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Ocean Freight Abbreviations.Simplified

Apr 30, 2018

Reading a quote or invoice for ocean freight can be challenging if you don’t know all the acronyms. Plus discussing it with a carrier may feel like their speaking a foreign language if you aren’t familiar with the abbreviations they’re using. Knowing these terms can also have an impact on important shipping related decisions. To avoid confusion, take a look at these ocean freight abbreviations to ensure you’re clear on their meaning on your next shipping quote, invoice, or conversation.

Ocean Freight Abbreviations - ShipAG.jpgIncoterms

Incoterms are a set of rules published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). These standard trade definitions state the responsibilities of sellers and buyers who enter into international sales contracts. They help prevent misunderstandings between traders and reduce trade disputes. Abbreviations they use include EXW (Ex Works), FCA (Free Carrier), CPT (Carriage Paid To), CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid To), and more. You can learn more about Incoterms by going to this page on

Routing Terms

Below are some of the most common ocean freight routing terms. It can be helpful to understand what these are when importing and exporting. 

AWS: All Water Service – This is one of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly ways to ship your cargo. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the slowest forms of freight transportation. It entails your shipment traveling from its port of origin to its destination solely via water routes. So if your freight needs to travel from China to the East Coast of the United States it would need to travel through the Panama Canal to reach its final destination.

IPI: Inland Point Intermodal – These shipments move inland from a port via truck or rail to a non-port destination.

MLB: Mini Land Bridge – IPI and MLB are used interchangeably on occasion. This term describes a type of intermodal freight involving ocean and truck or rail to move a shipment from one port to another. The land between the two ports is the “land bridge.” 

RIPI Reverse Inland Point Intermodal – This is similar to IPI except it applies when a shipment is traveling back toward its point of origin. An example of this is freight that is transported via water from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States and then by truck or rail to Ohio. 

USEC: United States East Coast – This term applies to all ocean ports along the East Coast of the United States. They include New York/New Jersey, Savannah, Virginia, and more. 

USGC: United States Gulf Coast – This term applies to all the freight ports along the Gulf Coast of the United States. They include Houston, the largest container port in the U.S. 

USWC: United States West Coast -- This term applies to all ocean ports along the West Coast of the United States. They include Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach/Los Angeles, and more. 

Invoicing abbreviations 

AI: All Inclusive – The total price to move cargo from point of origin to destination (transportation costs only) 

BAF: Bunker Adjustment Factor – This fee is comparable to a Fuel Surcharge in trucking except it’s for the steamship line to cover fluctuating fuel costs.

BL Fee: Bill of Lading Fee – The shipping line charges this fee for processing the bill of lading on behalf of their client. 

BUC: Bunker Charge – An extra charge that is sometimes added to steamship freight rates to cover higher fuel costs (see also BAF and FAF) 

CAF: Currency Adjustment Factor – A charge that is expressed as a percentage and applied to the base rate to account for currency fluctuations. 

CBP: Customs and Border Protection – This the duty and associated processing fee when shipping goods from one country to another.

CYRC: Container Yard Receiving Charge – Also known as CYC (Container Yard Charge) or a Terminal handling charge. This fee is payable to a shipping line for receiving a full container load, storing it, and delivering it. Delivery is to the ship at the port origin or it is to the consignee at the destination port. 

DDC: Destination Delivery Charge – This charge is based on container size. It is applied in many tariffs to cargo as an accessorial charge on base ocean freight. It covers crane lifts off the vessel as well as drayage of the container and gate fees at the terminal. 

DTHC: Destination Terminal Handling Charge – Fee charged by the port of arrival or port of discharge to lift the container onto or off the vessel.

EIS: Equipment Imbalance Surcharge – A surcharge imposed by shipping lines, at times, for the movement of large quantities of empty containers. A lack of export activity from the country where they were shipped full typically creates the need to do so. This is a flat rate per container when it is charged. 

ERR: Emergency Rate Restoration – A surcharge added to the cost of freight to cover increases in shipping costs.

ERS: Equipment Repositioning Surcharge – This fee is imposed for the movement of empty containers from one location to another when requested by a shipper.

ISF: Importer Security Filing – A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulation requiring importers and vessel carriers to provide data electronically to CBP for in-bound ocean shipments. 

FAF: Fuel Adjustment Factor – Same as BAF 

GAS: Gulf of Aden Surcharge – Compensates shipping lines for additional costs incurred due to transit through the Gulf of Aden. 

ISPS: International Security Port Surcharge – These are for security of both your container and the vessel while they are at the port. 

OWS: Overweight Surcharge – Also known as OWC (Overweight Charge), is a fee charged by shipping lines when each container exceeds the designated acceptable weight range for its size. 

SCS: Suez Canal Surcharge – Compensates shipping companies for additional costs incurred during transit through the Suez Canal 

SES: Special Equipment Surcharge 

Armed with these translations and explanations, you’re better prepared to discuss your ocean freight requirements. You’ll clearly understand all the ocean freight abbreviations and be able to make educated shipping decisions. Need help with your next shipment? Contact American Group. 

American Group is a 3PL with decades of experience guiding businesses through the selection, preparation, and shipping of their freight. Contact us for assistance with your next shipment by phone at 866-553-6608 or by email at We’re here to make Shipping.Simplified®.

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=''>dizanna / 123RF Stock Photo</a>