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Air Waybill

An AWB is a bill of lading which covers both domestic and international flights transporting goods to a specified destination. Technically, it is a non-negotiable instrument of air transport which serves as a receipt for the shipper, indicating that the carrier has accepted the goods listed therein and obligates itself to carry the consignment to the airport of destination according to specified conditions. Normally AWB refers to the Air Waybill issued by carrying airlines and also called Master Air Waybill (MAWB) which comes with three digits of numeric airline identification codes issued by IATA to non-U.S. based airlines and Air Transport Association of America to U.S. based airlines. However, air freight forwarders also issue HAWB (House Air Waybill) to their customers for each of the shipments.

Arrival Notice

An advice that the carrier or freight forwarder sends to the consignee advising of goods are arriving at port of entry. Pertinent information such as bill of lading number, container number and total charges due from consignee etc, are included and sent to consignee prior to vessel arrival. This is done gratuitously by the carrier or forwarder to ensure smooth delivery, but there is no obligation by the carrier or the forwarder to do so. The responsibility to monitor the transit and present himself to take timely delivery still rests with the consignee


Actual Time of Arrival, or Airport-To-Airport, or Air Transport Association of America.


Actual Time of Departure.

Automated Broker Interface

ABI, a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System, permits transmission of data pertaining to merchandise being imported into the United States. Qualified participants include brokers, importers, carriers, port authorities, and independent data processing companies referred to as service centers.

Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that gives CBP and other participating government agencies the ability to access data throughout the international supply chain to anticipate, identify, track and intercept high-risk shipments at borders and ports. With ACE, carriers are able to file electronic manifests in advance of freight arrival at the customs check point for faster entry into the commerce of the U.S.

Automated Clearinghouse

The Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) is a feature of the Automated Broker Interface which is a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System. The ACH combines elements of bank lock box arrangements with electronic funds transfer services to replace cash or check for payment of estimated duties, taxes, and fees on imported merchandise.

Automated Manifest System (AMS)

An electronic system designed by U.S. Customs to facilitate cargo arrival information and release information between the ocean carrier, airlines and rail carriers for shipments destined to or transiting the United States.


Bill of lading or House bill of lading (AMS)

The bill of lading/waybill number that has been submitted at origin to the U.S. Custom’s Automated Manifest System (AMS).

Bill of Lading (B/L)

Bills of lading are contracts between the owner of the goods and the carrier. There are two types. A straight bill of lading is nonnegotiable. A negotiable or shipper's order bill of lading can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit and is used for many types of financing transactions. The customer usually needs the original or a copy as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.

Bond System

The Bond System, a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System, provides information on bond coverage. A Customs bond is a contract between a principal, usually an importers, and a surety which is obtained to insure performance of an obligation imposed by law or regulation. The bond covers potential loss of duties, taxes, and penalties for specific types of transactions. Customs is the contract beneficiary.

Bonded Warehouse

The U.S. Customs Service authorizes bonded warehouses for storage or manufacture of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods enter the Customs Territory. The goods are not subject to duties if reshipped to foreign points.


The entity who is purchasing the goods from the seller or, if not sold, the entity that is the owner of the goods.



Currency Adjustment Factor (compensation factor for the various currencies)


A customs document permitting the holder to carry or send merchandise temporarily into certain foreign countries for display, demonstration or other purposes without paying import duties or posting bonds.

Certificate of Origin

A certified document showing the origin of goods; used in international commerce. A Certificate of Origin may be required by a foreign government for control purposes, or by the foreign importer to ensure that he receives U.S. goods. Specific C/Os are required for duty reductions with Canada (U.S./Canada Free Trade Agreement) and Israel (U.S./Israel Free trade Area).


Container Freight Station (warehouse where the containers are loaded or unloaded)

Clean Bill of Lading

A receipt for goods issued by a carrier with an indication that the goods were received in "apparent good order and condition," without damages or other irregularities.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. These invoices are often used by governments to determine the true value of goods for the assessment of customs duties and are also used to prepare consular documentation. Governments using the commercial invoice to control imports often specify its form, content, number of copies, language to be used, and other characteristics.

