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Glossary

We are still working on this list of words and their meanings. Please use the feedback form if you think anything needs changing.


a b c d e f g h i k l m n o p q r s t u v w y


a

Able Seaman
A seafarer who has had at least three years` service at sea.

aerial reconnaissance
Inspecting or exploring an area from the air, often used to gather military information.

Aft
The rear of a vessel.

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b

Barge
A flat-bottomed boat for use in shallow waters, such as ports and canals.

Basin
Enclosed stretch of water such as in port.

Beam
Term for the width of a vessel.

Belship
Designed to transport unusually heavy or bulky cargoes, including other ships. It is equipped with jumbo derricks capable of lifting over 200 tons. Also known as a heavy lift ship.

Berth
An area in port where a vessel can moor (also known as a quay), or a bed on a ship.

Bonded Stores
Secure warehouse for imported goods, which are not subject to tax or customs duty.

Brake Horsepower
A measurement of the power produced by a ship`s engine, measured using a brake on the engine shaft.

breakwater
A barrier that protects a harbour from the full impact of waves.

Bridge
Place or room for controlling the ship.

British Corporation Register
First published in 1893 by the British Corporation in opposition to `Lloyd`s Register of Ships`. It contained details of ships classed only by the British Corporation and merged with `Lloyd`s Register of Ships` in 1949.

Bulkhead
A partition, normally watertight to prevent flooding, dividing the vessel's hull into separate compartments to prevent flooding and increase strength.

Bulwark
Plating on the outside of a ship's hull preventing seawater from washing on to the upper deck.

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c

Cadet
An apprentice on a ship.

Cargo Liner
Also called a freighter; a ship designed to carry general cargo. It sails according to a schedule between different ports. Occasionally a small number of passengers can also be accommodated.

Chandler
Supplier of stores and provisions for a ship`s use.

Classification Society
An organisation that surveys and classifies ships. Examples include Lloyd`s Register and Bureau Veritas.

Coaster
A small cargo ship for short haul journeys around the British coast.

Cofferdam
An empty space between bulkheads or levels on a ship, preventing leakage between neighbouring compartments.

Convoy
A group of merchant ships sailing together under the protection of naval ships during wartime.

Customs Port
One of the ports where a British ship could be registered by an official registrar. The port`s name is marked on the vessel`s stern and is known as her port of registry.

Customs Register
Detailed official source of data on British ships started in 1786 as part of a government measure to make registration compulsory. Each ship has its own comprehensive entry in the register, giving proof of a ship`s British status.

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d

Deadweight
The total weight that a ship is allowed to carry, including cargo, fuel, stores and crew. Also known as tonnage.

Derrick
A ship-mounted crane used to lift cargo on and off a ship.

Dock
A basin built to allow ships to load and unload. When enclosed by a lock, the basin can be free of the constraints of tides.

Donkey Boiler
Auxiliary boiler used to generate power when the ship is in dock.

Double Bottom
Tanks built at the bottom of a ship that can be filled with water, oil or another liquid to stabilise the ship. Also known as water ballast tanks.

Double Tide
An area, such as Southampton, has a double tide if four high or low tides happen in one tidal day (just over 24 hours). Most areas have two high tides a day.

Draught
The depth of a ship below the waterline. This can vary depending on the cargo and passengers she is carrying.

Dredger
A self-propelled vessel used to recover silt from the bed of a river, port, estuary etc.

Dredging
Removing silt from the bed of a river or port in order to deepen or maintain the depth of harbours or entrances to rivers.

Dry-Dock
A dock where the water can be pumped out to enable easy access to the entire vessel to make repairs or be cleaned externally.

Dumb Barge
A barge with no means of propulsion, requiring towing.

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e

Echo Sounding
A method of measuring the depth of the sea by sending sound waves through sea water.

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f

Fathom
A length equal to six feet (1.83 metres).

Feeder
A ship used to carry cargo to other destinations after it has been unloaded at a port.

