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Bill of Lading: Everything you need to know

Bill is defined as a printed or written statement of the cost for the goods or services delivered or delivered. Whereas, lading means loading.

Lading refers to loading cargo onboard a vessel. A bill of lading is a contract issued by a transportation company to a shipper that gives out the quantity and types and specifies the destination of goods being shipped. It is also a receipt of shipment and prevents the goods from being robbed while transported.

What is a Bill of Lading? (BoL or BL)

They are documents often issued by a carrier and represent the legal contract for the carriage of goods from one destination to another. Once the carrier receives the goods, it would issue the document to the party that booked the freight, the freight forwarder or shipper.

There are usually two types of bills of lading, the House Bill of Lading, and the Master Bill of Lading.

Bill of Lading vs Proof of Delivery:

While many confuse the bill of lading with Proof of Delivery, the former is a contract between the owner of goods and freight carrier, while the latter is proof that the goods have reached their destination.

Bill of Lading is very important when making shipments to move the cargo or freight from one point or distribution centre to the other. Remember, it is a contract between a carrier and shipper for the transportation of goods, and it serves as a receipt issued by a carrier to the shipper.


The bill of lading document is meant to act as evidence of the contract of carriage of the goods.

They should have the following legal qualities:

  • It acts as a piece of evidence for the carriage contract containing the terms and conditions under which the goods transportation will be carried out.

  • It represents a receipt that endorses that the carrier has received the cargo as per the contract and the goods are received in good condition.

  • It is a document of title permitting the sale of goods in transit and raising financial credit.

Sets of Bill of Lading:

This is an old practice where the bills are signed in sets of three originals to facilitate the goods are timely delivered even when the original is lost. They are stated as the first original, second original, and third original on top of the bill. A duplicate copy with the stamp – “Non-negotiable” may also be distributed.

Bill of lading as Contract Of Carriage:

The convention governing the carriage contract is usually stated on the first page of the bill of lading. Upon booking space for shipment by the Consignee, the carrier sends a booking confirmation which states Clauses sent by the carrier. It will indicate the terms and conditions governing the booking and carriage contract.

Contents of Freight Bill of Lading: The bill of lading comprises the following details:

  • The complete name and official address of the receiver and the shipper.

  • The Purchase order numbers, special reference/ invoice or reference numbers, and special instructions to help the shipper and the Consignee release the goods for pickup or are accepted at delivery.

  • The date of the pickup acts as a reference to track the freight.

  • The description of items includes the number of units being shipped, NMFC freight class, the weight and dimension of the products, and the nature of the cargo being carried, i.e. dangerous goods, etc.

  • If the goods are hazardous, the Department of Transportation hazardous material designation is tagged, and it is cited on the bill to follow rules and requirements when shipping.

  • The packaging details include crates, pallets, cartons, pills, drums, etc.

  • Any special notes or instructions for the carrier

If you'd like to discuss your business's freight needs in more detail or anything regarding your BOL, you can call +61 2 9773 1378 or email the team at Image International Freight today. We have you covered!


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