Compliance letter for vehicle imports

A simple letter issued by the car manufacturer stating that the vehicle being imported complies with U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and complies with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards
click here for a list of contact information for manufacturer


A company that provides consolidation services, usually a freight forwarder or ocean carrier. Consolidations are multiple cargo shipments (LCL) from various shippers that are consolidated./loaded into one shipping container and shipped between designated ports to reduce shipping costs.


The person or firm named in a freight contract to whom goods have been consigned or turned over. For export control purposes, the documentation differentiates between an "intermediate" consignee and an "ultimate" consignee.


Delivery of merchandise from an exporter (the consignor) to an agent (the consignee) under agreement that the agent sell the merchandise for the account of the exporter. The consignor retains title to the goods until sold. The consignee sells the goods for commission and remits the net proceeds to the consignor.

Consular Invoice

A document, required by some foreign countries, describing a shipment of goods and showing information such as the consignor, consignee, and value of the shipment. Certified by a consular official of the foreign country, it is used by the country's customs officials to verify the value, quantity, and nature of the shipment.

Container Stuffing Location

The location where container are being stuffed/loaded.

Country of Origin

The country where the goods were manufactured, produced or grown.


Container Service Charge (costs for a country-sided handling of FCL containers at a "free on board" delivery)


The government authorities designated to collect duties levied by a country on imports and exports.

Customs Bond

US Customs requires that any formal entry (most entries over USD 2,500) to have a bond posted with a recognized surety company. This bond guarantees customs that any duties or fines will be paid, if the importer does not pay them. If the bond is purchased by the importer on an annual basis (each year), it is called a continuous bond (CB) and there are no additional fees per entry. If the importer does not have a continuous bond on file, there will be additional charges on each single entry to post a Single Entry Bond (SEB). Bond amount required is based on total entered value of merchandise plus all duties, fees and taxes. If the goods are subject to Other Government Agencies, quota or quota / visa, the bond is three times the total entered value of the merchandise.

Customs Broker

An individual or company licensed by the government to enter and clear goods through Customs. The U.S. Customs Service defines a Customs Broker, as any person who is licensed in accordance with Part III of Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Customs regulations) to transact Customs business on behalf of others. Customs business is limited to those activities involving transactions with Customs concerning the entry and admissibility of merchandise; its classification and valuation; the payment of duties, taxes, or other charges assessed or collected by Customs upon merchandise by reason of its importation, or the refund, rebate, or drawback thereof.

Customs Clearance

The procedures involved in getting cargo released by Customs through designated formalities such as presenting import license/permit, payment of import duties and other required documentation by the nature of the cargo such as FCC or FDA approval.

Customs Import Value

This is the U.S. Customs Service appraisal value of merchandise. Methodologically, the Customs value is similar to f.a.s. (free alongside ship) value since it is based on the value of the product in the foreign country of origin, and excludes charges incurred in bringing the merchandise to the United States (import duties, ocean freight, insurance, and so forth); but it differs in that the U.S. Customs Service, not the importer or exporter, has the final authority to determine the value of the good.

Customs Invoice

A document, required by some foreign countries' customs officials to verify the value, quantity, and nature of the shipment, describing the shipment of goods and showing information such as the consignor, consignee, and value of the shipment.

Customs Inspections/Examination

Typical type of inspections are Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) or a VACIS exam which includes x-raying the steamship container at port. If US Customs chooses to physically examine the freight; freight may need to be moved to a customs exam site (Intensive Exam) and will involve additional trucking and/or labor costs. All inspections and exams must be paid by the importer/owner of the cargo.


Container Yard (a place where FCL shipments and empty containers will be assumed by the customer or be delivered by the ship owner to the customer)


Dangerous Goods

Commodities classified by IATA according to its nature and characteristic in terms of the effect of its danger to carrier's flying safety.

Delivery Instructions

Provides specific information to the inland carrier concerning the arrangement made by the forwarder to deliver the merchandise to the particular pier or steamship line. Not to be confused with Delivery Order which is used for import cargo.


Excess time taken for loading or unloading a vessel, thus causing delay of scheduled departure. Demurrage refers only to situations in which the charter or shipper, rather than the vessel's operator, is at fault.

