The ABCs of Shipping Container Jargon

The ABCs of Shipping Container Jargon

The ABCs of Shipping Container Jargon

What is a shipper-owned container and how does it differ from a carrier-owned container? Is a box, container, TEU and FEU the same thing? And what on earth is a NVOCC?

The shipping container is one of the most important inventions of the modern world. It completely changed the 20th century business landscape and is widely hailed as one of the major architects of globalisation. The humble container turned 60 in 2016 and is firmly entrenched as the standard for worldwide shipping. In fact, it is estimated that there are 35+ million TEUs in current circulation.

Here is a concise guide to container industry speak:

  • TEU: Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit. The most frequently used container lengths are 20′ (20 foot) and 40′ (40 foot), which places 20′ as the lowest common denominator. As such, the term TEU is an industry standard reference. Container ships are designed to carry units in this measurement, which means its capacity is also measured in terms of TEUs.
  • FEU: Forty-foot Equivalent Unit. This is a container that is the same height and width as a TEU but twice the length. As a result, it has twice the capacity.
  • Box: A less formal name for a shipping container. This is how they are often referred to in the industry.
  • Carrier: Any individual, company or corporation engaged in transporting goods. Container shipping lines are sometimes referred to as ocean carriers.
  • NVOCC: Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier, e.g. Expeditors, Blue Anchor Line etc.
  • VOCC: Vessel Operating Common Carrier (also known as shipping line).
  • BCO: Beneficial Cargo Owner, i.e. a direct exporter.
  • COC: Carrier Owned Container, i.e. a container that is owned, operated or leased by the carrier from a container leasing company, e.g. Triphook, Cronos, Triton, etc.
  • SOC: Shipper Owned Container, i.e. a container that is owned by the shipper e.g. John Deere, Cisco, etc.

DID YOU KNOW? As of 2018, the world’s top 100 container shipping lines have 6057 active ships carrying 21 622 093 TUEs. That’s a whole lot of cargo space!

There you have it – a quick rundown of some of the most common container-related terminology you’re likely to encounter in the shipping trade. Link Ship Chandlers supplies some of the foremost ports in South Africa. To learn more about the services we offer in Cape Town, Saldanha and Coega, see our website and keep an eye on the blog in coming weeks and months.


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