Shipping Terms Every International Importer and Exporter Should Know

Shipping Terms Every International Importer and Exporter Should Know

If you’ve been managing a business for quite some time now, you might’ve experienced some difficulties when it comes shipping your goods from one place to another. Aside from ensuring the safety and timely arrival of your cargo, you also need to familiarize yourself to several jargons associated with the shipping industry. Most business owners nowadays ended up getting confused about some of the technical terms used in shipping. While you don’t really have to be a pure expert when it comes in dealing with these terms, your knowledge about them could prove to be pretty handy in the future indeed.

So, to help you avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and minimize errors while you communicate with your shipping company, here are some of the most common terminology used in international shipping:

Bill of Lading (BoL)

Bill of Lading, also known as BoL is a document given by a carrier to a shipper. This document is issued on a receipt form with the sign of the vessel’s representative and acts as a written proof of contract that a transportation has been made. 

This document is very important as many ports do not allow anyone to claim their goods without presenting their BoL. Unfortunately, some notorious freight forwarding scammers use BoL as a way to steal money from the others. Know more about the other freight forwarding scams through this infographic here.


Carriers can be an individual or legal entity that offers transporting services for passengers and goods. Examples of carriers are airlines, shipping lines, railroad and trucking companies.


If a driver takes a cargo during the return trip of a commercial vehicle, it’s technically referred to as a backhaul. Cargo vehicles do this practice as a way to maximize the productivity of their trips.

Customs Broker

Customs Brokers are private individual or firms that works as a guide for both importers and exporters in meeting the necessary requirements given by the customs authorities. Many people usually mistook customs brokers to freight forwarders, but both professions have several distinctions with each other.

Freight Forwarder

These are persons or company that specializes in logistics and organizing shipping processes in place of an individual or company to transport their goods.


A shortened term for “hazardous materials,” hazmat is a material that could pose safety risks to anyone that it comes in contact with. Unlike other forms of cargo, shipping hazmat requires special endorsements from all involved parties.


Cargo can be considered as an intermodal once it was shipped using multiple forms of transportation, like a cargo truck and rail transport.

Less Than Truckload (LTL)

When the weight of a shipment ended up being less than the required weight of the truckload rate, that is described as Less Than Truckload or LTL.


Tender is a fixed cost to move a cargo.

Transportation Management System (TMS)

Transportation Management Systems or TMS is a software designed to help businesses and even some freight forwarding companies to optimize their planning and execution in the physical movement of the goods. There are several benefits that can be obtained by investing in this kind of system.