Owner or Charterer?: The owner can be an individual, or a group of individuals, operating as the ABC Shipping Company.

Many shipping companies do not own all of the vessels in their fleet, or even any vessels. The XYZ Shipping Company often leases a vessel from the owner. This process of leasing a vessel is known as a charter. The charter is usually for a specific period of time. This is a time charter. It can be for 6 months or a year or more. In fact, a vessel can be chartered for a specific voyage, this is know as a voyage charter. Another type of charter is a bare boat charter. In the case of a time charter the vessel is "leased" with a master and crew. In the case of a bare boat charter the vessel is "leased" without a crew. This type of charter is not common.

The owner of a vessel receives a daily charter fee of between $10,000 & $20,000 from the charter of the vessel.

Typical is the following situation, though simplified: A German (or any other country) ship owner sets up a corporation in say Monrovia, of course you all know where that is. He (they) sell the ship to the Monrovia corporation, owned by the German company, and register the ship under that countries's flag. This foreign corporation then leases the ship back to the German owner, who then turns around and charters the vessel to a shipping company, or perhaps operates it himself. In so doing, the German owner avoids a lot burdensome corporate income taxes, government regulations, high salaries and expensive items like workmen's compensation insurance which would otherwise apply if the ship were registered in Germany. My last ship, the "TAUSALA SAMOA", was built in China, owned by a German company, through an Antigua corporation, and chartered to Columbus Lines, part of the Hamburg Süd Shipping Group for operation on a West Coast/South Pacific route, primarily carrying general cargo southbound and Star Kist Tuna northbound.

All vessels are managed by a managing agent. For example NSB Lines (Germany) was the managing agent for some vessels operating under the name ANZDL (Australia New Zealand Direct Lines) as well as numerous other vessels. In effect they manage all of the ship's business. For example, they are the employer of the master and they are the folks that the travel agent deals with in booking your voyage. In other words, they are like the manager of an apartment building who leases apartments, sees that repairs are made, collects rent, etc., for the apartment's owners.

Travel Agent: Well, you know who they are. When you arrange for a voyage they work with ship's managing agent or general passenger agent, to make the necessary arrangements for your trip. When you pay your agent they remit your funds to the the ship's agent in the currency of the managing agent. The ship's owner/agent is then billed by the travel agent for their (travel agents) commission.

The German Company, Hamburg-Süd, often acts as the general passenger agent for several shipping companies. In the past few months many shipping companies have started offering direct booking of passenger voyages. Examples are Hamburg-Süd, NSB and Grimaldi. As of this writing, I am trying to get information as to whether it is more cost effective to book directly or through an agent.

Tramp Freighter: Most of the cabin space available for passengers on freighters is on vessels operating on established trade routes. Their operators have advertised and contracted for cargo destined to ports on a particular route. These ships have "usual" itineraries and are likely to call at ports along the trade route that can be predicted in advance. Although not every voyage will be the same and the rotation of ports can often change, sudden dramatic itinerary changes to another trade route are not very likely during the course of a voyage. Ships operating in a tramp mode generally obtain large loads of single types of freight that are contracted on short notice. Rather than servicing a certain trade route, their operators seek to provide transportation from point A to point B as soon as possible. Consequently, the schedule of a tramp is subject to constant change. Even ships specializing in tramp cargo transportation in certain areas could suddenly change their anticipated route. These ships go wherever their operators find cargo to carry. Tramp travel requires more flexibility from the passenger and an understanding that the itinerary could be completely different than what was expected.

Deviation Insurance: A policy affording coverage to the vessel owner/charter in the event of illness or accidental injury to a passenger. The cost of the deviation insurance is paid by the passenger and the vessel owner/charter is the beneficiary of the policy. The company issuing the policy, pays the vessel for the cost of fuel, docking fees, port charges, and other expenses incurred by the vessel, by virtue of the ship's deviation from its route to the nearest port to land a passenger. It does not afford coverage for "loss of opportunity". That is, for cargo lost at the next port by virtue of the ship's delay in arriving timely at port.

LLoyds' Register of Shipping: This publication lists the name of every vessel that is currently operational through out the world. It also lists the name and address of the managing agent for each vessel, along with the type of cargo carried, tonnage, classification, hull, date built, place built and machinery (engine, boilers, and so forth).

Here are a few terms you should really know:

