Shipping Slang: ARTA’S Fine Art Shipping Dictionary

What is a “bug stamp”? What about a “gantry”? What is the difference between “Full Risk” and “Limited” Insurance? We wrote short, digestible definitions of terminology you might hear thrown around when it comes to shipping fine art and high-value items. 

We’ve written short, digestible definitions of phrases and terminology you might hear thrown around when it comes to shipping fine art and high-value items. 

Learn more about the logistics services offered by ARTA.


Customs Broker

A licensed individual who works with customs authorities to clear freight on behalf of the importer of record.

Full Risk Insurance

Covers any and all damage acquired in transit “from wall to wall.” Policy must be purchased and costs are in addition to shipping charges.

Limited Insurance

Coverage only offered in cases of total loss, including theft, non-delivery, or total damage.

Recipient / Buyer / Importer of Record / Consignee

Individual receiving the works and/or the purchasing party.

Shipper / consignor

Individual who is listed as the seller/releasing party.


Agent facilitating shipping services between parties (Also written “3 PL”).


Air Ride

Air suspension system that absorbs shock and minimizes excessive bumps to avoid damage during transit.

Box truck

A truck typically between 12 – 36 feet, often temperature-controlled, air ride and includes a lift gate.

Cross Docking

When artworks are temporarily staged in a warehouse between truck transport.

Dock to Dock

Shipments that originate in and deliver to locations with an elevated platform.  Does not include ground level doorways or garages.

Dual Driver

Two drivers are present throughout the entire transport.

Exclusive use

Dedicated truck use for a single shipment.

Fine art shuttle

Climate-controlled, air ride road transportation operated by two fine art technicians. Weekly, biweekly or monthly routine routes and consolidated cargo keep costs low but require flexible collection and delivery windows.

Flatbed truck

Open cargo area with only a bed and no walls, used for transporting oversize artworks.

Freight Forwarding

Facilitates the shipment of crates between countries via air and sea, not including specialized art handling services.

High Cube

A modified tractor trailer that allows for higher internal height, reaching up to 120 inches.

Lift Gate

Hydraulic platform attached to the back of some trucks.  Often required when there is not a dock to receive or release.

Line Haul Transport

Warehouse to warehouse trucking, not including local services.

Sprinter van

A vehicle used for local collections and deliveries of small artworks, or locations that cannot be reached by larger trucks.

Temperature control

Maintains temperature in the cargo area, typically between 68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tractor trailer

Largest fine art shipping vehicle, with an average length of 53 feet.  Door heights range from 105 – 115”. See High Cube.



Wooden travel frame used to transport works at a lean if oversized.

cavity pack

Fitted foam sections into cardboard box or crate to fill empty space and support artwork.

IPPC Bug Stamp

Required seal that certifies that the wood used in the crate is heat-treated and meets IPCC standards: debarked and heat treated.


Permanent hardware that screws into the back of an artwork to secure it in a travel frame or crate.

ply box

A plywood box substitute for a more substantial crate.


Inexpensive plastic covering, non-abrasive and non-stick for wrapping framed and acrylic works. Not suitable for long-term storage.  Often referred to as “Poly”.

Shadow Box or Collar

To protect delicate or wet surfaces, a cardboard collar fits around the edges of an artwork creating space between the surface of the work and any other object.  Plastic or cardboard faces are used to further protect.

Slat Crate

Wooden crate without walls only internal framing.  Used for works with sensitive surfaces that cannot touch padding, or to save costs on wood for siding.


Cardboard container used for shuttle transit of two-dimensional works. Not suitable for freight shipments.

soft packing

General term for packing artworks in materials including but not limited to; blankets, bubble, plastic, cardboard.


Brand of heavy tube where two-dimensional artworks are wrapped on the outside.

Travel Frame (T-Frame)

Open wooden container used to hang artworks with relief around the edges during transit.  T-frames can be packed into larger enclosed crate. T-frames can also have poly or coroplast walls.

tri-wall crate

Slat crate with tri-wall cardboard sheets used for siding.


Cylindrical packing for two-dimensional artwork.  Pieces are rolled and placed inside.


High-quality brand of plastic wrapping, see Polyeurethine.

Handling and equipment

Condition Check / Conditioning

Formal review of an artwork at collection or delivery to inspect for damage, alterations and record the current status of the item.


Wheeled platform for moving crates.


Vehicle for lifting oversized crates, weighing roughly over 500lbs.


Frame with an adjustable hook used for lifting and placing sculptural artworks of varying sizes but often used for oversize or heavy pieces or crates.

genie lift

Brand of lifting equipment used for installation of heavy artworks in small locations.

Hand truck (US) / Sack barrow (UK)

Wheeled metal cart with tall handles used to move crates.


Installation equipment including but not limited to: d-rings, cleats, oz-clips, wire, and wall mounts.

pallet jack

Form of forklift used for the maneuvering of palletized items or crates, operated by hand.

Warehousing and storage

Climate Controlled vs. Non-Climate

Warehouses have designated climate-controlled areas that monitor temperature and humidity. Non-climate storage is available at a lower rate.

open storage

Communal storage space at an economical rate.

viewing room

White wall gallery space used for displaying, photographing, and condition reporting of artworks on-site at a warehouse

Warehouse Handling Fee (or Dock Fee)

Administrative fee for warehouses to receive in and release artworks. Typically billed to an existing client account. Can be included in any ARTA estimate, per client request.


Bill of Lading (BOL) (US) / Col / Del Note (UK)

Document with collection and delivery locations, signed by releasing and receiving parties for proof of transport.

Certificate of Insurance [COI]

Proof of insurance and worker’s compensation coverage for external companies to perform tasks on site. Typically required by large residential or commercial buildings.

Commercial Invoice / Pro-forma Invoice

Record of sale, including artwork details, purchasing party and price of an artwork. Pro-forma invoices are issued prior to the actual sale.

condition report

Document typically required for insurance to note any damage or status changes at collection or delivery. Commonly includes images, diagrams and written notes.

Power of Attorney [POA]

Provides authorization for the customs broker to clear freight on behalf of the importer of record.  Form will be provided by the customs broker to the consignee for completion prior to entry into the designated delivery country.

Seaway / Airway Bill [SWB / AWB] 

Receipt for the contract of carriage.  Unique SWB/AWB numbers can be tracked online.

Importing and exporting 


When goods are imported and payment of duty or import VAT is deferred, so long as the work does leave the bonded premises under which it is stored. This is often used with items in long-term storage.

customs bond

A contract used for guaranteeing that a specific obligation will be fulfilled between customs and an importer for any given import transaction. Usually used to guarantee the payment of import duties and taxes.

free circulation

Goods that have been produced in the European Union (EU), or that have been imported into an EU country with duty paid.

Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF)

A fee collected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to process merchandise entering into the U.S., paid at the time of entry summary.  

temporary import (TI) / temporary admission (TA)

When goods are temporarily imported into a country without payment of duties, by posting a bond to guarantee that they will be exported. 

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About ARTA

We provide end-to-end logistics solutions for merchants and marketplaces worldwide.

We’re continuously evolving our e-commerce infrastructure for the global collectibles industry through automated transaction, fulfillment, and post-purchase technology.

ARTA’s software provides instant shipping and handling quotes for any item type, regardless of size, material, or price point. Our API automates shipping and fulfillment for high-value items, providing a frictionless purchasing experience for our clients’ buyers.