What is Bill of Lading: The First Step To Know The Freight Forwarding Process


Staff Content Writer

February 11, 2020 • 3 minutes read

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A Bill of Lading is an essential document for both sellers and buyers, which is issued by a carrier or an agent when people ship goods across countries. During the exporting and importing process, it can also be a contract of carriage dealing with ocean or air freight. Meanwhile, it serves as a document of title for forwarding agents or carriers to claim the possession of the shipment.

  • Ocean Freight: Ocean bill of lading (or called Sea Waybill)
  • Air Freight: Air Waybill
  • Road Freight: Inland bill of lading
  • Multiple Transportation: Multimodal bill of lading (or called MTD, representing Multimodal Transport Document)

Among the above four types of bill of lading (commonly abbreviated as BL), we will explain the Ocean Bill of Lading in detail in the following sections.

Things needed to be on Ocean Bill of Lading Form

  • The name and contact information for shipper, the consignee, forwarding agent, and the notify parties
  • Vessel and booking information such as the name of the vessel, place of receipt, the port of loading, and the port of discharge.
  • Loading instructions and temperature control instructions
  • Information on the goods, such as weight, dimensions, and commodity, with clear identification whether any of the goods are dangerous goods
  • The number of packages and shipping marks on packages
  • Freight and charges
  • The numbers of copies, authorized signature, place, and date of issue.

After knowing the required content inside an Ocean Bill of Lading, we should also clarify two kinds of Ocean BL, which are House Bill of Lading (HBL) and Master Bill of Lading (MBL).

House Bill of Lading vs Master Bill of Lading

In the forwarding industry, since too many parties are involved in the ocean shipping processes, various documents should be properly prepared to manage and review. When you book your shipment through a freight forwarder or an NVOCC agent, there will be the House Bill of Lading and the Master Bill of Lading. But why we need to have these different types of bills? To figure out the reasons, let’s understand the different parties involved in ocean freight shipment processes.

House Bill of Lading

House Bill of Lading is issued by an NVOCC agent or freight forwarder to the exporter or shipper. Once an NVOCC agent or a freight forwarder receives the shipment from the shipper and ensures that all paperwork has been done, they will release HBL to the shipper. The actual shipper and consignee will be listed on the House Bill of Lading.

Master Bill of Lading

Master Bill of Lading is issued by the carrier or steamship line to an NVOCC agent or a freight forwarder. After the cargo is customs cleared and loaded on the ship at the port of departure, an NVOCC agent or a forwarder will receive MBL from the carrier. On the Master Bill of Lading, the contact information of the shipper, consignee, and notify party will be an NVOCC agent or a freight forwarder.

You should know about HBL & MBL:

  1. The shipment information on HBL and MBL must be the same, except for the shipper, the consignee, and the notify party. That is because the commodities shipped, which are listed on the Bill of Ladings are the same, yet the issuers of HBL and MBL are different parties.
  2. Only freight forwarders who have registered as an NVOCC agent are allowed to issue the Bill of Ladings and be a representative to sign the Bill of Ladings in the US. That said, they can issue House Bill of Ladings and represent as a shipper on the Master Bill of Ladings. In other words, if the freight forwarder is an NVOCC agent, it can not only help with customs clearance and delivery but issue its own Bill of Lading.

To offer a better efficient workflow, GoFreight provides a user-friendly interface to show HBL and MBL at the same time. Request a Demo to learn more about the useful feature and it can help you to improve work efficiency.

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