Flag of Convenience
Ship registration in a country with low ship taxes or relaxed shipping laws. Also called `open registry`, because the register is open to foreign shipowners

Floating Dock
A dry-dock that sits in open water: water is pumped in and out of its ballast tanks to lower or raise the floating dock, to allow for ships to enter.

Flying Boat
An aircraft designed to take off and land on water. The fuselage is in the form of a buoyant hull and the aeroplane has floats which helps with stability when its on the water.

Fore
Near or towards the front of a vessel

Fore-and-Aft
Referring to both ends or the entire length of a ship.

Forecastle
The raised deck at the front end of a ship; pronounced (and sometimes written) fo`c`sle.

Foretop
This is the top of the foremast, which is the forward lower mast nearest the bow.  The men who worked this part of the mast were usually the younger and stronger seamen.

Foundering
When a ship sinks because it springs a leak or is overcome by wind and waves, it is said to have `foundered`.

Free Port
A port, or part of a port, where ships can unload goods without paying any customs duty.

Freeboard
The vertical distance along a ship`s sides from the load line to the top of the main deck, measured at a point half way along the ship`s length.

Freighter
Also called a cargo liner; a ship designed to carry general cargo. It sails according to a schedule between different ports. Occasionally a small number of passengers can also be accommodated.

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g

General Trader
Unlike a liner, a tramp does not operate on a fixed sailing schedule but will trade in all parts of the world, primarily carrying bulk cargo. Also called a tramp.

Graving
To scrape or burn away the weeds, barnacles and other matter that have become fixed to a ship`s hull. This is usually carried out in a dry-dock.

Gross Tonnage
Calculation of a ship's cargo capacity found by measuring the total space of the ship's hull under the upper deck.

Gyro Compass
A compass with a spinning wheel fixed in it. The gyro compass always points to true North, not magnetic north.

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h

Heavy Lift Ship
Designed to transport unusually heavy or bulky cargoes, including other ships. It is equipped with jumbo derricks capable of lifting over 200 tons. Also known as a belship.

Hold
A ship`s under-deck storage space, used for stowing cargo.

Horsepower
A unit of power used to measure the rate at which an engine works, equivalent to 746 Watts.

Hulked
Describes a ship which has been put beyond use, decommissioned or dismantled.

Hull
The outer shell of a ship.

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i

IMO Number
Unique number given by Lloyd`s Register to each new ship since 1963. Also called the Lloyd`s number.

Inboard
The internal side of a ship`s hull, or the space inside the hull.

Indicated Horsepower
A measurement of the power produced by a ship's engine, measured using a gauge on the engine.

International Code of Signals
Worldwide system of communication using flags or, more recently, radio.

International Rating Class
Yachts are divided into rating classes for competitive racing. The formula used to do this is internationally accepted and depends on the size and shape of the yacht`s hull.

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k

Keel
The lowest lengthways structure of a vessel on which the hull is built.

Knot
A measure of speed in navigation. One knot equals one nautical mile per hour (equivalent to 1.85 km/h or 1.16 mph).

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l

Light Draught
The depth of a ship under water when she is carrying no cargo.

Lighter
A boat, usually without an engine, used to transport cargo between a ship and the dockside.

Liner
A vessel that has a regular scheduled route between groups of ports. It may carry cargo and/or passengers and will sail on schedule regardless of whether loading has been completed.

Liverpool Underwriters` Registry for Iron Vessels
Published from 1862 to 1885, it listed all British and some foreign seagoing iron vessels over 50 tons. From 1874 it included a list of vessels by the owner`s name. In 1885 it merged with Lloyds Register.

Lloyd's Confidential Index
Published twice-yearly since 1884 by Lloyd's of London, it helps underwriters assess the risk of insuring a company's ships. The index is not released to the general public until thirty years after publication.

Lloyd's Number
Unique number given by Lloyd's Register to each new ship since 1963. Also called an IMO number, because the system has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization.

Lloyd's Register of Ships
An annual publication by Lloyd's Register, listing information about all seagoing, self-propelled vessels over 100 tons.

