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    International Moving Glossary

    By The reallymoving Team Updated 25th Mar, 2024

    Confused by the international moving jargon? Read our extensive list of every term and its definition you will need to know when moving abroad.

    International Moving Glossary


    Acceptance Form: A draft stating that the drawee (payer) acknowledges their unconditional obligation to pay at maturity; a form sent to the mover for them to sign to confirm acceptance of the terms of the removals quote.
    Access: The ease of accessibility to the property, including factors such as parking for the removals vehicle, distance to the front door, availability of lifts etc.
    Agent: An appointed removals company at the destination (or origin) of your move to receive your shipment, clear it through customs and arrange the final delivery.
    Airfreight: Transportation of goods by aircraft.
    AQIS (Australians Quarantine and Inspection Service): The Australian government agency that is responsible for enforcing quarantine laws in Australia.
    Arrival Notice: A notification of the ship’s arrival. The notification is given by the carrier to the owner of the cargo.
    Assignee: Term for the employee who is being assigned abroad within international corporate removals.
    AWB (Air Waybill): A contract between the shipper and the air carrier, including the shipping terms and conditions. It is issued in non-negotiable form and serves as a receipt for the shipper.


    B/L (Bill of Lading or BOL): The contract between a shipper and the carrier that acknowledges your goods have been released to the carrier. The document is a binding contract and serves as a receipt for the goods delivered, a document of title and a contract of carriage.
    BAF (Bunker Adjustment Factor): An adjustment in the shipping charges to compensate for fluctuating fuel costs.
    BAR Overseas: A group of UK companies that are regulated by the British Association of Removers (BAR) trade association and specialise in international removals.
    Bike Carton: A shipping container for bikes.
    Binding Quote: The guaranteed price to pay. This is based on the inventory/information provided or viewed by the removals firms’ estimator.

    Bond Port (First Port of Call): The port of initial Customs entry of a vessel in any country.
    Bonded Warehouse: A warehouse that meets with local specifications and is approved by the Customs authorities. They allow the storage of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods enter the Customs Territory.
    Book Box (Book Carton): A shipping container for books.
    Booker (Booking Agent): The company in charge of your move.
    Booking Number: A number used to reserve equipment for your move and act as a control number before the Bill of Lading has been completed.
    Bulkhead: A partition that separates one part of a vehicle from another to stabilise a load. These are usually built in containers to steady smaller shipments or to separate a car from the rest of a household goods shipment.


    CAF (Currency Adjustment Factor): An adjustment in the charges, expressed as a percentage of a base rate, to compensate for fluctuating currency.
    Cancellation Charges: The charges incurred if the removal is cancelled once it has been confirmed within a time frame specified by the removals firm.
    Car Pre-shipment Condition Survey: The inspection of a car prior to shipment.
    Carrier: An individual, company or corporation that performs the transportation of goods. Transportation can be by road, rail, sea, air or a combination of modes.
    CBM (Cubic Meter or CM): A metric unit of measurement used to describe the volume of goods or space.
    Chargeable Weight: The weight used to determine the air freight charge.
    CIF (Cost, Insurance, Freight): The cost of the goods, insurance and all transportation charges to a named port. The cost is paid to the foreign point of delivery by the seller.
    CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species): An agreement between governments to ensure the international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
    Claim: A written demand to the carrier for payment due to alleged loss or damage to goods while in the carrier’s possession.
    Climate Controlled Storage: Storage units that keep items in a constant environment and temperature for protection.
    COD (Cash on Delivery or Carried on Docket): A shipment where payment is made at the time of delivery.
    Collection:  When the removal goods are packed and moved by the international removals firm. 
    Consignee: The person or company named in the freight contract that the shipment is to be delivered to.
    Consignment: The shipment of goods to a consignee.
    Consolidation: A shipping method used by international removals firms whereby household goods of multiple shippers are combined into one full container load. Also see groupage and LCL.
    Container: A rectangular steel box for holding goods during transportation. Containers are available in different, standardised sizes.
    Container Number: A unique reference number assigned to a container for documentation purposes.
    Container Terminal: A designated area within a port for the unloading and loading of containers.
    Contraband: Prohibited cargo.
    Corporate Removals: Commercial relocation of a business or company; an international removal paid for by a company for either an individual (assignee) or a group of individuals.

