best way to avoid detention is to ensure all your paperwork is in order and up-to-date. The customs authorities are more likely to release your cargo quickly if they don’t have to do any extra work sorting through your documents.


You might have heard of NVOCCs before, but you’re not sure what they are. Well, an NVOCC (or Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier) is basically a freight forwarder. They’re the go-between for shippers and carriers, and they can offer many benefits, like consolidating shipments and getting better shipping rates.

But it’s critical to work with an NVOCC that you can trust. Not all of them are reputable, so do your research before choosing one. And make sure to ask them about their licensing and insurance.

Air Waybill (AWB)

An air waybill is a document that serves as a receipt for the shipment and as a contract between the shipper and the carrier. It also includes information such as the consignee, the weight, the dimensions, and the value of the shipment.

The AWB is essentially your proof that the goods have been shipped, and it’s also a good way to track your package en route. Make sure you keep a copy of the AWB for your records and don’t lose it—if something happens to your shipment, you’ll need it to file a claim.

Bill of Lading (BOL)

You should also be familiar with the Bill of Lading, or BOL. This is a document that serves as a contract between the buyer and the seller, and it includes information such as the goods being shipped, their destination, and the terms of the sale.

The BOL is important because it guarantees that the buyer will receive the goods they’re expecting. It’s also a document that can be used in the event of a dispute. So make sure you keep a copy for your records!

Stuffing & Stripping

You’re probably wondering what ‘stuffing’ and ‘stripping’ means. Stuffing is the process of putting goods into a shipping container, while stripping is the process of removing goods from a shipping container.

It’s essential to be aware of these terms because if you’re an importer, you must ensure that the goods are properly stuffed into the container. And if you’re an exporter, you need to make sure that the goods are properly stripped from the container.

If goods aren’t properly stuffed or stripped, it can cause all sorts of problems, from damage to the goods themselves to delays in shipment. So it’s crucial to understand these terms and how they impact your shipment.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

Third-party logistics (or 3PLs) refers to outsourcing logistics processes, including inventory management, warehousing, and fulfillment. 3PLs providers and companies allow e-commerce merchants to accomplish more with the tools and infrastructure to automate order fulfillment. Some of the third-party logistics providers are freight forwarders and courier companies.


When importing or exporting goods, it’s important to be familiar with the most commonly used shipping terms. By understanding these terms, you’ll be able to communicate better with your shipping company and ensure that your goods are shipped safely and efficiently.

To know more about shipping terms used in the logistics industry, find more articles, and for a cost-effective, resilient supply chain, reach out to ABL Logistics here.

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