Glossary of Transportation Terms

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A factor is an agent who will, at a discount (usually five to 8% of the gross), buy receivables.


Abbreviation for "Freight All Kinds." Usually refers to full container loads of mixed shipments.

False Billing

Misrepresenting freight or weight on shipping documents.


Abbreviation for "Free Alongside Ship."


A nautical measurement with the following conversion equivalents: 6 feet; 1.83 meters.


Abbreviation for "Full Container Load."


Abbreviation for "Free Discharge."


Food and Drug Administration.

Federal Maritime Commission (FMC)

The Commission is composed of five Commissioners appointed for 5-year terms by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Not more than three members of the Commission may belong to the same political party. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairman. The Chairman is the agency's chief executive and administrative officer. As such, the Chairman has exclusive authority over agency personnel matters, organization and supervision, distribution of business, and use of funds for administrative purposes.
The Chairman and the other four Commissioners are responsible for making decisions and determinations in the disposition of docketed cases, and ensuring the efficient, equitable, and expeditious resolution of all other matters arising under statutes administered by the Commission.
Federal Maritime Commission
Office of the Secretary
800 North Capitol Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20573
Voice: 202-523-5725
Fax: 202-523-0014

Feeder Port

A central hub port from which cargo is shipped to various regional ports.  Freeport, Bahamas is an example of a true “feeder port”.

Feeder Service

Cargo to / from regional ports are transferred to / from a central hub port for a long-haul ocean voyage. Freeport, Bahamas is an example of a true “feeder port”.

Feeder Vessel

A short-sea vessel that transfers cargo between a central hub port and smaller spoke ports.


Maritime abbreviation for "forty-foot equivalent units," which refers to containers that are 40 feet (12.19 meters) in length. One FEU is equal to two TEUs, or "twenty-foot equivalent units." See "TEUs."

Flat car

A railcar without a roof and walls.

Flat Rack / Flat Bed Container 

A container with no sides and frame members at the front and rear for cargo loading from the sides and top.

Fifth Wheel

The semi-circular steel coupling device mounted on a tractor which engages and locks with a chassis semi-trailer.


See Free In and Out.


A capacity measurement equal to one-fourth of a barrel.

Fixed Costs

Costs that do not vary with the level of activity. Some fixed costs continue even if no cargo is carried. Terminal leases, rent and property taxes are fixed costs.

Flag Carrier

An airline or vessel of one national registry whose government gives it partial or total monopoly over international routes. Flat Bed Chassis - A semi-trailer with a level bed and no sides or tops. The floor is a standard height from the ground.

Flags of Convenience

The registration of ships in a country whose tax on the profits of trading ships is low or whose requirements concerning manning or maintenance are not stringent. Sometimes referred to as flags of necessity; denotes registration of vessels in foreign nations that offer favorable tax structures and regulations; also the flag representing the nation under whose jurisdiction a ship is registered. Ships are always registered under the laws of one nation but are not always required to establish their home location in that country.

Flat Car

A rail car without a roof and walls.

Flat Rack/Flat Bed Container

A container with no sides and frame members at the front and rear. Container can be loaded from the sides and top.

FMC (F.M.C.)

Federal Maritime Commission. The U.S. Governmental regulatory body responsible for administering maritime affairs including the tariff system, Freight Forwarder Licensing, enforcing the conditions of the Shipping Act and approving conference or other carrier agreements.


See Free On Board. See also Terms of Sale, FOB.


Abbreviation for "Free on Rail."

Force Majeure

The title of a common clause in contracts, exempting the parties for non-fulfillment of their obligations as a result of conditions beyond their control, such as earthquakes, floods or war.

Fore and Aft

The direction on a vessel parallel to the center line.

Foreign Sales Corporation

Under U.S. tax law, a corporation created to obtain tax exemption on part of the earnings of U.S. products in foreign markets.  Must be set-up as a foreign corporation with an office outside the USA.

Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ)

A free port in a country divorced from Customs authority but under government control. Merchandise, except that which is prohibited, may be stored in the zone without being subject to import duty regulations.

FTZ 104, located in the Port of Savannah, has been extended beyond areas surrounding the Savannah / Hilton Head International Airport to encompass the Savannah’s deepwater terminals-- Garden City Terminal and Ocean Terminal. 

Fork Lift

A machine used to pick up and move goods loaded on pallets or skids.

Forwarder, Freight Forwarder, Foreign Freight Forwarder

An independent business that dispatches shipments for exporters for a fee. The firm may ship by land, air, or sea, or it may specialize. Usually it handles all the services connected with an export shipment, including preparation of documents, booking cargo space, warehousing, pier delivery, and export clearance. The firm may also handle banking and insurance services on behalf of a client. The U.S. forwarder is licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission for ocean shipments.

Forwarder Compensation

See Brokerage.

Foul Bill of Lading

A receipt for goods issued by a carrier with an indication that the goods were damaged when received. Compare Clean Bill of Lading

Four-Way Pallet

A pallet designed so that the forks of a fork lift truck can be inserted from all four sides. See Fork lift.


See "Free of Particular Average."

Free Alongside (FAS)

The seller must deliver the goods to a pier and place them within reach of the ship's loading equipment. See Terms of Sale.

Free Astray

An astray shipment (a lost shipment that is found) sent to its proper destination without additional charge.

Free In and Out (FIO)

Cost of loading and unloading a vessel is borne by the charterer/shipper.

Free of Particular Average (FPA)

A marine insurance term meaning that the assurer will not allow payment for partial loss or damage to cargo shipments except in certain circumstances, such as stranding, sinking, collision or fire.

Free on Board (FOB - U.S. Domestic Use)

Shipped under a rate that includes costs of delivery to and the loading onto a carrier at a specified point.

- FOB Freight Allowed:

The same as FOB named inland carrier, except the buyer pays the transportation charge and the seller reduces the invoice by a like amount.

- FOB Freight Prepaid:

The same as FOB named inland carrier, except the seller pays the freight charges of the inland carrier.

- FOB Named Point of Exportation:

Seller is responsible for the cost of placing the goods at a named point of exportation. Some European buyers use this form when they actually mean FOB vessel.

- FOB Vessel:

Seller is responsible for goods and preparation of export documentation until actually placed aboard the vessel.

Free on Board (Int'l Use)

See Terms of Sale.

Free Out (FO)

Cost of unloading a vessel is borne by the charterer.

Free Port

A restricted area at a seaport for the handling of duty-exempted import goods. Also called a Foreign Trade Zone.

Free Sale Certificate

The U.S. government does not issue certificates of free sale. However, the Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, will issue, upon request, a letter of comment to the U.S. manufacturers whose products are subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or other acts administered by the agency. The letter can take the place of the certificate.

Free Time

That amount of time that a carrier's equipment may be used without incurring additional charges. (See Storage, Demurrage or Per Diem.)

Free Trade Zone

A port designated by the government of a country for duty-free entry of any non-prohibited goods. Merchandise may be stored, displayed, used for manufacturing, etc., within the zone and re-exported without duties.


Refers to either the cargo carried or the charges assessed for carriage of the cargo.

Freight Bill

A document issued by the carrier based on the bill of lading and other information; used to account for a shipment operationally, statistically, and financially.  An Invoice.

Freight Forwarder

A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of the shipper. A freight forwarder frequently makes the booking reservation.

Freight Rate

The charge made for the transportation of freight.


See Ships.


Charterers when canceling agreement sometimes quote 'doctrine of frustration' i.e. vessel is lost, extensive delays .

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