What is a Bill of Lading in Import, Export and Shipping?
A Bill of Lading (B/L or BoL) document is an extremely important document involved in the shipping and logistics industry. A Bill of Lading is a document that is issued by the Carrier of goods to the “Shipper” of the goods. It’s a document to provide evidence or proof of shipment. This is extremely important in International Trade as it provides ‘title’ as to who legally owns the cargo. The Bill of Lading acts as evidence of Contract of Carriage, receipt of goods and document of Title to the goods. The owner of the cargo (the holder of the Bill of Lading) has the legal rights to claim the goods or arrange transfer ownership of the cargo to another party in the supply chain.
How is the Bill of Lading actually used between the Parties invovled in trade?
The Bill of Lading is important in International Trade when it comes to the IncoTerms that the goods are sold on and the payment terms agreed between buyer and seller. In alot of cases, buyers and sellers will agree to pay a deposit to the supplier then arrange the balance payment ‘upon receipt of Bill of Lading’. This means that when the goods have been shipped and the shipper receives the Bill of Lading from the carrier (shipping line), the shipper will use this document as security and will only email a ‘copy’ of the Bill of Lading to the buyer to prove that the goods have been shipped and to request the balance payment. The shipper will hold title to the original Bill of Lading (originals) and therefore legally retain ownership of the cargo. The shipper will use this as security to ensure that they receive the balance payment for the goods. Bill of Ladings are also used when shippers and consignees arrange Letter’s of Credit (L/Cs) with both party’s banks. Letters of Credit are contracts written between the shipper’s bank and the consignee’s bank that will guarantee payment of goods ‘upon Bill of Lading’.
Once the buyer has made the balance payment the shipper will ‘surrender’ the Bill of Lading and tell the shipping company to issue an ‘Express Release’ or ‘Telex Release’ Bill of Lading. This Express Release Bill of Lading will allow the title of goods to be transferred to the buyer without the buyer having to actually receive the original Bill of Lading documents in the mail. The buyer will use this Express Release Bill of Lading to arrange customs clearance and release of their cargo at the port of destination.
What is the difference between Freight Collect and Freight Pre-Paid?
The Bill of Lading will state that the shipment has been sent on ‘Freight Collect’ or ‘Freight Pre-Paid’ terms. These terms relate to which party will be paying for the International Freight costs. If the shipment is sent Freight Collect – the freight charges will be ‘collected’ by the Consignee. If the shipment has been sent on Freight Pre-Paid terms, the shipper will be billed for the freight charges. It’s important to note that the carrier must receive payment of the shipping charges (by either party) BEFORE they will release the cargo to the Consignee.
- Freight Collect IncoTerms include – EXW, FCA, FAS, FOB
- Freight Pre-Paid IncoTerms include – CFR, CIF, CPT, CIP, DAT, DAP, DDP
What information is included on a Bill of Lading?
- Shipper’s details including company name, address and contact details
- Consignee’s details including company name, address and contact details
- Notify Party (if different to the Consignee). In most cases the Notify Party will be the same as the Consignee, so the Notify party will be marked as ‘same as consignee’. This notify party can be used to notify any 3rd parties that need to be made aware of the shipment updates, progress and delivery.
- Carrier’s details, including company name, logo, address, contact details and their Terms and Conditions of carriage.
- Bill of Lading Number – the unique Bill of Lading number issued by the Shipping Company or Freight Forwarder that is arranging the carriage of the cargo.
- Vessel Name and Voyage number
- Place of Receipt, Port of Loading, Port of Discharge, Place of delivery, Final destination
- Container Number, Seal Number, Shipping Marks & Numbers, Description of goods, Gross Weight, Cubic Measurement (m3), Special Instructions
- Freight Prepaid or Freight Collect
- Place and Date of Issue, Signature
- Terms and Conditions of Carriage (usually on next pages)