The purpose of Bill of Lading (B/L) is to outline the journey of your cargo from the origin to the destination. This is issued by a carrier to a shipper to detail the method and path of a shipment, and is used as a contract for the movement of the cargo. The document details the cargo being transported, with any special instructions, and typically has the terms of the contract printed on the back of the bill. It is also used as a receipt for the cargo, and kept as proof of ownership once landed at its respective transfer points or at destination.

what is bill of lading          Historical BOL from W. L. Scott & Co. to John B. Wilbor, Bill of Lading, Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Who is on the Bill of Lading?

The Bill of Lading is a contract between the shipper and the carrier. It names the shipper, the consignee (the person who will receive the cargo), and the carrier that issued the Bill of Lading. gives a detailed description of the cargo. The contract also will include the origin freight forwarder and the destination freight forwarder or the arrival agent that handles the shipment. All of this information is typically pre-printed on the Bill of Lading form.

With the purpose of Bill of Lading to outline the journey of your cargo, it’s vital to know who is on it.

  • The shipper and consignee of the goods being transported
  • The carrier that issued the Bill of Lading
  • The origin freight forwarder
  • The destination freight forwarder or the arrival agent that is handling your shipment
  • The party that is paying the freight, whether it is collect or prepaid (either the buyer or seller)
    • Prepaid or collect is listed on the document – This is typically agreed upon prior to shipment

What is on the Bill of Lading?

The Bill of Lading lists the commodities being shipped, who is responsible for the cargo, where the shipment is going, and other important information.

The document will list whether your package is inner or outer, label the type of content of the shipment, along with the weight and volume of the cargo being transported.

It lists any special instructions regarding the handling of the cargo for the shipper or consignee. For example, if the cargo is temperature sensitive, that information will be noted on the Bill of Lading.

Hazardous shipments must be clearly cited on it, and they come with special rules and requirements when shipped.

It also will have prepaid or collect listed on the document, this is typically agreed upon prior to the shipment.

Below is the full list of what’s on the Bill of Lading:

  • Content of the shipment – For example: toys, apparel, electronics, food etc.
  •  Type of inner packaging – For example: boxes, crates, drums, rolls. packs etc.
  • Type of outer packaging – For example: 720 cases on 10 pallets or 40′ container with 1370 cases
  • Special markings or identifying characteristics on the cargo
  •  Air shipments – labeled with the airline’s Master Airway Bill number (MAWB) or the origin freight forwarder’s House Airway Bill number (HAWB)
  • Special handling instructions – For example: fragile, keep cold, keep upright etc.
  • Special instructions – For example: Do not double stack, keep in covered area etc.
  • Weight and volume of the cargo being transported

Where is this cargo going and where is it coming from?

The cargo will always be transported from the shipment’s origination point to its destination point that is listed on The Bill of Lading. Your freight forwarder will have a route form one place to the other, and arrive by the date the shipment is due.

Simplified List of Cargo Transport Process:

  • Shipment’s origination point
  • Shipment’s destination point
  • Route from each place to the other
  • Date the shipment is received for transport
  • Flight, vessel and/or trucks the shipment is planned to move with
    • Date the shipment is received for transport
    • Flight, vessel and/or trucks the shipment is planned to move with

Negotiable vs Non-Negotiable Bill of Lading

Negotiable Bill of Lading: A negotiable Bill of Lading provides clear instructions in the delivery of goods to anyone having the possession of the original copy of the bill. In this type of bill, the buyer or receiver must acquire and present an original copy of the bill of lading at the discharge port. If there is no copy presented, the freight will not be given.

The original consignee signs, or “indorses,” the bill’s back to pass title to another party. The new consignee can then transfer ownership to someone else and so on once this has been done.

Non-Negotiable Bill of Lading: A non-negotiable bill of lading has a specific consignee or name of the receiver of the shipment of the freight. However, this bill does not provide ownership of the goods. It is not a document of title and cannot be used to transfer ownership from one party to another. The assigned receiver of the freight can claim the cargo by identify conformation.

bill of lading example

Bill of Lading Example

Keep in mind that the more stops a shipment has, the longer it will take to reach its destination. Usually the route is planned with multiple stops and/or modes to save on freight costs if this is what the supplier or customer wanted when booking the freight.

Our specialists at BOA are ready to find solutions to move your cargo efficiently to meet your transportation needs!


Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Consignee on the Bill of Lading?

The consignee on the Bill of Lading is the shipment receiver and typically the owner of the shipped goods. Unless said otherwise, the consignee is the legally required person that must be present to accept the shipment.

Why is Bill of Lading Important?

Using a Bill of Lading is vital since it is a legal document that provides details about the shipment, while also providing information that protects the rights of the shipper.

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