Bill Of Lading

  1. What is a Bill of Lading?

One of the most important and common terms of shipping activities is the bill of lading or BL for short.

In this article we will learn what BL is? And all the problems around a BL.

This is a very important transport document, it can be said to be the most important in international freight operations.

A bill of lading (BL or BoL) is a legal document issued by a carrier (transportation company) to a shipper that details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. A bill of lading also serves as a shipment receipt when the carrier delivers the goods at a predetermined destination. This document must accompany the shipped products, no matter the form of transportation, and must be signed by an authorized representative from the carrier, shipper, and receiver.

  1. Classification of bills of lading

Based on the legality of the transported goods :

  • Original bill of lading (Original B/L): A bill of lading with the Original stamp and stamped, hand-signed, transactional and transferable.
  • Copy of bill of lading (Copy B/L): A copy of the original bill of lading, without stamping, without hand-signature, usually with the “copy-non-negotiable” mark and non-negotiable.

Based on the issuer :

  • Master BL (MBL): Is the BL issued by the ship owner, usually the shipping lines, to the charterer (the Owner or the Forwarder).
  • House BL (HBL): Is the BL issued by the Forwarder to the lessee.

Based on the form :

  • Original B/L: The original BL, the hard copy.
  • Surrendered B/L: An electronic BL. BL was developed to overcome the limitations of hard copy BL. BL surrendered in terms of content is completely the same as the original BL but it is in electronic file format so the shipper can easily send it to consignee over the internet. This type of bill can save time and cost of sending hard copy bills across countries and will not be lost. However, it will take a fee for shipping lines to surrender to BL.
  • Seaway B/L: A sea waybill is often used in the following cases: When it is not necessary to use a bill of lading to control the goods (for shipments that have been paid in advance, of small value, or of the same owner, etc., for example, the parent company sends to a subsidiary…), no need to transfer the bill of lading (because there is no need to buy and sell again, etc.), no need to present the bill of lading when receiving goods at port of discharge,… 
  1. Function of bill of lading

A bill of lading will have the following 3 functions :

  • Cargo Receipt: The main use of the bill of lading is as a receipt by the carrier when the goods have been loaded onto the vessel. This certification can be used as proof of shipment for customs and insurance purposes, and can also serve as commercial proof of fulfillment of contractual obligations.
  • Proof of title of goods: When the buyer receives the goods from the carrier, the bill of lading functions as title to the goods.
  • Proof of contract of carriage: Carriage of goods from the carrier to the consignor can be used as proof of the contract of carriage due to the fact that the carrier has received the goods. In this case, the bill of lading is used as a contract of carriage.


Today, commodity trading activities are growing, especially international freight transport. We know that it is very difficult to develop a global transport law because there is no single set of laws that can be compatible with and harmonize with the laws of all countries together. Therefore, international custom is very important and BL is one of them.

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