A bill of lading is a document issued by a carrier to confirm receipt of goods to be transported to an agreed destination. This document also serves as a contract of carriage and represents title to the goods. The marine transport document used by shipping lines is the marine/ocean bill of lading. The transport document used by charterers is the charter party bill of lading.
Shipping lines usually issue two or three original bills of lading, each of which can be used to claim ownership of the goods. Therefore, the one who has the bill of lading has the title to the goods. A bill of lading is a highly valuable document, especially in documentary methods of payment.
Bills of lading can be classified according to the holder or the form of receipt of the goods.
a) Accordint to the holder:
a.1) Bill of Lading to the Bearer
If a bill of lading is issued to the bearer, that is, the document does not state the name of the consignee, it means that the holder/possessor of such bill of lading is the lawful owner of the goods.
Transfer of a bill of lading also means the transfer of title to goods.
Carriers issue several original bills of lading, usually three, and it is important to have their full set, as anyone who has an original bill of lading can collect the goods.
a.2) Bill of Lading to a Named Party
These bills of lading are issued to a certain consignee who, having presented one of the original bills of lading, can take delivery of the goods.
a.3) Bill of Lading to the Order
If a bill of lading is issued to the order, its holder (the owner of the goods) can do with it the following:
Endorse it and make it to a named party; Issue it to the order of another company; Leave it blank endorsed (which practically makes it a bill of lading to the bearer).
b) According to the form of receipt of the goods.
b.1) Received Bill of Lading
This type of bill of lading evidences that the goods have been received for shipment by the carrier on the date indicated in the document, however, the goods are not yet loaded on the vessel.
Received bills of lading are necessary for transport of containers or multimodal transport, as they are issued the moment the goods have been handed over to the first carrier or to a container terminal.
b.2) On Board or Shipped Bill of Lading
It is a document that evidences that the goods are on the vessel and have been shipped on board. That is, the goods are ready to be transported. In a bill of lading the evidence of this can be stated as follows:
A bill of lading contains the phrase "Shipped on board as above local vessel…". The date and signature on the document refer to "on board", which means this date is the date of shipment.
With regard to transshipment there are these types of bills of lading:
Bill of Lading Without Transhipment
This bill of lading is used when one wants the goods to be transported by sea and without transhipments. If transhipments are allowed, there are two types of B/L to be used:
Transhipment B/L: If the whole transport is carried out by sea.
Through B/L: If the transport by sea is only part of the transit, the other part is carried out by inland waterways. This type of bill of lading is similar to the combined transport bill of lading.