What You Need to Know About Bill of Lading

A bill of lading, also known as BOL or waybill, is a bill issued by a carrier to acknowledge receipt of consignment for shipping. While historically associated only with ocean-borne carriage by sea, today, a bill of lading can be used for almost any kind of transport of goods. The term originally referred only to a record of consignments, but in modern times it generally refers to a bill of lading that authorizes a shipper to undertake a specific transportation activity. In order for a bill of lading to legally define a particular transaction, it usually must be signed by a notary public. This notarial act provides protection to the shipper from both fraud and a civil penalty for non-delivery.

A bill of lading should be carefully tailored to describe the specific kind of service or item for which it is intended. Unlike a bill of lading, which typically identifies a particular carrier and the parties to a shipment, the bill of lading describes the parties to a transaction and the relationship between them. For instance, when describing a long-distance load involving a tank car, the bill should specify if the vehicle is delivered on a flatbed truck, enclosed in a container, or by air freight. It should also describe the mode of transportation and how the goods are shipped. It would be absurd to allow a bill of lading to specify the method of delivery of a television when the bill is actually for satellite transmission.

As the number of international shipments continues to grow, the need for a specialized bill of lading services has increased. In today’s international trade, the bill of lading is categorized into different types based on its purpose and information that must be carried over to the chosen carrier.

Here are the different types of bill of lading based on the mode of transportation:

Ocean Bill of Lading

The most common type of bill of lading, Ocean Bill of Lading, is issued to act as evidence that a contract has been made for the carrier to ship the goods to its destination.

Ocean Bill of Lading is typically a document in the form of three originals (signed, stamped, and negotiable), together with six non-negotiable copies.

Air Bill of Lading

As the name implied, an Air Bill of Lading is used if the shipment is to be carried via air transport. This bill of lading shall be given to the consignee upon the shipment’s arrival and is non-negotiable.

Direct Bill of Lading

Direct Bill of Lading can be issued in the event that the shipper was aware that the carrier that has the cargo would bring it to its target location. This form of arrangement is optimal for saving time as it allows the exporter or importer to organize the transport of the cargo from the warehouse directly to the shipping company.

Multimodal Bill of Lading

In case a shipment is to be moved by two or more means of transport, the bill of lading that must be issued will be a Multimodal Bill of Lading. The use of such a document is situational, especially if the shipper is located in a place that cannot be easily reached inland.

Inland Bill of Lading

This bill of lading can be issued if the shipment must be carried by a vehicle in order to reach the destination inland. Often used in the form of domestic transportation, an Inland Bill of Lading is prepared by the shipper, which will be signed by the person-in-charge of the carrying vehicle.

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