Glossary of Terms for International Shipping

Moving abroad is overwhelming – you’ll have plenty of things on your to-do list, which may include learning a new language, so don’t let the moving industry jargon feel like a third language! When finding a trustworthy international moving company to assist you with your overseas relocation, get prepared by familiarizing yourself with some of these frequently-used terms:

Air Waybill

The contract for transportation between the customer and the air carrier. It is also the receipt for cargo.

Bill of Lading

Original contract/customer receipt for belongings. This document is related to ocean shipments, and should include the dates, services and charges involved in the international relocation.


Goods being transported – by air, sea or land.

Certificate of Origin

A document determining the country in which shipped goods were manufactured or produced. It must be signed and sealed by a Chamber of Commerce to certify true origin, and may also require legalization by proper officials in the destination country.

Consular Invoice

A special invoice that some countries require to control and identify imported goods.


The use of boxes, cartons, drums, barrels, etc. to transport a shipment.

Currency Adjustment

An added fee on charges for ocean freight to compensate for currency fluctuation between countries.


The place in every country where physical examination of imports and exports is done. It can also refer to fees placed on these imports and exports.

Customs Clearance

The process where the customer obtains the release of goods from customs. This process includes documentation handling, but excludes the physical handling of cargo.


A fee that is charged to the customer for keeping a container beyond a particular length of time.

Destination Agent

The point of contact for the customer shipping goods. This person is the authorized receiving agent for a shipment if it is going into storage.


Taxes imposed on the importation and exportation of goods.

Freight Forwarders

A licensed company that handles the formalities when it comes to foreign or domestic shipments. Freight forwarders will assemble and dispatch these shipments on the behalf of others.

Household Goods Shipment

Personal property/goods being shipped for use or intended use in the home.

Import Permit

A special permit allowing certain items into a foreign country. This permit must be issued by a government agency prior to shipping the specified goods.

Origin Agent

The agent handling the estimating, scheduling, surveying, packing and loading of an international shipment at the origin.

Packed by Owner (PBO)

“Packed by Owner” – the owner/customer packs his or her own goods at origin. This method is not always acceptable in certain countries.

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International Moving Checklist

What Documents Will I Need for an International Move?

Tips for Moving Overseas for Retirement