So, you’re thinking about shipping ocean freight. With just a click, booking the shipment is the easy part. The tedious part comes in preparing the documents. Before you even begin to look at container shipping rates, you must first understand the most important documents involved in the process.
The very first document you need to familiarize yourself with is the Bill of Lading (BL). This document acts as a contract of carriage. When an international maritime import or export is carried out, the shipping lines emit the Bill of Lading, which confirms that the merchandise is sent from an exporter to an importer has been shipped with the carriage X. You can think of it like your shipment’s boarding pass.
The Bill of Lading is a receipt given to the shipper for the goods delivered and proves the existence of a transport contract, granting rights to the goods to the owner. The exporter has to request the Bill of Lading from his freight forwarder, which he then sends to the importer via a courier. The cost of sending this document is usually negotiated between the two parties.
As soon as the importer receives it, he becomes the possessor of the goods. Because of this technicality, it’s normal for the seller to request for full payment before sending out the Bill of Lading.
Bill of Ladings are issued in sets of originals, usually two or three. Any of the originals can be presented to obtain the merchandise. Variants of the Bill of Lading include the Telex Release and the Express Release. They, however, work differently in terms of the forms of transmission and protection offered to the shipper.
To learn more about the Bill of Lading and its variations, do consult our page on the differences between the Original Bill of Lading, the Telex Release and the Express Release.
Depending on who you’re dealing with at certain points of your shipping process, you may be handling either the House Bill of Lading or Master Bill of Lading. Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between the two:
|Master B/L||House B/L|
|Issued by||Shipping carrier to NVOCC||NVOCC to customers|
|Issued on||Pre-printed form of shipping carrier’s Bill of Lading||Pre-printed form of NVOCC’s Bill of Lading|
|Shipper||NVOCC or its agent||Actual shipper/exporter*|
|Consignee||Destination agent or NVOCC||Actual receiver/importer*|
|Notify party||Same as consignee or any other party||Same as consignee*|
*Note: Cases in which a Letter of Credit is used as a payment method, the shipper, consignee, and notify party fields may differ depending on the agreement.
For a more in-depth understanding of the difference, you may visit our page on differences between a house and master Bill of Lading.
The Bill of Lading needs to be filled out as precisely and accurately as possible. Information you’ll need to provide include:
For a more detailed look at the Bill of Lading fields, you may give our guide on How to fill in a Bill of Lading a read.