Deposit of Estimated Duties

This refers to antidumping duties which must be deposited upon entry of merchandise which is the subject of an antidumping duty order for each manufacturer, producer or exporter equal to the amount by which the foreign market value exceeds the United States price of the merchandise.


Per diem (charge on container held by customers for an extended period of time)

Direct Ship

Ship without consolidation and under one MAWB i.e. non-consolidation

DO or D/O

Delivery Order

Dock Receipt

A dock receipt is used to transfer accountability when the export item is moved by the domestic carrier to the port of embarkation and left with the international carrier for export.

Document Transfer Fee

Also called document handover fee is charged by freight forwarders for transferring documents to another transportation company at destination. This fee is a part of the ocean freight charges, being paid by the importer at the port of discharge. This fee is separate from documentation fees charged by carriers and NVOCCs as part of the freight charges on a bill of lading and is separate from other fees for document preparation or for release of cargo. Some companies call this an administration fee, document fee, document transfer fee, but it exists in some form in most destinations and is well known to most shippers.


Drawback is a rebate by a government, in whole or in part, of customs duties assessed on imported merchandise that is subsequently exported. Drawback regulations and procedures vary among countries.

Drawback System

The Drawback System, a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System, provides the means for processing and tracking of drawback claims.


A tax imposed on imports by the customs authority of a country. Duties are generally based on the value of the goods (ad valorem duties), some other factors such as weight or quantity (specific duties), or a combination of value and other factors (compound duties).


Entry Summary System

An entry is the minimum amount of documentation needed to secure the release of imported merchandise. The Entry Summary System, a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System, contains data on release, summary, rejection, collection, liquidation, and extension or suspension.

Entry Summary Selectivity System

The Entry Summary Selectivity System, a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System, provides an automated review of entry data to determine whether team or routine review is required. Selectivity criteria include an assessment of risk by importer, tariff number, country of origin, manufacturer, and value. Summaries with Census warnings, as well as quota, antidumping and countervailing duty entry summaries are selected for team review. A random sample of routine review summaries is also automatically selected for team review.

Entry Value

The U.S. Customs Service defines entry value (or entered value) as the value reflected on the entry documentation submitted by the importer. (see 19 CFR 141.61 for how shown on entry.)


Estimated Time of Arrival. Then, It normally takes 4 hours for carriers to Break Bulk then ready to be picked up by forwarders along with customs release notification.


Estimated Time of Departure. The cut-off time for carriers' cargo ramp handling is normally two hours ahead of ETD. However, the freight forwarders' consolidation cut-off time may vary depending on each forwarder's operations respectively.

Export Control Classification Number

Every product has an export control classification number (formerly: Export Control Commodity Number) within the Commerce Control List. Each ECCN consists of five characters that identify the category, product group, type of control, and country group level of control.

Export License

A government document (also known as an "Individual Validated License") authorizing exports of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. This document may be required in some countries for most or all exports and in other countries only under special circumstances.

Excise Tax

Another tax that is paid in addition to duty on shipments such as alcohol and tobacco. Tax Rates and fees are regulated in the U.S. by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trace Bureau (TTB). Excise taxes are collected by the customs house broker and submitted to U.S. Customs or can be paid by the importer directly to U.S. Customs at the time of entry filing.



Freight All Kind

Federal Maritime Commission

The FMC is an independent agencies which regulates ocean borne transportation in the foreign commerce and in the domestic offshore trade of the United States.


Full Container Load (full container service)

Foreign Principal Party in Interest (FPPI)

Is the party shown on the transportation document to which final delivery or end-use of the goods may be made. This party may be the ultimate consignee.

Freight Forwarder

An independent business which handles export shipments for compensation. At the request of the shipper, the forwarder makes the actual arrangements and provides the necessary services for expediting the shipment to its overseas destination. The forwarder takes care of all documentation needed to move the shipment from origin to destination, making up and assembling the necessary documentation for submission to the bank in the exporter's name. The forwarder arranges for cargo insurance, makes the necessary overseas communications, and advises the shipper on overseas requirements of marking and labeling. The forwarder operates on a fee basis paid by the exporter and often receives an additional percentage of the freight charge from the common carrier. An export freight forwarder must be licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission to handle ocean freight and by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to handle air freight. An ocean freight forwarder dispatches shipments from the United States via common carriers, books or arranges space for the shipments, and handles the shipping documentation.


