Heavy material (usually water or rocks) placed in a vessel's hold to maintain proper stability, trim, or draft. A vessel "in ballast" is carrying no commercial cargo and therefore is not earning any freight or revenue for the voyage.



A ridge or shallow place in the water, e.g. Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland.

Bank Draft (Bill Of Exchange)

An order by a purchaser directing the bank to make a payment from the purchaser’s account, usually through an intermediary bank. Typical bank drafts are negotiable instruments and are similar in many ways to checks drawn on checking accounts in a bank. A Sight Draft is payable upon demand, i.e. "upon sighting." See "Commercial Set."


A ridge of sand or gravel silted up across the mouth of a river, estuary, or harbor forming a shoal that may hinder navigation.

Bareboat Charter

A type of charter of a vessel. See "Charter Party."


Fraudulent, criminal, or wrongful act willfully committed by vessel's captain or crew which causes loss or damage to the vessel or cargo.


The width of a vessel at its broadest point.

Beaufort Scale

A scale of common observations to describe wind and sea conditions ranging from "0" for sea calm, to force "12" for hurricane force winds (devised by British Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1806). See "Weather Warnings" Appendix D.

Below (Deck)

Under the main or weather deck of the vessel.

Benefit of Insurance Clause

A clause in the contract of carriage by which the bailee of goods claims the benefit of any insurance policy effected by the cargo owner on the goods in the care of the bailee. If the contract of carriage is subject to the U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, the clause is void.


  • Mooring place for a vessel. A location for a vessel at a pier or dock.
  • The place where a crew member or passenger sleeps on a vessel.



The lowest part inside a vessel's hull where water, oil, and heavier than air gasses settle and collect.

Bill of Exchange - See "Bank Draft" and "Commercial Set."

Bill of Lading (B/L, Blading, and Lading)

A document issued by the carrier (or its agent) establishing the terms of carriage and acknowledging receipt of cargo. The B/L describes the kind and quantity of cargo being shipped; the name of the shipper, consignee, ports of loading and discharge, carrying vessel, and other shipping information.

The Bill of Lading serves as:

  1. The carrier’s receipt given to the shipper in exchange for cargo.
  2. The document of title in the hands of a lawful possessor; this is not true of a non-negotiable B/L.
  3. The contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier.
  4. Evidence of the apparent condition of the cargo when received by the carrier. If the cargo shows damage, the Master will note exceptions on the B/L, e.g. "all coils rusted" or "13 bags broken and leaking." See "Commercial Set."

Some examples of bills of lading are:

  • Clean B/L: a B/L without notation of damage exceptions to the cargo or the packing. A clean B/L is prima facie evidence of the apparent good order and condition of the cargo when received by and accepted for carriage by the carrier.
  • House B/L: a B/L issued by a freight forwarder or consolidator (acting as an NVOCC) to the shipper, when the actual transporter of the cargo issues its "Master B/L" to the NVOCC.
  • Intermodal B/L: a through B/L covering cargo moving via two or more different modes of transportation; truck, train, airplane, or vessel. Also known as a Multimodal B/L or Combined Transport B/L.
  • Master B/L: a B/L issued by the actual transporter of the cargo showing the shipper to be a freight forwarder or consolidator (acting as an NVOCC), when the NVOCC issues its House B/L to the shipper.
  • Through B/L: a B/L covering the entire transit of cargo from its point of origin to its final destination and applying to all of the connecting carriers even though they are not parties to the contract.

B/L or Blading - See "Bill of Lading."


A device with a roller through which chain or rope is passed as a turning point to facilitate moving or pulling a load; a pulley. See "Tackle."

Blocking and Bracing

Materials (usually lumber) used to secure, immobilize and protect cargo by preventing its free movement or shifting during transit. See "Cargo Packing" Appendix A.

Blue Water

A term used to distinguish ocean-going vessels from vessels used on inland or coastal waters (referred to as "Brown Water"). Blue water vessels are generally larger and more strongly built to endure the open ocean without the benefit of shelter, unlike brown water vessels that can seek a safe harbor when a storm is forecast.