Lloyd's Register of Yachts
A voluntary list of yachts, published by Lloyd's Register between 1878 and 1980, and mainly consisting of larger cruising and racing vessels. It includes a yacht's details of construction, dimensions and ownership.

Load Line
A series of lines on the side of a ship showing the sea level when the ship is fully loaded. A different line is used depending on the current season and the amount of salt in the water. Also called the Plimsoll line.

Loaded Draught
The depth of a ship under water when she is fully laden (loaded) with cargo.

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m

Managing Owner
One of the co-owners of a ship chosen to manage the ship. The managing owner has the authority to do all that is necessary to ensure that the ship sails and delivers cargo and can appoint an agent to do this.

Master
The title given to the person in charge of a merchant ship.

Mercantile Navy List
Government-compiled list of all British registered merchant vessels, published between 1850 and 1977.

Merchant Vessel
A vessel owned by an individual, private company or country which carries cargo.

METAREA
One of the sixteen world sea areas, identified by Roman numerals, used in weather warnings and forecasts.

Moulded Depth
The vertical distance from the upper deck to the point where the hull plates meet the keel.

Mulberrry Harbour
An artificial floating harbour constructed during the Second World War off the coast of Normandy to help supply the allied invasion force until a major port could be captured.

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n

Nautical Mile
A distance of 6076.12 ft (1852 m). The shorter statute (land-based) mile is 87% of the nautical mile.

Neap Tide
An unusually low tide that happens around the time of the first or fourth quarters of the moon.

Net Tonnage
Calculation of a ship's cargo capacity found by measuring the space of the ship's hull under the upper deck but excluding the space taken up by machinery, accommodation and navigation. Net tonnage is less than gross tonnage.

Nominal Horsepower
A measurement of the theoretical power produced by a ship`s engine. It is calculated by taking into account the size of the ship`s engine.

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o

Official Number
Unique number given to every British registered ship. It does not change and is restored to use if a ship comes back to British ownership after a period under a foreign flag. Other countries also have official numbering systems.

Open Registry
Ship registration in a country with low ship taxes or relaxed shipping laws, open to foreign shipowners. Also called 'a flag of convenience'.

Ordinary Seaman
A seaman who has had at least nine months` but less than three years` service at sea.

Outboard
The external side of a ship`s hull.

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p

Paddles
Large wheels attached to the sides or rear of a ship as a means of propulsion.

Paragraph Ship
If the gross tonnage of a ship is above a certain level, governments may require additional equipment to be fitted to her or more crew provided. A paragraph ship is one whose tonnage is just below that level, so saving the owner money.

Passenger Liner
Vessel running a regular scheduled service between groups of ports primarily designed for carrying passengers and mail. In most cases cargo can also be accommodated.

Pilot
A qualified person who boards a ship and remains to advise on navigation through narrow seas, dangerous waters or when entering and leaving port. A pilot can also direct the movements of tugs to assist with berthing a ship.

Plimsoll Line
A series of lines on the side of a ship showing the sea level when the ship is fully loaded. A different line is used depending on the current season and the amount of salt in the water. Also called the load line.

Pontoon
Either: a small floating platform on a river; a low flat-bottomed boat used to do work on the hulls of ships or a float on a seaplane or flying boat which enables the craft to stay afloat when landing on water.

Poop
The small raised deck at the stern end of a ship.

Port Dues
Fees charged by the harbour authority on ships using the port`s facilities.

Port of Registry
The name of the port in which a vessel was registered. The port`s name is marked on the vessel`s stern.

Posting
The process by which editions of `Lloyd`s Register of Ships` were kept updated. Stickers containing changes to ships` details were sent out to subscribers to be stuck in their copies of the register. Blank pages were provided for details of new ships.

Promenade Deck
A covered deck located amidships.

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q

Quay
An area in port where a vessel can moor. Also known as a berth.

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r

rating
We do not yet have a definition for this term.

Reduction Gearing
A mechanical device fitted to a ship`s turbines to enable them to work effectively with the screws. Turbines work best at a higher speed than screws do, so the gearing system helps them to operate together more efficiently.

Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen
Central British authority responsible to maintaining shipping records. Formerly part of the Board of Trade, now in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as the Registry of Shipping and Seamen [sic].

Rig
Arrangement and types of masts and sails used in sailing ships.

Rigging
The ropes and chains used to hold the masts of a vessel.

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s

Salvage
Either the activity of recovering a ship in distress or the cargo it contains or the money paid to those who rescue a ship.

Screw
A ship`s propeller.

Sea Plane
An aircraft with floats (pontoons) in place of an under-carriage, allowing it to land and take off on water.

Service Lists
Lists of British and foreign merchant ships requisitioned during the First and Second World Wars. They detail the dates of service and a brief indication of use, but no details on actual voyages made.

Shipbroker
Agent who liaises between ship owners and charterers and also arranges the buying and selling of ships.

Shipping Agent
A person or company that represents the owner and/or the charterer in port. Arranges customs clearance, allocation of berths, advises import/export cargo owners, organises loading and unloading of merchandise, books pilots and any other services required while the ship is in port.

Signal Letters
Unique four letter code for each ship.

sixty-fourth shares
The UK Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1906 divided the property of a ship into sixty-four shares, each of which could be owned by a different individual.

Slipway
A slope leading to water, for launching a ship.

Spring Tide
An unusually high tide that happens around the time of a new or full moon.

Starke/Schell Registers
Published registers which give details of every merchant vessel in the world over a certain size between 1890 and 1984, including their dimension, tonnage and engine type.

Steerage
All passengers except cabin passengers.

Stern
The rear end of a ship.

Stevedore
Port worker engaged in the stowage of cargo in the hold of a ship or contractors employed in general loading.

Stowage
The place and method of storing goods on a ship.

Stranded
A ship that goes ashore on a beach or sandbank is `stranded`. The smooth nature of sand often means the ship is undamaged and may be able to float again at high tide.

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t

Tackle
Ropes, pulleys and hooks used for lifting weights or managing sails.

Tanker
Vessel specially designed to deal with bulk liquid cargoes, such as oil.

Tender
A small vessel used to ferry passengers, equipment and cargo between the shore and a rig, lighthouse, submarine or large ship.

Thames Measurement (TM)
A measurement of tonnage for an unregistered vessel used for calculating port dues. The formula for the measurement was created by the Thames Yacht Club and listed in Lloyd`s Register of Yachts.

Tonnage
The total weight that a ship is allowed to carry, including cargo, fuel, stores and crew. Also known as deadweight.

Towage
The charge made for the services of tugs used to assist a ship in port.

Tramp
Unlike a liner, a tramp does not operate on a fixed sailing schedule but will trade in all parts of the world, primarily carrying bulk cargo. Also called a general trader.

Transaction
Notification of changes made to a ship, sent by a port registrar to the central registration body.

Transcript
A copy of the certificate of registration issued for a British ship by a customs registrar in the ship`s home port. The transcript was sent to the central registration body, originally the Customs House in London, later the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.

Trimming
The process of moving cargo around the ship to keep the ship level. The same effect can be achieved by filling or emptying ballast tanks.

Troopship
A passenger liner requisitioned by government during wartime to transport troops and equipment.

Tug
A small manoeuvrable boat with powerful engines used to tow larger vessels.

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u

Ullage
Free space left in an oil tank to allow for expansion when the oil is heated before being pumped out.

Under Way
When a vessel is not moored its anchor raised, it is said to be `under way`

Underwriter
A person or institution that insures a ship or its cargo against damage or loss. An underwriter assesses the level of risk and calculates the premium to be paid.

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v

Vessel
A floating object such as a ship or boat.

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w

Wake
The water left behind a moving ship.

Water Ballast Tanks
Tanks built at the bottom of a ship that can be filled with water, oil or another liquid to stabilise the ship. Also known as double bottom.

Wheelhouse
A small bridge, found on boats and fishing vessels.

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y

Yard Number
An identification number given by a shipbuilder to a vessel under construction in a shipyard. This number usually appears on a ship`s plans.

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