Import-Export Acronyms: I'm Choking on Alphabet Soup

John Goodrich | July 11, 2010 | Import Basics, Export Basics
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Import-Export Acronyms: I'm Choking on Alphabet Soup | Shipping SolutionsI have an admission to make. I am not cool. There, I said it. After all, I'm an international trade geek. What’s cool about that?

While I have Facebook and LinkedIn pages and my own website, I still have not succumbed to tweeting and texting. Yes, I have a smart phone, but it is smarter than I am.

More vexing are the acronyms used while texting. It feels as if I am choking on alphabet soup!

My kids have made me feel like a dinosaur for being so ignorant of the prevailing technology. Text or perish seems to be the mantra of the day.

After stewing about this for awhile I have come to a realization. I have not missed the texting revolution after all. Indeed, I have texted for years. I just didn't realize it.

International Trade Acronyms

Of course, in international trade we don't call it texting, but we do speak in acronyms. Heck, we practically invented the Three Letter Acronym (TLA), forced by the constraints of the telex to be thrifty with the use of language.

Telex was the original Twitter! I am not behind the times. I am bleeding edge! How cool is that?

(I suppose the same could be said for Morse code and the telegraph, but please, allow me my fantasy.)

Even after telex technology was replaced by fax and email we have retained our TLAs, developed a few more and even sprinkled in a few acronyms of differing lengths.

For example, most of you exporters understand that the EAR and the FTR have changed the need for a paper SED and now require you to submit an EEI via AES.

If you understood that you are very cool in my estimation.

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In the import world it gets more interesting as we blend acronyms with the numbers associated with customs forms. Importers, of course, are very concerned when DHS's CBP sends them a 28 referencing a specific 7501 for which they cannot find the 3461 aka the ID. They fear it might eventually result in a 29, and we all know that's not good! But, of course, a well written 19 might just help remedy the situation.

Not to be outdone, the EAR and FTR also reference something called the PPI and then confuse us about whether the FPPI or the USPPI is responsible for issuing a POA to the freight forwarder.

Please, however, don't confuse the export POA with the import POA that the IOR issues to the CHB and is signed by the company's CEO or other corporate officer as detailed under the CFR 19.

On the commercial side of trade we rely on the TLAs of Incoterms 2010 trying to determine if our PO should reference FCA, CPT or DDU terms. That is because we have all been told that FOB is really not a proper term for most of us. We can all thank the ICC for this conundrum.

When it comes to getting paid we need to decide if we will use CIA, CAD or LC among other methods of payment. None of us, however, wants to get a notice of DIP or NSF from our customers or their banks.

The shipping industry has not been left out of the game. SS lines, OTIs, and NVOCCs are all overseen by the FMC as are the HBLs and OBLs that they issue. These, of course, are regulated under the long-standing FBLA as revised under the OSRA. Carriers move cargo by the numbers with vessels measured in TEUs or FEUs. Containers are also referenced as 20's, 40's, HCs or HQs and 45's or more affectionately as cans.

The FAA concerns itself with air shipments having something to say about AWBs whether they be HAWBs or MAWBs. Air freight security is controlled by the TSA, most notably by its CCSP. Not to be outdone by the ocean industry, airfreight is shipped utilizing ULDs.

And, of course, the shipping industry loves using TLAs when creating their invoices. Where would we all be without PSS, BAF, FAF, SS, DDC, CAF and OHC just to name a few? (Would you like fries with that?)

I am feeling rather smug at this point. Although my kids may think me a texting dinosaur and nobody else will comprehend what I say, I know that with readers of this column I can confidently use industry TLAs and be understood.

At least in some people's eyes I still might be cool.

TTYL ;-)

A Glossary of Import-Export Acronyms

B4 we r dun I thawt u wood lik to no wut abuv means. C B-lo

(In order as introduced above.)

  • TLA - Three Letter Acronym
  • EAR - Export Administration Regulations
  • FTR - Foreign Trade Regulations
  • SED - Shipper's Export Declaration
  • EEI - Electronic Export Information
  • AES - Automated Export System
  • DHS - Department of Homeland Security
  • CBP - Customs and Border Protection
  • CBPF - Customs and Border Protection Form
  • 28 - Request for Information
  • 29 - Notice of Action
  • 7501 - Entry Summary
  • 3461 - Entry for Immediate Delivery also known as "ID."
  • 19 - Protest
  • PPI - Principal Party in Interest
  • FPPI - Foreign PPI
  • USPPI - U.S. PPI
  • POA - Power of Attorney
  • IOR - Importer of Record
  • CHB - Customhouse Broker
  • CEO - Chief Executive Officer
  • CFR 19 - Code of Federal Regulations 19, Customs Regulations
  • PO - Purchase Order
  • FCA - Free Carrier At
  • CIP - Carriage Insurance Paid to
  • DDU - Delivered Duty Unpaid
  • FOB - Free On Board
  • ICC - International Chamber of Commerce
  • CIA - Cash In Advance
  • CAD - Cash Against Documents
  • LC - Letter of Credit
  • DIP - Delay In Payment
  • NSF - Insufficient Funds
  • SS Line - Steamship Line
  • OTI - Ocean Transportation Intermediary
  • NVOCC - Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier
  • FMC - Federal Maritime Commission
  • HBL - House Bill of Lading
  • OBL - Ocean Bill of Lading
  • FBLA - Federal Bill of Lading Act
  • OSRA - Ocean Shipping Reform Act
  • TEU - Twenty Foot Equivalent Units
  • FEU - Forty Food Equivalent Units
  • HC/HQ - High Cube Container
  • FAA - Federal Aviation Administration
  • AWB - Air Waybill
  • HAWB - House Air WayBill
  • MAWB - Master Air Waybill
  • TSA - Transportation Security Administration
  • CCSP - Certified Cargo Screening Program
  • ULD - Unit Load Device
  • PSS - Peak Season Surcharge
  • BAF - Bunker Adjustment Fee
  • FAF - Fuel Adjustment Fee
  • SS - Security Surcharge
  • DDC - Destination Delivery Charge
  • CAF - Currency Adjustment Factor
  • OHC - Origin Handling Charge
  • TTYL - Text To You Later
  • JG - John Goodrich

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