A Bill of Lading: What is It?

A bill of lading

A bill of lading is a document that proves the goods delivery made by a sender. Usually, it is used when the ship transports goods belonging to a few different owners. Each sender of cargo gets a bill of lading that is usually issued by the captain of the ship or by the ship owner or a freighter. A bill of lading is one of the most important documents that are used at customs when the goods are transferred by marine vehicles. A bill of lading confirms ownership of the shipped goods.

This document differs from the international commodity-transport superimposed (CMR). Specialists who work with truck cargo transportation and offer a white glove delivery service hardly ever deal with such a document. But still, everyone who is in a transportation business needs to understand the sense and peculiarities of a bill of lading.

There are different kinds of bills. But all of them are regulated by international agreements that are known as “Hague rules”. The last edition was the Rotterdam Convention of the UNO in 2009.

You are mistaken if you think that a bill of lading and a commodity-transport superimposed are the same. Multifunctional document plays a role of:

  • A receipt (IOU) of the marine cargo carrier that proves that he/she accepts the goods on board of a ship;
  • A duplicate of the contract on marine cargo transportation that is signed until the issuing of a bill of lading;
  • An object of purchase (the goods can be sold during the cargo transportation, which is documented by the transmitting sign on the back of the document).

Usually, the bill of lading is completed in English as this language is an international one for marine freight transportation. 

As for the structure of a document, it has some sections which are compulsory to complete. They are the following:

  • Requisites of the company that organizes transportation (the full name of a ship, a registered office of the company that organizes delivery, a homeport);
  • The number of a bill lading (it helps to monitor cargo when you deal with linear transportation);
  • Requisites of the cargo sender with the registered office;
  • Requisites of the accepting side;
  • Port of loading;
  • Port of discharge;
  • Information about cargo (it can include the description of a package, numbers of boxes or containers and seals, quantity, weight, and the volume of cargo;
  • Special marks that indicate the condition of the goods;
  • Place and time of issuing this document;
  • The quantity of issued original papers;
  • Signs and seals of the cargo carrier (only a captain’s seal is valid).

If a document is valid within one country, it can be completed in the language that is appropriate for the representatives of a cargo carrier and a cargo owner.

The document becomes invalid at the sea port after the cargo is unloaded and accepted by the owner. Sometimes it can be a representative of a transportation company or a company expeditor.