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    Making International Connections
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Liner Shipping

Liner Shipping defines sea freight services that offer regular routes and timetables. Charges are payable against a set tariff.

Tramp Shipping is the opposite type of service. This is when a ships operator advertises to charter one of their own vessels for a spot rate.

These services are mainly operated by container ships, tweendeckers (designed to carry unitised, bulk, general cargoes), or RO RO vessels.

Vessels will operate calling at the ports advertised. If shipping lines compete with other shipping lines over the same routing of ports, the shipping lines in question can then combine services and form a ‘conference’ to offer more choice on sailings, transit times, etc.

Liner Conferences

This is when two or more shipping lines combine to advertise a joining of services, they form a ‘Liner Conference’.

The lines must agree on:

  1. A chargeable tariff
  2. Terms of the conference that is formed
  3. The conditions of carriage
  4. Quantity, size, and type of vessel each shipping line will operate on the selected routes
  5. Timetable of sailings

A permanent administrative office or department, normally operated by one of the shipping lines, will oversee accordingly.

Slot Charters

Shipping lines agree to make available a certain area of space or a certain number of container slots on board their own vessels for other shipping lines to advertise and operate as part of their own service. This is a very similar practice as ‘Pooling’, as described below.


When shipping lines form an alliance with other shipping lines, upon accepting a booking they can actually arrange for the freight to be shipped on an alternative vessel to one their own, providing both lines are part of the same alliance.

Shipping lines can still accept bookings for their own vessels, or alternatively, they can pool their cargo. Such advantages are transit times, departure dates, available space. Financial profit for a shipping line depends on their annual contribution.

Taking into account at any such time the condition of the market, shipping lines can decide to offer additional sailings or even cancel their sailings from the pool at any given time. If a shipping line decides to cancel a sailing, they can still continue to contribute freight to the pool, allowing them to continue in offering a service and making a profit.

Open Conferences

An ‘Open Conference’ is a conference that operates to and from the U.S.A.

Shipping lines that apply for membership are normally accepted upon agreement to the United States of America legislation and of the U.S. ‘Anti-Trust’ laws.

Closed Conferences

The majority of European shipping conferences are ‘Closed Conferences’. Shipping lines can only be admitted upon agreement from the existing members. 

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