    Crating: To pack goods into a wooden container for shipment.
    CUFT (Cubic Feet): An imperial unit of measurement used to assess the volume of goods or space.
    Customs: The official department that administers and enforces a government’s rules protecting a country’s import and export revenues.
    Customs Bond: A guarantee to Customs of payment on any duty fees and penalties. It serves as a form of insurance to protect the Treasury in the case of an importer defaulting on its debts to Customs.
    Customs Broker: An individual or company that manages shipments between countries and clears goods through customs for importers and exporters. Custom Brokers are licensed by the government.
    Customs Clearance: The documented permission required by a country’s customs department which allows imported goods to enter a country or for exported goods to leave the country. Customs clearance is given to a shipping agent to confirm that all duties have been paid and entry/exit permission granted.

    Customs Clearance Agent: See Customs Broker.
    Customs Forms (Customs Documentation): The forms necessary when shipping goods to an overseas country.
    Customs Inspections: An inspection of a shipment of goods at Customs.
    Customs Invoice: A document that requires all data in a commercial invoice in addition to the verification of the value, quantity and nature of the shipment. It also can serve as a seller’s commercial invoice. A valued packing list may substitute a commercial invoice in some circumstances.
    CWT (Centum Weight): The rate or charge per 100 pounds.


    Declared Value: The value of the goods declared by the shipper, usually required for insurance or for customs clearance.
    De-Consolidation Point: A place where non-categorised or loose cargo is ungrouped for delivery.
    Deep Sea: The shipping of goods across an ocean; an international move further afield than the UK or Europe.
    Delivery: The transportation of goods from one location to another.
    Delivery Receipt: A document signed by the consignee at the time of delivery to state the condition of the goods and to confirm arrival at the destination address of the goods.
    Demurrage: A penalty charge by the shipping line against the shipper’s or consignee for a delay in returning the unloaded container to the shipping lines depot within the free days allowed.
    Destination Address (Delivery Address): The location a shipment is consigned to; the location where the shipment is turned over to the consignee or agent.
    Destination Agent: The removals company appointed to act on your behalf at destination.
    Destination Port: The docking location where the shipment arrives and is unloaded in the destination country.
    Destination Service: Designed to help house movers with the transition of moving house overseas. It includes a broader range of services than providing only the removal aspect.
    Devanning: The unloading or discharging of goods.
    Dismantling: To take apart into separate pieces (usually applied to furniture).
    Dock: A platform for loading and unloading shipments; a cargo handling area parallel to a port.
    Domestic Removal: Home relocation of an individual or family that does not require the shipment to cross any international borders.
    Door To Door: The transportation of a shipment from the shipper’s residence at origin to the shipper’s new overseas destination.
    Door To Port: The transportation of a shipment from the shipper’s residence at origin to the destination port.
    Duty: A tax by the destination country’s Customs on shipments going into its country.


    Estimate: An initial, estimated quote for the price of the moving service.
    Estimator (Surveyor): The member of staff in the moving company who will visit your current residence to assess the volume of your goods to be moved and provide an estimate.
    ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival): The carrier’s estimated date for when the shipment will arrive.

    ETD (Estimated Time of Departure): The carrier’s estimated date for when the shipment will depart.
    Export: The shipment of goods over another country’s borders.
    Export Wrap: The method and materials used to pack goods for overseas transportation.
    Express B/L (Express BOL or Express Bill of Lading): A document between the shipper and the carrier that is transmitted electronically.
    Extra Handling Charge: Extra charges taking into account goods that require specialist handling or additional labour.
    Extra Man: Additional members of staff necessary to undertake the service.
    Extra Pick Up (Extra Delivery): A pick up or delivery of goods that is in addition to the original load quoted for.


