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The Bill of Lading is a vital part of the logistics industry and has been a crucial part of shipping and trade for centuries. If you are new to the shipping industry, here is everything you need to know about Bill of Lading documents.

What is a Bill of Lading?

A Bill of Lading (BoL) is essentially a contract between the carrier and the shipper that details the legal terms and conditions of the transport of goods. The carrier is the person who transports the goods, and the shipper is the person who supplies the goods. This is a vital document that plays three different but equally important roles, acting as:

  • A legal document giving evidence of the contract of carriage
  • A receipt that the goods have been loaded onto the vessel and are ready for transport
  • A document of a Title of Goods, which makes sure that the carrier hands the goods over to the consignee – the person receiving the goods

In some cases, the BoL can also be used to ensure that the shipper is paid by not allowing the consignee to take possession of the goods until they receive payment. The BoL is often used in litigation cases

What is Included in a Bill of Lading?

A BoL is a legally binding document and as such must contain the necessary information depending on the type of BoL being issued. In general, a BoL should include:

  • All pertinent details of the carrier, the shipper and the consignee
  • The signature of the carrier, ship’s master or a legal representative
  • The incoterms, which are the terms of the shipment
  • The terms and conditions of carriage, or a reference to a separate document in which they are contained
  • A detailed description of the products being carried including but not limited to the size, value, count, weight, classification, and markings
  • The date and whether the items are in good condition upon loading
  • The place where the goods are loaded and their destination
  • Special instructions for shipping

Some types of BoL require additional information such as the name of the ship. Accuracy is of the utmost importance when preparing a BoL as mistakes can lead to litigation which can result in a significant loss of money.

Who Issues a Bill of Lading?

The BoL is issued by the carrier. The carrier is the only party that is able to issue a BoL and can refer to the Shipping Line, also called the Vessel Operating Common Carrier (VOCC), or the Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC), sometimes called the Freight Forwarder.

Who Receives the Bill of Lading?

There are generally three parties to whom the Bill of Lading is issued: the shipper, the freight forwarder, customs broker, or a third party customs manager, and the consignee.

Are There Different Types of Bill of Lading?

Different types of Bill of Lading are used for different purposes. Some of the most commonly used types of BoL include:

Negotiable and Non-negotiable Bill of Lading

Negotiable and Non-negotiable Bill of Lading

A negotiable BoL is transferable to a third party with the proper authorization which means that a consignee can be any individual in possession of the original BoL documents, as these documents represent the ownership of and control of the goods.

A non-negotiable BoL states that only one specific consignee can receive the goods and the document does not represent ownership of the goods so it must be accompanied by supplemental documentation.

Straight Bill of Lading

A straight BoL is a non-negotiable type of BoL used when goods are fully paid for before shipping and then transported directly to the consignee.

Original Bill of Lading

This type of BoL is used when the items have not been completely paid for and the consignee must present the original BoL and pay the shipper the remainder of what is owed before the items will be released by the carrier.

Ocean Bill of Lading

An Ocean BoL is required for the transportation of goods overseas through international waters. It is most often used when the shipper needs to retain control over the payment to ensure that the entire payment is made before releasing the goods.

House Bill of Lading

A House Bill of Lading functions between the consignee and the shipper and is issued by the freight forwarder.

Air Waybill

An air waybill is a non-negotiable document and only used for goods that are transported via air.

Sea Waybill

A sea waybill is often issued instead of an Ocean BoL if the shipper does not need to control the release of the goods. It is only used for goods transported by sea.

Multimodal Bill of Lading

A multimodal BoL is issued for items that are to be transported using different modes of transport; either air, land, or sea.

Clean Bill of Lading

A clean BoL is used to indicate that the goods were in good condition when they were loaded onto the vessel and acts as the carrier’s official certification.

Claused Bill of Lading

A claused BoL is essentially the opposite of a clean BoL and indicates that the delivered cargo is damaged or that there is a shortfall in the count of items.

Final Thoughts

Bill of Lading documents can sound complex, but it is vital that you have the correct BoL that contains accurate and comprehensive information about your shipment to avoid any shipping confusion or potential legal issues.

At Asiana USA, we handle the paperwork on your behalf so you can focus on other aspects of your business. Contact us at (855)-500-1808 to request a consultation to discuss your shipping needs.

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