  • d.w.t.Dead Weight Tons is one way of measuring the "size" of a ship. Dead weight tonnage is the total weight of the ship, her fuel, water, engine stores and cargo. A ship of 23,500 d.w.t caries about 1,600 20' containers. One of 63,000 about 4,500 20' containers.
  • Poop Deck:  Aft deck just above the main deck. Usually the officer's mess and kitchen are on this level along with the crews mess.
  • Slop chest: This is where the ship keep's it goodies like beer, wine and cigarettes. The slop chest is always locked prior to entering any port and remains locked until the vessel returns to the high seas. The reason: all items available from the slop chest are duty free. The slop chest is the responsibility of one of the officers, usually the second or third mate. Also available are items such as shampoo, tooth paste and the like. Prices for items purchased, if on a German ship, are in DM. Payment would be in made in US dollars after applying the conversion factor. The ship will not accept credit cards or and carry only!
  • Bridge Extension or Flying Bridge: is an extension of the bridge, used while docking. It may be open or enclosed. It is also the station of a crew member after dark who functions as a look out. This structure allows the captain and the port pilot the best possible view during docking.
  • Lee: is the side opposite from the way the wind is blowing. If the wind is coming from port the starboard would be the lee side.
  • Stabilizer: This is something not found on freighters. The purpose of a stabilizer is to reduce the amount of pitch and roll. All cruise ships have stabilizers least their delicate passengers experience too much movement thus becoming sea sick, God forbid!
  • Bulbous bow: See photos. This odd appearing protuberance functions as a ballast tank and to break up oncoming waves, thus reducing pitch.
  • Knot: A nautical unit of speed, equal to 1.15 miles per hour. In the days of sailing vessels, a "log", actually a small triangular piece of wood connected to a piece of rope with knots tied every 43' 8", which was cast overboard and allowed to float backward for a specific period of time, then reeled in. By counting the number of knots run out during a known time interval, the speed of the vessel was determined, expressed in knots. Knowing the distance the knotted rope traveled and the time, it was then possible to compute the rate of speed.
  • Nautical mile: A unit of measurement equal to 6,076 feet. A ship traveling at 20 knots, for a period of 24 hours, would travel 480 nautical miles.
  • Latitude and Longitude: Imagine the earth as an orange. Let's assign some base-line coordinates. Put a dot on the very top and another at the bottom to represent the north & south poles. Next draw a line completely around the waist of the orange and dividing it in half. This is the equator. Continue drawing circles around the orange and parallel to the equator. These are "parallels of latitude." Now pay attention to this concept: Each parallel of latitude describes a vertical point on the earth. Each parallel is named with the number of degrees it represents from the equator (which is designated 0 degrees) Thus we go from the equator to 90 degrees north (the north pole). New York is approximately 40 degrees north, Houston is 30 north, and Moscow about 57 north. Because these places are all above the equator and within the northern hemisphere, these parallels are labeled north.

    South of the equator we begin again at zero, continuing to the south pole which is 90 degrees south. Some southern hemisphere places: Cape town 34 degrees south, Rio de Janeiro 23 degrees south, and the Falkland Islands at 52 degrees south. Each degree of latitude is further divided into 60 minutes of latitude. Each minute is again divided into 60 seconds of latitude. In navigation we usually deal with whole degrees, minutes, and tenths of a minute. More on that later, but REMEMBER THIS: Each minute of latitude is EQUAL to one nautical mile. Now let's do the math: 90 degrees of latitude from the equator to the north pole. So 90 degrees times 60 minutes equals 5400 miles. This is the distance from the equator to the north pole.

    Longitude: Well we've got the vertical plane covered, now for the horizontal. Take that orange of yours and draw circles around it with each circle going through each pole. we'll call these lines meridians of longitude. We'll start at the first, or prime meridian. Because the British Royal Observatory is located in Greenwich England, the prime meridian of longitude runs through Greenwich. It is labeled zero degrees. Meridians are labeled from zero to 180 going east and west. 180 degrees is on the opposite side of the world from Greenwich. So meridians are imaginary circles around the earth that converge at both poles. IMPORTANT CONCEPT: meridians are NOT parallel to each other as lines of latitude are. Meridians are however, considered Great Circles. A great circle is a circle drawn around the earth that, if the earth were sliced along it, would slice through the center core of the earth. Parallels of latitude are NOT great circles, except for one, the equator.

  • GPS: Global Positioning System. The GPS give you exact latitude and longitude (within a few meters) at any given moment. See the picture of the GPS as the equator is crossed.
  • Engine Room: Of course you all know what this is, however it is not a place to hang out while the ship is underway, unless of course you are deaf. Even with ear protection the noise level is extremely high. A lot of chief engineers are partially deaf. The engine room is not a dank, dirty place, but is brightly lit and remarkably clean.
  • Radar: is of two types, X band and S band. The ship's radar scans the sea only for about 1 and 1/2 vertical degrees in all directions. Modern radar can plot the the course and speed of any ship within range simply by a couple clicks of the mouse (actually track ball). This makes life a heck of a lot easier for the bridge officer.
  • Pirate: Yes friends, the pirate still plys the high seas as they have since mankind has sailed thereon. I am told that they are to be found in many parts of the world, with the Strait of Mallaca being the most notorious. The waters off the coast of Brazil are not unknown to pirates. No doubt your captain will be able to spin a few yarns regarding his experiences with these fine folks. Note the article concerning pirates.
  • Port & Starboard: For the land lubbers, left and right.
  • Plimsoll Line: also called PLIMSOLL MARK, official name International Load Line, internationally agreed-upon reference line marking the loading limit for cargo ships. At the instigation of one of its members, Samuel Plimsoll, a merchant and shipping reformer, the British Parliament, in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1875, provided for the marking of a load line on the hull of every cargo ship, indicating the maximum depth to which the ship could be safely loaded. Application of the law to foreign ships leaving British ports led to general adoption of load-line rules by maritime countries. An International Load Line was adopted by 54 nations in 1930, and in 1968 a new line, permitting a smaller freeboard (hull above waterline) for the new, larger ships, went into effect. If you have never seen a plimsoll mark, take a look.
  • Fo'c'sle: Forward most deck and the area there under. One deck above the main deck.
Actually, there are a lot of other terms, but these are enough to get you started. Good luck and happy sailing!