+44(0) 121 311 0550 info@millenniumcargo.com

You’ll hear plenty of jargon upon entering the world of shipping and logistics. 

The term Bill Of Lading, or a BoL, is a really important one to get your head around. Without a BoL, transporting cargo by air, sea and road is impossible.


What Is A Bill Of Lading?

A BoL is one of the main important legal documents used in both domestic and international shipping.

There are plenty of acronyms and words that will be new to you in shipping. Three of them that you’ll hear a lot as we move through this blog are as follows:

  • The shipper, essentially the supplier, is in charge of readying the product for shipment, including packaging and labelling.
  • The carrier (the transporter) could be any shipping line, haulage company or freight forwarder.
  • The consignee is the buyer. 

Now let’s explore the document’s purpose…


Why Does It Matter?

The role of the BoL is diverse, but each element plays an important part of the overall shipping process.

The BoL:

  • Is first and foremost a contract between all parties. The document states what is being shipped, from whom and to where and represents the terms and conditions for the transportation of the goods. 
  • Serves as proof of ownership whilst the cargo is in transit.
  • Acts as proof of receipt. The shipment cannot be released to the consignee without one.
  • Ensures the shipper receives payment. 


What Information Is Presented Within A Bill Of Lading?

A BoL contains information surrounding what the goods are, who is supplying them and where they should end up.

More specifically, the BoL contains:

  • Carrier, shipper and consignee details
  • The loading location
  • The destination the goods are travelling to
  • The mode of transport
  • Incoterms. These are the legal terms of the shipment that pay attention to risks and costs for each involved party.
  • A description of the cargo to be carried, such as package dimensions, weight and classification

The Importance Of Accuracy

Whilst certain details of the BoL can be changed after it has been issued, it is far easier for everyone involved to get it right the first time.

Choosing the right type of BoL, and scrutinizing and double-checking every detail, can prevent huge problems later down the line, like incurring whopping fines for misinformation.

It’s not worth the risk!


How Do I Get A BoL?

The Bill of Lading can only be issued by the carrier and is issued when the cargo itself is loaded onto the vessel or vehicle for transport. 

The BoL is then normally provided to the shipper, a broker or other third party managing customs (if the cargo is travelling internationally) and the consignee. 


Negotiable, Non-Negotiable And The Different Types Of BoL

The Bill of Lading is by far the most complex logistical shipping document. 

Before looking at a few of the different varieties, it’s important to tackle the difference between Negotiable and Non-Negotiable BoLs.

Negotiable BoLs represent the title of the goods in transit, and Non-Negotiable BoLs do not. 

A Negotiable BoL instructs the carrier to deliver the cargo to whoever has the original, endorsed by consignee, Negotiable Bill. A non-negotiable BoL sets a specific consignee, and it is only that person who can receive the goods. 

To make things trickier there are a number of different versions, each with their own features. 

Here is an overview of a few of them:

  • The Ocean Bill of Lading is required for the transportation of goods overseas internationally. 
  • The Sea Waybill of Lading is a non-negotiable document issued in place of the Ocean BoL.
  • Master Air Way Bills of Lading are generated by an airline or freight forwarder and are non-negotiable unless consigned through a bank.
  • Multimodal BoLs are used when the goods will be moved using multiple forms of transport, for example, if part of the journey is by train and part by ship.
  • Through BoLs, not to be confused with Multimodal BoLs are only used when as much of the trip as possible is by ocean.

And that’s not all of them! It is crucial to use the correct version depending on your exact circumstances.

Electronic BoLs

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a bit dated, isnt it? 

Paper copies of important documents? Have they not digitised it yet?

Whilst the idea of paperless trade offers many benefits English law does not currently recognise an Electronic BoL as a document of title. So whilst they do exist, Electronic BoLs don’t hold the same legal status as their paper counterparts. 

Telex Releases on the other hand are very common in the shipping world. Whilst they don’t replace BoLs they do electronically release the cargo at their destination port when the BoL has been released at another. 


Feeling confident in obtaining and filling out a BoL correctly?

No? You won’t be the only one.

The Bill Of Lading plays an integral part in domestic and international shipping and logistics and its use relies heavily on information being inputted clearly and correctly.

Still have questions around the flow of the BoL in different situations? Need help with yours? Leave us a message below or call us on +44(0) 121 311 0550. With over 25 years in the freight industry we really know our stuff and will be happy to help make moving your goods easy and stress-free.