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A Comprehensive Guide on Bill of Lading

Every trader and person associated with the shipping industry must know about the BoL and its purpose

Tuesday December 29, 2020 9:58 PM, ummid.com News Network

Bill of Lading

[Preparing and filing the Bill of Lading accurately must be the primary point of concern for a trader.]

The international shipping industry is one of the most systematically organised businesses which works in the interest of the world economy. It is vital for the growth and development of a country which is why every step is documented very carefully. Out of all the crucial pieces of paper that hold a significant part in the shipping process, Bill of Lading (B/L or BoL) is also one. It is a legally-binding bill that comprises all the important information related to the goods being traded and the parties involved. Every trader and person associated with the shipping industry must know about the BoL and its purpose.

If one makes an acute observation, there are several uses of BOL in shipping. It explains that the document is necessary when the freight is ready to board the ship, aircraft or any inland logistics for transportation. There are various types of BoL, and each of them serves a specific purpose to the traders and shippers. For every person who wants to sustain in the trade sector successfully, it should be a priority to understand the definition and importance of the bill. Here is a detailed guide of the types of this important document and its uses.

Types of Bill of Lading

The document that a freight carrier or any of his authorised agents issue to the shipper as a legal contract of the carriage is what we term as the Bill of Lading in the shipping industry. It is commonly abbreviated as BL or B/L. The Bill of Lading meaning also states that it must be presented at the time of delivering the cargo. The most common types of B/L are:

Sl. No.

Types of Bill of Lading

Purpose of The Bill


House BoL

It is issued by the carrier or NVOCC (Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier)


Clean BoL

The freight forwarder issues this bill to claim the good condition of the freight he received.


Master BoL

The most descriptive and detailed bill issued by the freight forwarder to the exporter.


Order BoL

It is the negotiable bill in which the consignee can pass his rights to receive the freight of any third party.


Straight BoL

This is a non-negotiable bill issued when the buyers pay for the goods before receiving them.


Bearer BoL

The Bearer bill is issued in the name of the third party who is liable to receive the goods on behalf of the buyer.

The authenticity of the Bill of Lading is very crucial as the traders do not wish to compromise with their business relations. Considering the same, most of the exporters sought government intervention for the digitisation of documents. The government also took all the necessary steps to fast track the process and offer complete solutions to the traders.

Significance of the Bill of Lading in International Trade

After one clearly understands the meaning of B/L and its several types, it is also important to know why it is so important to the shippers and traders.

Serves as a Contract of Carriage

A lot of new traders hold the misconception that the BoL serves as a piece of contract evidence between the exporter and importer. However, it actually is evidence of the contract between the exporter (owner of the goods) and the carrier (freight forwarder). It legally mandates that the carrier agreed to the terms of shipment, and is liable to ship the goods safely to the consignee.

Used as a Freight Receipt

The carrier or his agent or any logistics service provider who is responsible for shipping the freight issues the B/L to the freight owner. Therefore, it is a receipt of payment and proof that the goods are safe with the carrier.

Marked as a Title Document

The BoL is also that the carrier or whosoever is the holder of the document has the title to the goods. That is, he owns the rights to receive and claim the goods. However, this title may differ as per the terms of the bill as well as the shipping contract. How the bill is received and issues also make a difference.

Lawful Statement

The B/L also serves a lawful statement to ensure that none of the parties involved in the process can make fake claims of losses. The interest parties can also use it as proof in case of unforeseen disputes.


[Sorting out the payments and dues is very crucial while making the B/L, for finding the right type of the same.]

Mandatory Contents of the BOL

● Details of The Shipping Line

The name, address, contact details of the shipping line form where the exporter is shipping the goods must be there in the bill.

● Date and Number of The Shipping Bill

The date of issue and number of the Shipping Bill is mentioned in the B/L.

● Contact Details of Exporter and The Receiver

The contact details of the exporter and the importer or receiver (in the case of third-party delivery) is mentionable.

● Order Number and Other Reference Details

The booking number of freight shipment and other reference numbers (if needed) must be specified clearly in the bill.

● Goods Packaging Description and Details

Packaging details is also vital to the BoL as it gives a brief reference to the number of cartons, pallets, crates and drums used in the cargo. With the help of this information, the shipper will be able to handle it safely.

● Initials and Signature of Concerned Officers

The concerned officer of the authorised shipping department has to sign the bill with his initials on it (if not the full name) to ensure that he is offering his consent to the same.

The Bill of Lading is one of the most vital and productive documents in the international shipping market that the traders must be well-versed with! Any mistake in the bill can convey a wrong message or mislead the importers in the case of inaccurate billing. Therefore, the new names in the industry should seek guidance from experienced shipping service providers to draft these documents properly.

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