    FCL (Full Container Load): The maximum cargo weight permitted in a container; a full container carrying your goods only from origin to destination.
    FIDI: The largest global alliance of independent international removals firms.
    Frame: A wooden frame built above a car to pack additional goods into a container.
    FOB (Free On Board): Shipping under a rate that includes the cost of delivery, loading onto the moving vessel and transportation expenses to a delivery point specified in the contract. When the goods have been delivered, the risk of damage or loss of goods is transferred to the consignee.
    Freight: The goods being transported; the charges for the transportation of the goods.
    Freight Forwarder: An independent company that handles export shipments on behalf of the shipper. Their role is to make the arrangements and take care of necessary documentation.
    Fumigation: Method of preventing the transportation of exotic pests to another country.


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    Global Mobility Company: A company that makes the arrangements for individuals moving to another country usually on behalf of a business.
    GRI (General Rate Increase): Describes an across-the-board adjustment in ocean freight charges applied to the base rate, implemented annually or semi-annually by conference members.
    Gross Weight: The total weight of the shipment, including the goods, packaging and container.
    Groupage: The consolidation of smaller shipments loaded into one container.
    GST (Goods and Service Tax): A value added tax on goods and services.


    Harbour: A place for ships to load and unload goods, or fill up on fuel and supplies.
    Harbour Master: An official responsible for maintaining and managing ports and harbours, and attending to the docking of ships.
    Haulage: The transportation of goods; the charge made for the transportation of goods.
    HAWB (House Air Waybill): The Air WayBill issued by the freight forwarder.
    Heat Treatment (HT): The heating of wooden items for fumigation purposes. This is often part of the quarantine process for the entry of goods into some countries.
    HHG (Household goods): Private belongings that are typically the goods transported in a domestic move.
    HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs): A UK government department responsible for the collection of taxes and customs duties.
    Hoist (Lift): Equipment used for lifting and lowering a load.


    IATA (International Air Transport Association): A trade association for the world’s freight airlines.
    Import: Goods received from another country.
    In Bond: The status of a shipment moving under Customs for clearance where duty has not yet been paid.
    In Transit: The status of a shipment that has left the port of loading and is being transported to the destination.
    Indicative Quote: An estimated, unfixed price for the removal service.
    Insurance Certificate: An official certificate detailing the insurance cover provided.
    Insurance Inventory: An inventory of the items included in your insurance coverage.
    Intermodal Transportation (Multimodal Transportation): The moving of a shipment container using more than one mode of transportation i.e. ocean, air or road.
    International Removal: The moving of household or commercial goods across another country’s borders.
    International Removals Firm: A removals company that can provide an international removal service.
    Inventory: A list of all of your items contained in your shipment.

    J - L

    Job Sheets: A page including instructions and details of a job to instruct the removal team.

    kg (Kilogram): A metric unit of measurement used to describe the mass of an object.

    LCL (Less than Container Load): A quantity of cargo that is not large enough to fill a shipping container. LCLs are usually consolidated to fill the container.
    Letter of Credit (LC): A document issued by the consignee’s bank authorising payment of a specified amount to the seller if the terms and conditions are fulfilled.
    Lift Van: A wooden crate constructed for use in packing a groupage shipment or for storage  during an international removal.
    Linen Carton: A box used for packing and transporting clothing and other linen materials.
    lbs. (Pounds): An imperial unit of measurement used to describe the mass of an object.
    Loading Time: The time taken to load a shipment onto the vessel used for transportation; the time it takes to pack the shipment into the container prior to the container leaving the customer’s property to arrive at the origin port.
    Long Carry: A lengthy distance between the entrance of the origin or destination residency and the removals vehicle for the removals team to load and unload goods due to bad access; having to move goods above the first floor without a lift.


    MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry): Now named the Ministry for Primary Industries, the MAF is responsible for agriculture, forestry and biosecurity in New Zealand.
    Marine Insurance: Insurance that covers goods lost, damaged or unable to be legally recovered whilst in transit over sea.
    Move Manager (Move Co-ordinator): A moving specialist responsible for managing the relocation and providing assistance and support to the shipper throughout the moving process.


    NET Weight: The weight of the shipment without including any packaging or the container itself.
    NOVCC (Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier): A type of freight forwarder that books space on the shipping line vessels and acts as a carrier but does not own its own fleet of vessels. NOVCCs consolidate smaller shipments under one Bill of Lading.


    OBL (Original Bill of Lading): A hard copy document which requires proper signatures for completing a carriage of contract.
    Origin Address: The starting location from which a shipment began its relocation.
    Origin Agent: The moving or shipping company that handles your move at its starting point.
    Origin Port: The docking location where the shipment is loaded onto the vessel and departs the origin country.
    Origin Service: The removals service in the country of origin; the transportation from the origin address to the origin port.
    Overflow Shipment: The remaining quantity of goods that could not fit in the main container shipment. This is usually sent on via groupage or airfreight shipments.


    Packer: The members of staff responsible for packing, wrapping and loading the goods at the origin address and unloading, unwrapping and unpacking the goods at the destination address.
    Packing: The preparation of household goods using materials to keep the items safe and secure during transportation overseas.
    Packing List: An itemised list of all the goods - and their condition at the point of packing - in the shipment signed by the shipper. The packing list will include the information necessary for transportation.
    Packing Materials: The industry-standard materials used to ensure the safety and security of the goods during transportation abroad.
    Pallet: A load carrying platform used to assist in the handling of cargo by a lift truck.
    Parking Restrictions: Council or City regulations that restrict or prohibit the parking of a vehicle on a road.
    Parking Suspension (Parking Exemption): Parking restrictions that have been suspended or are temporarily exempt at the request of the removals firm to the city or local council.
    PBO (Packed By Owner): Where goods are packed by the shipper.
    Port: A harbour where sea vessels dock; opening in the side of a sea vessel for handling freight.
    Port Charges: Fees for services undertaken at the port. These will vary from location to location and can sometimes be paid in advance.
    Port of Discharge: A port where the vessel will unload its shipments for them to be dispatched to the consignee.
    Port Storage: A fee charged to the shipping line from the port authorities if the loaded container is not moved off the port side within the free days allowed by the port. This charge is recovered from the consignee by the shipping line.
    Port To Port: The transportation of the shipper’s goods from the origin port to the destination port.
    Pre Move Survey: A visit to the origin address by the Estimator to assess the volume of the goods to be moved and provide an estimate.
    Private Migrant Move: A move undertaken by a private individual overseas rather than paid for by an individual’s company.
    Prohibited Items: Goods that are illegal to ship into another country.


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    Quarantine: A restraint on an operation designed to protect citizens against a health hazard. If a ship is placed under quarantine it will not be able to leave a protected point; where a container is held while a quarantine inspection is carried out by a Customs department.
    Quarantine Inspection: The investigation of household goods entry into  country for the purpose of identifying and controlling biosecurity risks. This process usually incurs fees that are directly paid by the mover.
    Quote Acceptance: A shipper’s signed agreement to the stated price and terms of the service.


    Reassembly: The rebuilding of an item by putting the separated pieces back together.
    Relocation Company: A firm that specialises in transporting cargo and providing destination services for individuals moving house either locally or overseas.
    Reefer Container: A refrigerated, temperature controlled container for shipping, often used for household goods when they would otherwise return empty.
    Residence Permit: An official document allowing an individual to live in a country of which they are not a citizen.
    Restricted Items: See Prohibited Items.
    Road Freight: Goods transported by road.
    RORO (Roll On Roll Off): A method of sea transportation where when a vehicle is not moved in a container but stored on the deck during the transportation.


