Your ultimate guide to shipping containers – the lingo debunked

August 30, 2023

If you are looking for a shipping container, either for hire or for sale, it can be daunting to know exactly what you need. As well as providing you with lots of information about the different types of shipping containers we have for hire and sale here in Australia, we also wanted to provide you with a handy guide to understanding some of the lingo.

Like most industries, the shipping container industry is full of jargon and acronyms and it is not always obvious what everything means. This handy guide is your one-stop-shop to understanding all those acronyms and hopefully, it will ensure that you are getting the shipping container that is right for you.

Whilst we do try to expand on any acronyms used throughout the OZBOX website, there might be the odd one that slips through that leaves you wondering what it means. With this handy guide open, you will know exactly what every acronym or bit of jargon relates to when it comes to shipping containers here in Australia.

So, let’s dive in and get you making more informed decisions when it comes to shipping containers:

Glossary of shipping container terms and acronyms

Here is a handy alphabetical guide to shipping container lingo:


APCA – Australian Post Charge Additional

ACEP – Approved Continuous Examination Program. This is one of two approved container safety examination schemes allowed under the CSC (see below). It is there to help to ensure the safety of your shipping container in transit.


BCO – Beneficial Cargo Owner. This is the recipient of the shipping container and its contents at the destination rather than using a third-party source like a freight forwarder (see below) or NVOCC (see below).

BIC – Bureau International des Containers. Established by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in 1933 in an effort to educate business people in the development of international and intermodal transport and its practical aspects

Bill of Lading – The contract between the goods owner and the shipping company to transport the goods. It details the cargo in the shipment and gives title or ownership of that shipment to the receiving party specified on the document.

BV – Bureau Veritas. This is an international classification society for shipping containers and their contents. They provide industry-leading testing, inspection and certification services that help clients improve performance and mitigate risk while strengthening their brands.


Carrier – Used in reference to shipping containers, this is either the company moving your container from A-B or the vessel.

CBM – Cubin Metres. This is the short-hand way of referring to the volumetric size of the shipping container in cubic metres. It is the primary unit of measurement used in the measurement of cargo transports globally.

CFS – Container Freight Station.  This is the place where shipping containers are packed and unpacked.

COC – Carrier Owned Container.  This is where the company (carrier) moving your goods owns the container you are moving your freight in. They are rented out to consignees that do not have their own containers. When a delivery is complete, COCs are returned to the carrier, who then rents them out to another customer.

CW Certificate – A safety certificate issued to stipulate that the shipping container is considered cargo-worthy and transportable at sea.

Container Inspector – A safety inspector who inspects damage to shipping containers and who assesses them.

CSC Plate – Convention for Safe Containers. This is a plate that is fixed to the doors of a container that has a serial number and other technical data about the container itself. Every container used for international transport needs a valid CSC plate to ensure good conditions for cargo.

Container Terminal – This can be inland or a seaport and is a specialist port that handles containers.

CY – Container Yard.  This is simply a place where shipping containers are stored.


Demurrage – This is a fee charged for containers and their goods when stored for a longer period than the physical transportation times. You are permitted a limited number of free days (these will vary depending on the carrier and location). Containers not returned within the allotted free time are subject to additional fees by the shipping lines: demurrage.

Detention – A fee charged for containers that have been returned late to the owner.


EIR – Equipment Interchange Receipt. This is a receipt for the transfer of responsibility to the next carrier in the chain as the container moves to its destination. This might be from a railway to a truck company, the truck company to the port and so on. It is a required document when transferring a cargo container from one vessel to another or to/from a shipping terminal. The document shows the container number, vessel code, and stacking & stowage position.


FAK – Freight All Kinds. This is a pricing system that combines different classes of shipments into a given classification to be transported as a single shipment at a fixed rate.

FCL – Full Container Load. This simply means that a shipment occupies the entire space of a shipping container without having to share it with other shippers. All goods contained are owned by one shipper. 

FEU – Forty Foot Equivalent Unit. This is an abbreviation for a 40 foot (12 metre) standard shipping container.

Freight Forwarder – A private company or agency that handles the transport of the container, its customs clearances and securing cargo space for the container’s journey. Freight forwarders act as an intermediary between the company that makes the shipment and the final destination for the goods.

Flat Rack Container – A container with no walls for cargo that is too wide to fit into a box container. 


Gateway – Gateway is a point at which freight in transit from one point to another is interchanged between transport providers. Alternatively, Gateway is also used by the customs to refer to the port where cargo clearance takes place.