To gain access to a vessel by going "onboard" or "aboard."

Board Foot

A unit of lumber measurement equal to the volume of a piece of wood one foot square by one inch thick (144 cubic inches.)

Boatswain (pronounced "Boh' sun")

The crewman in charge of the deck crew and equipment.


a steel post or posts anchored to the pier to which ship’s mooring lines are secured. Double bollards are sometimes angled away from each other.

Bonded Cargo

Cargo moving under a bond to U.S. Customs or Internal Revenue Service warehouse, to be delivered or released only under stated conditions.

Bonded Warehouse

A warehouse authorized by Customs authorities for more secure storage of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods are removed.


Arrangements with a carrier for the acceptance and carriage of cargo; i.e., a space reservation.


  1. A heavy spar, usually attached to a mast, used for lifting cargo and equipment.
  2. A long spar extending the length of a sail on a sailboat.


  1. A multiple entry insurance declaration form.
  2. A multiple entry list of insurance claims.
  3. Any list of documents or other items.

Both-To- Blame Collision Clause

When two vessels collide, they become liable to each other proportionately for the total damage. The vessel with the lesser damage may impose upon the cargo being carried to contribute to the amount to be paid to the other vessel. The "Both to Blame Collision Clause" in the cargo policy provides that in such event, the cargo policy will cover such contribution. See "Collision Clause" and "Cross Liabilities."

Bottomry Bond

An ancient form of ship’s mortgage (now obsolete). Before the days of modern communications and banking, when ships were in foreign ports and in need of supplies or repairs, the captain could pledge the vessel (in rem) as security for a loan. Loans taken out against the cargo were called "respondentia."


The front or forward part of a vessel, opposite the stern.

Bow Thruster

A propeller mounted transversely in the forefoot (and sometimes the stern) of a vessel to push the vessel sideways. It can be used during docking maneuvers instead of a tug.


An intermingling of sea (salt) water and fresh water.

Break Bulk

  1. Non-containerized cargo such as cartons, pallets, boxes, barrels as well as pipe, lumber, or steel stowed directly in the vessel's hold as opposed to containerized or bulk cargo. See "Containerization" and "Bulk Shipments."
  2. To unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car, container, or trailer.


Part of the vessel enclosing the steering, propulsion and other controls, and navigation instruments from which the officers control the vessel.


Water that is heavily saturated with salt, e.g. seawater.

Broken Stowage

The loss of space in the hold of a vessel caused by irregularity in the shape of packages. Any void or empty space in a container not occupied by cargo, as opposed to solid stow.

Brown Water

A term used to describe vessels, e.g. tugs and barges, working on inland rivers or coastal waters, as opposed to vessels on the ocean. See "Blue Water."

Bulk Cargo - See "Bulk Shipments."


1. Vertical partitions (usually running athwartships) separating compartments in a vessel, railcar, aircraft, or truck (corresponding to walls in a building).

2. A retaining wall running along the shore at the head of a pier to resist erosion of the beach and provide deep water all along the pier with an apron to provide access to the pier from the road or parking lot.

Bulk Shipments

Shipments which are not packaged, but are loaded directly into the vessel's holds. Examples of commodities that can be shipped in bulk are ores, coal, scrap iron, grain, vegetable oil, tallow, fuel oil, fertilizers, and similar commodities.


An extension of a vessel's side above the main deck approximately waist-high. See also "Gunwale."


A marine insurance policy covering multiple liability coverages in excess of one or more different underlying policies (comparable to the Commercial Liability Umbrella covering liabilities on land). "Bumbershoot" is the English word for "Umbrella," i.e. "all encompassing."


Fuel to be used by the vessel’s engines for power during the voyage; but not fuel loaded on board the vessel as cargo.


A floating marker or navigational device that is anchored in one spot. Different colors and shapes designate channels or mark hazards or obstructions.


The resulting upward force exerted by a liquid on a floating object equal to the weight of water displaced; the ability of a vessel to float. See "Vessel Stability."

Burdened Vessel - See "Give-way Vessel."


A vessel is considered "burnt" if there is some damage by fire to some structural part of the vessel. See "Fire."