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Freight Forwarding Glossary: Key Terms Explained

A cargo ship stacked with containers, sailing through the sea

Navigating the freight and logistics industry can be overwhelming, and we understand that. With numerous specialised terms and acronyms, it can leave a lot of people confused and scratching their heads.

Having a solid understanding of common terms used in the freight industry however will help make efficient logistics and supply chain decisions for your business. You’ll also be able to communicate more effectively with suppliers and freight forwarding companies.

That’s why we’ve put together a handy glossary of common terms that you might come across in the shipping and logistics industry to help you brush up on your knowledge.


3PL stands for third party logistics provider. A 3PL provider supplies outsourced logistics services, mostly transport and warehousing solutions. This can include the management of procurement and fulfilment on behalf of a client.

Airway Bill (AWB)

An airway bill is a common document used as a receipt by an air carrier for air freight shipments. It acts as a contract between the shipper and the carrier and can be used to track and identify a shipment.

Break Bulk

Break bulk is the process of transporting goods in pieces separately by sea rather than in a container. This is done when cargo can’t fit in a standard shipping container and is instead transported in crates, boxes, bags, drums or barrels. Common examples of break bulk items include manufacturing equipment, construction equipment, windmills, turbine blades and more.

Bill of Lading

A Bill of Lading is an important document that contains details about the shipment. The document is between the carrier and the shipper and includes information such as the contents of the shipment, where it’s coming from and where it’s being delivered to.

Certificate of Origin

A Certificate of Origin is required to declare which country a shipment originated from. This document is required for customs clearance as most countries have different regulations for different goods depending on where they originated. A Certificate of Origin needs to be provided as well as a Commercial Invoice.

Commercial Invoice

A Commercial Invoice is one of the most important documents required when shipping by air. This document contains vital information related to the shipment including contents, the quantity, value, weight and the origin of the cargo. On a Commercial Invoice, a commodity code must be filled out. This is a unique code that differentiates products from others.


There are usually two parties involved in the shipment of goods, the sender and the consignee. A consignee is the one who is buying/receiving the shipment.

Customs Broker

A customs broker is an organisation or individual that works with a shipper to help them navigate customs regulations and requirements. They will ensure that the customs declaration, duties and taxes are all correct so shipments are transported across borders as smoothly as possible.

Customs Clearance

When shipping items internationally and across borders, all cargo must pass through customs before they can exit or enter a country. This applies to sea, air and road freight. To ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible, shippers must have the correct freight documentation depending on the contents of their cargo.

Export Declaration

An export declaration is a document that is submitted at a port to provide details about the goods that are being exported. This document is required whenever goods are exported to a country outside of the EU in order for customs authorities to control exports.


FAK stands for ‘Freight of All Kind’ and typically refers to a full container that has been loaded with mixed cargo.

Full Truck Load (FTL)

Full truck load (FTL) is when a truck carries one shipment only that fills the entire vehicle. FTL can be a faster road transport option as the truck is travelling directly from A to B, rather than having to make other pickups or deliveries.

Full Container Load (FCL)

FCL is a term used when shipping by sea. It refers to shipping goods in a container that is exclusively filled with one party’s cargo. This means that the container is not shared with other parties, ensuring the security of the goods throughout the journey. FCL is often more cost-effective when shipping larger consignments.

Gross Weight

Gross weight is a term used to work out the chargeable weight of goods during air freight shipments. The actual weight of the cargo, including any pallets or packaging, is used to determine this. The amount charged by the carrier depends on which is higher, the gross weight or the volumetric weight.


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines. The IATA set the standards for airlines globally, including standards for safety, sustainability and security. Freight forwarders who are IATA accredited are able to simplify their interactions with airlines and provide a smoother and more seamless experience for international air freight.

Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal shipping is the method of using two or more different modes of transport to move goods. This approach offers several advantages, including cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility. It allows for seamless movement of goods across different locations and helps optimise transportation routes to minimise time and expenses.

Less than Container Load (LCL)

LCL stands for Less than Container Load and is a term frequently used when shipping by sea. This is when a shipment doesn’t require the full capacity of a shipping container and individual loads from different parties are consolidated into one container. LCL is a much more cost effective shipping method for those making smaller shipments.

Less Than Truckload (LTL)

Less than truckload (LTL) refers to the shipment of goods via road freight that don’t require the exclusive use of a truck for transportation. LTL shipments will occupy only a portion of the truck trailer and are transported with other parties’ cargo. Doing so maximises the efficiency of road freight and reduces costs for the shipper.

Out of Gauge (OOG)

Out of gauge cargo refers to shipments that exceed the standard dimensions or weight limits for standard shipping containers or vehicles. OOG cargo can include large machinery, industrial equipment or any unique shipments that require special handling and transportation.

Packing List

A packing list provides detailed information regarding the contents of a shipment. This document covers the weight and dimensions of the cargo and any detailed specifications of the goods.

Project Cargo

Project cargo refers to large, heavy or high-value items that are transported as part of specialised projects. Project cargo often requires customised and specialist transportation solutions due to its size, weight, shape and value.

Volumetric Weight

Volumetric weight is another method of calculating the cost of shipping by air. Also known as dimensional weight, it’s calculated by multiplying the length x width x height in cm. This will give you the volume of your shipment. This number is then divided by 6,000

(most air freight suppliers will use this division) to calculate the volumetric weight. Airlines will charge depending on which is higher, the gross weight or volumetric weight.

Freight Forwarding With Jenkar

Whether you’re a shipper, carrier or just want a better understanding of the logistics industry, understanding these key terms is essential for a seamless freight experience.

At Jenkar, we don’t just understand the language of the logistics – we’re fluent in it. With over 45 years of industry experience and team of specialist experts, we’re committed to providing high-quality services that are tailored to your unique shipping needs.

Whether you need reliable transport methods, efficient warehousing solutions or smooth customs clearance, our team is here to help with it all. We’ll ensure that your cargo gets to where you need it to, when it needs to.

Get in touch with a member of our team today to begin your seamless freight journey with Jenkar.

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