    Sea Freight: Goods transported by sea.
    Seal (Seal Number): A number applied to a container seal to reduce the risk of cargo pilferage and shipping of contraband. The container seal number is unique to each seal.
    Shipper: The individual or company who is the owner or supplier of the goods shipped from the origin address to the origin destination.
    Shipping Agent: The person or organisation that will arrange for the shipping, warehousing, loading and unloading of a container.
    Shipping Line: A business that operates container ships, arranging the movements from port to port. The Shipping Line may or may not own the ships.
    Shuttle: A smaller vehicle used for loading a shipping container or removal vehicle when access is tight.
    Signing Off: When the shipper signs a declaration at the end of the removal to confirm that they have been happy with the service provided and all the shippers goods have been packed or delivered.
    SIT (Storage In Transit): The temporary storage of a shipment in moving company’s warehouse facility before further transportation.
    Sole Use Container: A container holding only your goods. If you select a Sole Use Container, this will be brought to the origin address to be loaded rather than a removals vehicle if access is good. The container will not hold any other shippers goods.
    Specialist Services: Additional services provided during the move, tailored to your requirements. I.e. A Piano moving service or the unplumbing of a washing machine
    Steamship Line: The line responsible for the operation of a fleet of container ships.
    Storage: The temporary holding of goods in a dedicated storage facility.
    Storage Access: The ability to visit the facilities in which your goods are stored.


    Tare Weight: The weight of an empty container without the weight of the goods.
    Tariff: A document stating the rules, rates and charges for the shipping of goods.
    Tea Crate: A box type used for shipping small consignments, such as bulky but light items.
    Telex Release: A message instructing that the cargo can be released to the consignee without presentation of original Bills of Lading. The message is sent by the shipping line to their office at the discharge port.
    Terminal: An area assigned for containers to be prepared for loading and discharged to from the vessel for onward transportation.
    Terms and Conditions: The rights and obligations of each party in the contract.
    Third Party Contractor: A company that provides a range of integrated transportation services to another company.
    Total Loss Insurance: Insurance protection for when the goods can’t be repaired or the repair costs for the damaged goods exceeds its value.
    Tranship: The transfer of goods from one form of transportation to another usually via a separate vehicle.
    Transit Time: The length of time taken to get from the origin address to the destination address.
    Tri Wall: Specially designed cardboard cartons used for household airfreight.

    U - V

    Unpacking: The removals of goods from its packaging and wrapping and usually placed onto a flat surface.

    Valued Inventory: An inventory of the items and their value contained in the shipment, usually required for customs purposes or insurance.
    VAT (Value Added Tax): A tax on consumption, levied on most goods and services provided by registered businesses.
    VISA: A conditional authority allowing a person who is not a citizen of a country to enter and remain in the country for a specified duration.
    Volume: The amount of 3-dimensional space occupied. Volume is quantifiable in cubic meters and cubic feet.
    Volumetric Weight: The estimated weight of a shipment based on the amount of space occupied, taking into account the length, width and height of the shipment.


    Waiting Time: The period of time between the intention of an act and the undertaking of an act. For example, the time between a removals company arriving at the destination address and the time the keys arrive for the destination address.
    Waiver: A voluntary relinquishment of a right in an agreement.
    Wardrobe Box (Wardrobe Carton): A box used for transporting clothes and other contents of wardrobes on hangers.
    Warehouse Handling: An additional charge for moving items in and out of storage and storage In Transit.

    Waybill: A shipping document prepared by the carrier showing the cost, point of origin, destination, route, consignor, consignee and a description of the shipment sent with the carrier.
    Work Permit: An official document allowing an individual to have a job in a country of which they are not a citizen.


    20 Foot: A container size for the shipment of goods with a cubic capacity of 1,170 cf.
    3rd Country Removal: Move management by a company which is located in neither the origin or destination country.
    3rd Party Services: The services a Third Party Contractor provides as part of a removal.
    40 Foot: A container size for the shipment of goods with a cubic capacity of 2,386 cf.
    40 Foot High Top Container: A container size for the shipment of goods with a cubic capacity of 2,700 cf.

    page last updated June 2014


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