General Order (G.O.)

Premises owned or leased by the U.S. Government and used for the storage of merchandise undergoing CBP examination or under seizure, or pending final release from CBP custody. If cargo remains unclaimed after 15 days of arrival it moved and stored in such premises and held under “general order”.


Harbor Maintenance Fee (HMF)

A charge imposed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for all imports via water port. A fee of .125% of the value of the shipments is collected and used to maintain U.S. harbors.

Harmonized System

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (or Harmonized System, HS) is a system for classifying goods in international trade, developed under the auspices of the Customs Cooperation Council. Beginning on January 1, 1989, the new HS numbers replaced previously adhered-to schedules in over 50 countries, including the United States.
For the United States, the HS numbers and four additional digits are the numbers that are entered on the actual export and import documents. Any other commodity code classification number (SITC, end-use, etc.) are just rearrangements and transformations of the original HS numbers.


House Air waybill issued by carrying airlines' agent, normally freight forwarder.


House Bill of Lading issued by carrying shipping agent, normally freight forwarder.


The Harmonized tariff system published by the U.S. International Trade Commission. It is a good classification system for describing cargo in international trade under a single commodity–coding scheme. It is organized into 99 chapters. The basic code contains four–digit headings and six–digit subheadings. Many countries add digits for Customs tariff and statistical purposes. In the United States, duty rates will be the eight–digit level; statistical suffixes will be at the ten–digit level.



International Air Transport Association (IATA), established in 1945, is a trade association serving airlines, passengers, shippers, travel agents, and governments. The association promotes safety, standardization in forms (baggage checks, tickets, weigh bills), and aids in establishing international airfares. IATA headquarter is in Geneva, Switzerland.

Informal Entry

Informal entries are filed for personal shipments of any value, for certain commercial shipments valued at $ 2,500 or less and for certain textile shipments valued at $250 or less. Informal entries can be filed electronically on the Entry Summary, Form 7501. They can also be filed in person using other Informal Entry Forms such as Form 3299.

Import Certificate

The import certificate is a means by which the government of the country of ultimate destination exercises legal control over the internal channeling of the commodities covered by the import certificate.

Importer Number

The importer number is required by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and has to be listed on the entry paperwork. The importer number is usually the IRS business tax number assigned to the businesses or the social security number for the individual for personal imports. If neither is available, such as for foreign parties, a customs broker may request an importer number to be assigned by Customs at the port of entry.

Importer of Record

The entity in the US who will be shown in the Customs documents as the Importer of Record and who will be accepting responsibility for fulfilling all the Customs laws and regulations.

Import License

A document required and issued by some national governments authorizing the importation of goods. Also referred as import permit. With such documentation, customs clearance can be conducted.

Import Quota

A means of restricting imports by the issuance of licenses to importers, assigning each a quota, after determination of the total amount of any commodity which is to be imported during a period. Import licenses may also specify the country from which the importer must purchase the goods.

Importer Security Filing (ISF)

A requirement for all ocean freight cargo being send to the US. It is the importing US parties responsibility to declare specific data sets (description of commodity, seller, manufacturer information etc.). These data sets consists of information from the shipper and Buyer/Importer and need to be forwarded to a customs broker prior cargo sailing. The ISF is then submitted electronically by the customs broker to U.S. Customs at least 24 hours prior to loading at the last foreign port.

Data sets required for ISF filing (Name and full style address):
1. Manufacturer (Supplier)
2. Seller
3. Importer of Record
4. Buyer
5. Ultimate Consignee
6. Ship to Party
7. Consolidator (Forwarder)
8. Container Stuffing Location
9. AMS Bill of lading Number
10. Date of Sailing
11. Cargo Tariff number (HTSUS)
12. Container Number/Type


Maintained by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), this codification of terms is used in foreign trade contracts to define which parties incur the costs and at what specific point the costs are incurred.



