UN Location (Port) Codes

If you arrange shipping regularly you would be aware of the codes that are given to every seaport, airport and inland destination around the world. Perhaps you have even seen these codes listed on your invoices or other documentation.

These codes run on a specific sequence and remain standard across the world and are known as a UN/LOCODE – which stand for United Nations Code for Trade and Transport Locations.

The coding system is maintained by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which is a division of the United Nations.

Generally speaking, most destinations around the world have been registered with the UNECE –the list is currently in excess of 62,000 locations.

So how do you read these codes?  The first two letters are the country code and then the actual location code.  Please see the examples as follows:

  • AUFRE – The country is Australia (AU) and the location is Fremantle (FRE)
  • SGSIN – The country is Singapore (SG) and the location is Singapore (SIN)
  • CNSHA – The country is China (CN) and the location is Shanghai (SHA)
  • GBSOU – The country is Great Britian (GB) with the location being Southampton (SOU)

In the United States, a lot of the codes have already been taken up. In this case, numbers are substituted.

If you work around these codes and are constantly using them, you start to see them in your day to day life.

I personally see port codes in car number plates and are constantly mumbling worldwide locations to myself.

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