What is a Bill of Lading and what is its purpose?

Bills of lading are transportation documents that carriers issue to shippers. These contain information regarding the shipment such as quantity, destination and type of cargo.

  • A B/L can be a document of title
  • A B/L is a form of receipt for goods
  • A B/L is also a contract between shipper and carrier
  • A B/L should be treated as a legal document

What is the difference between a negotiable and non-negotiable Bill of Lading?

A negotiable bill of lading allows anyone who produces the document to take title to the cargo. The document produced has to be original. A non-negotiable B/L has a specific consignee named as the receiver. The carrier has an obligation to deliver the cargo to that named consignee. A non-negotiable B/L cannot confer title.

What is the difference between an Airway Bill and a Bill of Lading?

Similar to a Bill of Lading, an Airway bill is provided by the airline carrying the cargo to the shipper. However, Airway bills cannot confer title transfer. Nonetheless, they act as proof of receipt for cargo and should also be treated as a legal document.

What are the types of Bills of Lading?

There are several different ways to classify of Bills of Lading such as:

  1. Negotiable B/L
  2. Non negotiable B/L
  3. Straight B/L
  4. Seaway B/L
  5. Clean B/L

Some of these classifications make overlap, for example most bills of lading would also be clean bills of lading.

What is the difference between Master Bill of Lading and House Bill of Lading?

The Master B/L is issued by the main carrier to the shipper contracting carriage while the House B/L is issued by the freight forwarder to the shipper. In this case, the shipper contracting carriage would be the freight forwarder.

If you would like to know more about bills of lading, you can read our comprehensive introductory article here.

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