Less than Container Load (partial deliveries)


Marine Cargo Insurance<

Broadly, insurance covering loss of, or damage to, goods at sea. Marine insurance typically compensates the owner of merchandise for losses in excess of those which can be legally recovered from the carrier that are sustained from fire, shipwreck, piracy, and various other causes. Three of the most common types of marine insurance coverage are "free of particular average" (f.p.a.), "with average" (w.a.), and "All Risks Coverage."

Manufacturer (Supplier)

The entity that manufactured the goods or the entity who is supplying the goods to the importer.

Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF)

A charge imposed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on an ad valorem (according to value) basis. MPF is 0.3464%
of the entered value; Minimum $25, maximum $485.


Motor Ship


Motor Vessel (high seas ship)

M/W or W/M

Measurement/Weight or Weight/Measurement (calculation unit of ocean freight based on tonnes or cubic meters)


Ocean Bill of Lading

A receipt for the cargo and a contract for transportation between a shipper and the ocean carrier. It may also be used as an instrument of ownership which can be bought, sold, or traded while the goods are in transit. To be used in this manner, it must be a negotiable "Order" Bill-of-Lading.

  • A Clean Bill-of-Lading is issued when the shipment is received in good order. If damaged or a shortage is noted, a clean bill-of-lading will not be issued.
  • An On Board Bill-of-Lading certifies that the cargo has been placed aboard the named vessel and is signed by the master of the vessel or his representative. On letter of credit transactions, an On Board Bill-of-Lading is usually necessary for the shipper to obtain payment from the bank. When all Bills-of-Lading are processed a ship's manifest is prepared by the steamship line. This summarizes all cargo aboard the vessel by port of loading and discharge.
  • An Inland Bill-of-Lading (a waybill on rail or the "pro forma" bill-of-lading in trucking) is used to document the transportation of the goods between the port and the point of origin or destination. It should contain information such as marks, numbers, steamship line, and similar information to match with a dock receipt.


Packing List

A shipping document issued by shipper to carrier, Customs and consignee serving the purposes of identifying detail information of package count, products count, measurement of each package, weight of each package, etc.


Power Of Attorney, an authorization granted by consignee or importer to its customs broker for the processing of customs clearance on its behalf.


--Proof Of Delivery, or a cargo/package receipt with the signature of recipient. This term has been widely used in courier and express industry and also gaining more attention and implementation at air cargo industry.

--Port Of Discharge

Phytosanitary Inspection Certificates

Also referred to as "plant health" certificates, these are required by many foreign countries for shipments of plants and plant products. They serve to certify conformity to local plant quarantine import regulation with respect to pest and disease infection.


Port Of Loading

Pro Forma Invoice

An invoice provided by a supplier prior to the shipment of merchandise, informing the buyer of the kinds and quantities of goods to be sent, their value, and important specifications (weight, size, and similar characteristics). When an importer applies for Letter of Credit as the means of payment, a Pro Forma Invoice from the beneficiary of such Letter of Credit, usually the exporter, is required by the L/C issuing bank.


Quotas and Quota System

Absolute quotas permit a limited number of units of specified merchandise to be entered or withdrawn for consumption during specified periods. Tariff-rate quotas permit a specified quantity of merchandise to be entered or withdrawn at a reduced rate during a specified period. Quotas are established by Presidential Proclamations, Executive Orders, or other legislation.
The Quota System, a part of Customs' Automated Commercial System, controls quota levels (quantities authorized) and quantities entered against those levels. Visas control exports from the country of origin. Visa authorizations are received from other countries and quantities entered against those visas are transmitted back to them. Control of visas and quotas simplify reconciliation of other countries' exports and U.S. imports.


Roll-on/Roll-off vessels (RO/RO)

Ships specially designed to carry wheeled containers or trailers using interior ramps. Includes all forms of car and truck carriers.



The entity that is selling the goods or, if not being sold, the entity that is the owner of the goods.

