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Bill of lading is an important document in trade especially international transport of goods. It denotes multiple aspects such as details of goods to be transferred, consigner, consigner and so on. This article elaborates on what bill of lading it, its purpose, and types.


Bill of lading: Meaning

Bill of lading is also known as BoL or BL. It is a legally valid document that is given to the shipper by the carrier. The document is signed by the carrier at the time of picking up the consignment. The signed document indicates that the consignment is onboard the vehicle regardless the mode of transport (truck, railway, ship or aircraft). In other words, BoL also suggests that goods as described in the document are in possession of the carrier. Furthermore, consignee i.e. receiver of the goods, has to sign the bill of lading when goods are received. Therefore, bill of lading also acts as a proof of delivery.

Bill of lading: example

Here is scenario as an example in which bill of lading is generated.

For instance, you are a business owner, and you manufacture car components. Your company’s purchase manager generates an order for galvanised steel sheets. The vendor receives the order as per the purchase order (PO) and gathers the required quantity and keeps it ready for shipping. When the transportation arrives, steel sheets are loaded on the carrier and vendor signs the bill of lading.

Vendor’s signature signifies that goods are loaded on the carrier, and they can inform the customer accordingly.

Next, goods are transported to your manufacturing facility. Your purchase manager gets the bill of lading, compares it with PO. It is advisable to check if the quantity and quality mentioned on bill of lading matches the details mentions on the PO. When it is verified, goods are unloaded, and the purchase manager signs BoL as a proof of delivery.

Key components of bill of lading

Here are some of the key components of the bill of lading.

  • Shipper’s/sender’s information: It contains details about the party shipping the goods, including their name, address, and contact information.
  • Consignee’s/Receiver’s information: BoL also has information about the company/individual to whom the goods are being shipped. The information includes their name, address, and contact details.
  • Carrier’s information: The bill of lading has details about the carrier responsible for transporting the goods, including their name, address, and contact information.
  • Goods description: One of the crucial aspects of BoL is goods description. It includes information about the goods being shipped, such as their type, quantity, weight, and dimensions. It may also include any special handling instructions.
  • Origin and destination: Information about the origin (place of shipment) and destination (place of delivery) of the goods is also mentioned on BoL.
  • Shipping terms: This is another important aspect on the bill of lading. The agreed-upon terms of the shipment, including who is responsible for freight charges, transit insurance, and other costs.
  • Freight charges: BoL also has information about the cost of shipping, including any applicable fees and charges.
  • Shipping date: It includes the date when the goods were handed over to the carrier for transport.
  • Signature: Lastly, it has the signature of the shipper or their agent, along with the date the bill of lading was issued.

Purpose: Bill of lading

Here are some key purposes of bill of lading.

  • It is a proof that the stated goods are shipped.
  • It also states terms and conditions. In case of disputes, the document can help to determine the liability and responsibilities of goods in transit.
  • It also acts as a proof of terms and conditions on which goods were transported.

Types of bills of lading

There are several types of bills of lading, common types are explained below:

1. Straight Bill of Lading (Non-Negotiable BOL)

It is also known as a non-negotiable BOL. This type of BoL specifies that the goods are to be delivered to the named consignee only and is not negotiable or transferable to another party. This process is used when the shipper does not want goods to be easily transferred or when confidential goods are moved. For example, it is an ideal choice for military and defence products movement.

2. Order bill of lading (Negotiable BOL):

This is a negotiable bill of lading and it allows goods to be transferred to another party by signing a document. It is typically used when the shipper wants to allow the consignee to transfer the title to the goods to another party, such as when goods are being sold during transit. It is commonly used in international trade and finance.

3. Through bill of lading:

This is a useful type of bill of lading in when goods are transported using multiple modes of transportation (e.g., truck, train, ship, and plane) to reach their final destination. The document covers the entire journey, including different modes of the transportation. It is mostly issued by a logistics company that manages the entire multimodal shipment.

4. Ocean bill of lading (OBL):

As the name suggests an ocean bill of lading is specifically used for shipments transported by sea. The documents contain information about the goods, the ship, and the terms and conditions of the sea transport. Depending on the need, it can either be negotiable or non-negotiable.

5. Inland bill of lading (Inland BOL):

Inand BoL is used when for the domestic shipments meaning when goods are shipped within the country. In case of international shipping, it is used for the journey from the origin to the port or airport. In other words, it only covers partial journey before it is handed over to an ocean or air carrier.

6. Air Waybill (AWB):

Airway bill is used exclusively for air transportations. The document contains information about the cargo, flight details, and terms and conditions for air transportation. By default, it is a non-negotiable instrument.


Some of other types of bill of lading

  • Express release bill of lading
  • Clean bill of lading
  • Foul bill of lading

Concluding note

Bill of lading is an important document in any business. Next time, if your carrier or logistics partner does not give you’re the document to sign, do not forget to ask for it.

Swati Deshpande

Swati is a passionate content writer with more than 10 years of experience crafting content for the business and manufacturing sectors, and helping MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) navigate complexities in steel procurement, and business services. Her clear and informative writing empowers MSMEs to make informed decisions and thrive in the competitive landscape.