GOH – Garments On Hanger. These containers are handling clothes or other items on hangers inside the shipping container. They are used for shipping high-quality garments and give customers the option of using a strong or bar system (or a combination of both) for hanging goods. They allow for greater internal load capacity and savings on transportation and handling costs.

GP – General Purpose container. A classic box container for general cargo. This is usually 6 metres (20ft) or 12 metres (40ft). Shipping containers typically come in two different heights – GP or HC (see below)


HC or High Cube Container – This is a shipping container with around 0.3 metres (1ft) or extra headroom inside the container over and above the standard size.


IICL – Institute of International Container Lessors. This is an organisation representing the largest container leading companies in the world. It also sets repair standards for containers. IICL container leasing member companies engage in leasing marine cargo containers to ship operators and others on a broad international basis.

Insulated Shipping Container – A container with insulation that carries cargo that has to be kept at a constant temperature. This can be a refrigerated (reefer) unit but doesn’t always have to be. 

Intermodal – Intermodal shipping refers to moving freight by two or more modes of transportation. By loading cargo into intermodal containers, shipments can move seamlessly between trucks, trains and cargo ships. Intermodal shipments typically fall into one of two categories: international intermodal or domestic intermodal.

ISO – International Organisation for Standardisation. An international body for standards of goods. This sets the standards for shipping container construction. Most often, people use ISO containers for hauling heavy loads and palletised products.


LO/LO – Lift on-lift off. This is a fee for lifting containers off and onto containerships. It is also used to describe cargo ships with on-board cranes to load and unload cargo.


MGW – Maximum Gross Weight. This is the total allowable weight of the container as well as the cargo that is packed inside it. This may also include any extra packaging that goes into the container for the protection of cargo during handling and transport.


NVOCC – Non-Vessel Owning Common Carrier. This is an American individual or company that arranges shipments but does not own or operate any freight vessels. The term is used interchangeably with freight forwarders in the United States.


O/H – Over Height. The cargo it too big to fit inside the shipping container.

O/S – Open Sided. Refers to a shipping container that has no sides and is suitable for cargo that is too wide for a standard container.

O/T – Open Top. Refers to a shipping container that has no roof. This means they can be loaded from the top by crane, but can take cargo that is too tall for a GP or HC container.


Payload – This refers to the maximum weight of the cargo or goods that can be carried within the container. The payload of OZBOX shipping containers is listed on the relevant product pages when you are searching to buy or hire a shipping container.


RAL Colour Coding – A colour matching system to give the exact colour of the coating of a shipping container – This can include branding colours and allows for grading and easier identification of the box.

Reefer Shipping Container – A refrigerated container with a unit that controls the temperature of the goods within. These can include freezer containers where the goods inside are kept at zero and subzero temperatures. Temperature-controlled transportation is used for perishables such as fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products.

Relay – The act of transfer of a shipping container from one vessel to another.


SOC – Shipper Owned Container. The shipper owns the container you are hiring to transport your goods.

Slot – The allocated space for the container on the containership, allowing carriers to know exactly which container is located where on the ship.


TARE – Tare weight, otherwise known as unladen weight, is purely the sole weight of the empty container. Industries may also calculate the mass of any packing materials, straps, and boxes. In the shipping industry, the weight of vehicles is often classified as tare weight.

TEU – Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit. This is an abbreviation for a 20 foot (6 metre) standard shipping container.

THC – Terminal Handling Charge. The port’s handling fee for moving the container around. THC are fees charged by the shipping terminals for the storage and positioning of containers before they are loaded on a vessel. 

Time Slot – The time that is booked to either collect or deliver the shipping container.

Transshipment (sometimes also trans-shipment or transhipment) – The act of unloading goods from one ship and loading them into another to complete a journey to a further destination, even when the cargo may have to remain ashore sometime before its onward journey.

Turnaround Time – The time it takes for a container to leave a container terminal after its initial arrival.


Waybill – This is a bill of lading that records the receipt of goods and also acts as evidence of the contract of transport and service. Waybills can be used in shipping freight cargo by truck, train, plane, or boat.

WWT – Wind and Watertight. This is the most basic level of container condition and simply means the storage container is structurally sound. Most containers are wind and watertight to keep out the elements and protect the cargo inside.

Hopefully, this handy guide will help you to understand more about the shipping container industry and the wider transportation industry. If you still have any questions, you can always chat to one of the OZBOX team who will be more than happy to help.

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