Shipper's Export Declaration

The SED includes complete particulars on individual shipments and is used to control exports and act as a source document for the official U.S. export statistics. SEDs must be prepared for shipments through the U.S. Postal Service when the shipment is valued over $500. SEDs are required for shipments, other than by the U.S. Postal Service, where the value of commodities classified under each individual Schedule B number is over $2,500. SEDs must be prepared, regardless of value, for all shipments requiring a validated export license or destined for countries prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations. SEDs are prepared by the exporter and the exporter's agent and delivered to the exporting carrier (such as: post office, airline, or vessel line). The exporting carrier presents the required number of copies to the U.S. Customs Service at the port of export.
The Foreign Trade Statistical Regulations (15 CFR, Part 30) provide the statistical requirements for use by exporters, freight forwarders, and ocean carriers concerning preparation and filing of SEDs.

Shipping Mark

The letters, numbers or other symbols placed on the outside of cargo to facilitate identification.

Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC)

Is a unique 2 or 4 letter code that identifies the transportation company issuing the AMS ocean or air waybill.

Shipper’s Load and Count (SLC)

The standard Bill of Lading and manifest clause used by mutual agreement of both shipper and carrier for containerized cargo that's loaded and sealed by the shipper. As a result, the piece count in the container is not checked or otherwise verified by the carrier.

Ship to Party

The entity in the US to whom the goods are being first shipped after clearance.

Shipping Weight

Shipping weight represents the gross weight in kilograms of shipments, including the weight of moisture content, wrappings, crates, boxes, and containers (other than cargo vans and similar substantial outer containers).


Shipper's Own Container



A tax assessed by a government in accordance with its tariff schedule on goods as they enter (or leave) a country. May be imposed to protect domestic industries from imported goods and/or to generate revenue. Types include ad valorem, specific, variable, or some combination.

Terminal handling/Unloading Charges

Most import shipments arriving at the destination port/unloading warehouse are subject to other charges such as Warehouse fees, Agent document transfer fees, wharfage etc. Those charges are usually payable by the importer and have to be paid to the freight carrier/forwarder prior to cargo release. (Freight Release).

Temporary Importation under Bond

When an importer makes entry of articles brought into the United States temporarily and claimed to be exempt from duty under Chapter 98, Subchapter XIII, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, a bond is posted with Customs which guarantees that these items will be exported within a specified time frame (usually within one year from the date of importation). Failure to export these items makes the importer liable for the payment of liquidated damages for breach of the bond conditions. (See 19 CFR 10.31.). The Temporary Importation under Bond (TIB) is usually twice the amount of duties and other payments the importer would otherwise be required to pay. Merchandise imported under TIB is usually for sales demonstration, testing, or repair.


Terminal Handling Charge (container handling costs)


Transshipment refers to the act of sending an exported product through an intermediate country before routing it to the country intended to be its final destination.


USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)

A government agency which regulates functions of specific imported merchandise, e.g., plants and plant products, domestic animals, serums and by products, etc. USDA also inspect cargo such as cars and other vehicles. The USDA looks for clumps of dirt in wheel wells or under the vehicle’s carriage, under the hood of vehicles is also inspected, the USDA also looks for dirt, grass, plant seeds in the interior as well as the exterior and for anything that they consider invasive.

U.S. Principal Parties in Interest (USPPI)

The person or entity in the United States that receives the primary benefit, monetary or otherwise, from the export transaction. The USPPI must be identified for all EEI filings.

Ultimate Consignee

The entity in the US to whom the goods are sold or, if not sold, to whom cargo is consigned to (end user), if not consigned, to whom the goods are going to be first delivered.


Validated Export License

A document issued by the U.S. government authorizing the export of commodities for which written export authorization is required by law. Two types exist: an Individual Validated License (IVL) and a Special License.

Value for Customs Purposes Only

The U.S. Customs Service defines "value for Customs purposes only" as the value submitted on the entry documentation by the importer which may or may not reflect information from the manufacturer but in no way reflects Customs appraisement of the merchandise.



Is a charge on all goods that pass over, onto, or under Authority property, are transshipped between vessels in the harbor, are unloaded over-side from a vessel to the water, or are landed from or placed into the water at Authority property.