What is a Bill of Lading?
A Bill of Lading can be categorized in many different ways, but in general an original B/L refers to a document issued by the carrier or shipping company that:
- Confirms receipt of goods onto a vessel
- Confirms the condition of those goods, weight and number of pieces
- Provides title to goods (“negotiable”)
- Serves as a proof of contract for carriage
Bills of Lading are ocean transportation documents. They can also be issued by the Captain of a vessel.
What is a Sea Waybill?
In simple terms, a Seaway Bill is a B/L that does not confer title to the goods. A Seaway Bill can also be referred to as a Straight Bill of Lading or an Express Bill of Lading.
A Bill of Lading and a Sea Waybill would have the following information:
- Carrier’s name
- Carrier’s address
- Shipper’s name
- Shipper’s address
- Consignee name
- Consignee address
- Vessel name
- Port of loading
- Port of unloading
- Notify party name
- Notify party address
- Nature of goods
- Condition of goods
- Identification marks on cargo
- Number of pieces or packages
- Quantity and/or weight
- Incoterms of the contract
- Place of payment : Pre-Paid or Collect
- Number of original copies
Should I use a Sea Waybill or Bill of Lading?
A Sea Waybill, instead of a B/L can be used when the shipper is comfortable with releasing ownership of the cargo early (immediately). The carrier only has to ship and release the cargo to the entity identified in the Sea waybill regardless of whether that entity possesses the original Bill of Lading or not. Effectively, the Sea Waybill serves as just a reference transportation document.
- This makes it practical to use a Sea Waybill when the consignor and consignee trust each other
- When there is no expectation of a high sea sale
- When payment is not being made using letter of credit instruments
In many scenarios, the use of a Sea Waybill means that the consignee can take ownership of the cargo faster than when using a Bill of Lading since there is no longer a need to courier the original Bill of Lading to the destination.