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How to Read a Bill of Lading? [2022 Complete Guide]

Views: 41     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-05-12      Origin: Site

BILL OF LADING (B/L) represents the goods, you must have enough understanding of the bill of lading.


Here is a step-by-step walkthrough of your bill of lading and how to use it properly to ensure your shipment is transported safely and tracked all the way to its final destination.  Everything you need to know about your bill of lading.


In this guide is divided into 8 parts:

Basic knowledge and precautions

The production time sequence of each document under the L/C payment condition

Bill of lading classification

Bill of lading release type

Container loading situation

Not to be underestimated the notify for the bill of lading

Common Problem

The operation difference between MBL and HBL


How to Read a Bill of Lading


Basic knowledge and precautions

1. The bill of lading is usually 3 original and 3 copies, and there are also 2 originals and 3 copies. If there is a requirement in the letter of credit, it must be specially explained to the freight forwarder.


When the T/T payment method is used, in theory, only one original is needed (the other originals will automatically become invalid after the goods are picked up, and the copies cannot be picked up). After T/T receives the full payment, you can consider leaving one for yourself when sending the original to the customer. The original Zhang, and the rest are all sent to the customer (to prevent the bill of lading from being lost on the way).


2. The front of the bill of lading should show the carrier (full name). This is what I know and understand. In fact, when I was doing a letter of credit, the bank told me that the carrier was not shown on the bill of lading and it was still safe to pay the bill (so theoretically it should be shown).


If the carrier is displayed on the front, the lower right corner is directly stamped and signed by the carrier.


If the carrier is not displayed on the front and the bill of lading is signed by the carrier, the identity of the signatory shall be indicated when signing the bill of lading.


On the front there is a bill of lading that shows the carrier's full name but is signed by the shipping line, which should indicate the identity of the shipping line when signed.


3. On-board bill of lading and ready-to-ship bill of lading:


Shipped Bill of Lading: A bill of lading issued after the goods are loaded on board.


Ready-to-ship bill of lading: When the goods are not loaded on board, only the carrier takes over the goods delivered by the shipper, so the bill of lading cannot prove the loading time of the goods (the date of the ready-to-ship bill of lading is not the loading date).


The on-board bill of lading can only be changed to the on-board bill of lading when it is stamped with "on-board" and the time of shipment is indicated.


4. The bill of lading cannot have unclean remarks.


5. The consignee and notifier of the bill of lading must be filled in strictly in accordance with the letter of credit.


6. Issuance, date and number of copies of the bill of lading: The bill of lading must be issued by the carrier or master or their agent and should clearly identify the issuer. The general representation methods are: CARRIER, CAPTAIN, or "AS AGENT FOR THE CARRIER: XXX", etc.


7. If the name of the shipping company (carrier) is printed on the bill of lading, the freight forwarder will generally mark as agent for the carrier. If the name of the shipping company is not printed on the bill of lading, it must be signed with the seal of the shipping company (your ticket should be the shipping company bill of lading signed by the carrier)


8. Discrepancies between the letter of credit and the bill of lading: the carrier is not indicated on the bill of lading. After checking, the official explanation is as follows: In accordance with Article 23, paragraph 1, of the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits, the ocean bill of lading must indicate the name of the carrier on the surface, and the carrier or the name of the carrier shall be named. Signed or otherwise certified by an agent or representative, or signed or otherwise certified by the master or a named agent or representative acting as the master.


9. The issuers of the bill of lading can be divided into: FREIGHT FORWARDER B/L refers to the bill of lading issued by a shipping company that is engaged in international cargo transportation, but does not own a ship.


The production time sequence of each document under the L/C payment condition

Contract ---> L/C Issuance ---> Invoice (The date of the invoice should be earlier than the date of presentation and the validity period of the L/C, the date on the commercial invoice cannot be earlier than the date of issuance on the L/C, and the date of the invoice is The head of the document) ---> Certificate of Origin (the date of the Certificate of Origin should be the same as the date on the invoice made by yourself. The application for the Certificate of Origin can be applied on or after the invoice is made, and the date of issuance will be equal to or later. On the date of the invoice), insurance policy, packing list, export license, commodity inspection, other inspection certificates ---> shipping company certificate (if necessary) ---> bill of lading date ---> bill of exchange (pay attention to the earlier date of the bill of exchange On the presentation date and validity period of the L/C), the beneficiary certificate (some L/Cs do not have the beneficiary certificate, which is involved in the document requirements), the shipping notice (equal to or later than three days after the date of the bill of lading) Those documents that need to be presented anyway The date must be earlier than the delivery date.


The above time sequence is basically consistent with the entire foreign trade process. After a complete order is completed, the details of the entire process will be clear.


Bill of lading classification

There are three types of bills of lading:


One is straight B/L, that is, the bill of lading that lists the name of the consignee. China's "Maritime Law" stipulates that the bill of lading cannot be transferred, and the carrier must deliver the goods to the consignee specified in the bill of lading.


Named bills of lading are not widely used in international maritime trade, and are generally only used when transporting personal items and exhibits. (The consignee of the first TT order is directly in the name of the customer, unaware of the potential danger: in the absence of payment protection, never make a registered bill of lading.)


In many countries, the consignee of a named bill of lading can pick up the goods without relying on the bill of lading, so the bill of lading has actually lost the control of the cargo right. Just like an air waybill, the consignee can pick up the goods only with proof of identity. Even if it is settled by letter of credit, the issuing bank is unwilling to accept the bill of lading, so the general letter of credit is stipulated as: TO ORDER such a blank bill of lading, so as to control and master the right of goods.


Therefore, one cannot only remember the non-negotiable nature of the bill of lading, but also remember that "the consignee of the bill of lading can pick up the goods without relying on the bill of lading, so the bill of lading has actually lost the role of the right to the goods." This is crucial. Important point! The concept must be remembered comprehensively, so as not to bring errors and losses to the work. Therefore, if only 30% of the payment is received, and it is 70% of the payment method after T/T, and a designated consignee bill of lading is made, that is, a registered bill of lading, once the customer's reputation is not good and does not pay, it will be possible to encounter both payment and goods. empty space. Of course, if there is confidence in the customer and certainty about the collection, it is another matter.


The second is (Open B/L (Blank B/L, Bearer B/L) ), that is, the name is not listed in the consignee column of the bill of lading. Such bills of lading can be transferred without endorsement, and the carrier releases the goods against the bill.


A bill of lading that does not specify the name of the consignee on the bearer bill of lading, whoever holds the bill of lading can pick up the goods from the carrier with the bill of lading.


The consignee column on the bill of lading indicates: To the order


The third is the order bill of lading, that is, the bill of lading to deliver the goods according to the instructions of the instructing person stated in the bill of lading. It is the bill of lading commonly used in current international trade.


1. Follow the instructions of the bank. That is, the consignee column of the bill of lading is filled in as "to the order of xx Bank".


2. According to the instructions of the consignee. That is, the consignee column of the bill of lading is filled in as "to the order of A.B.C. Co. Ltd".


3. According to the instructions of the shipper. That is, the consignee column of the bill of lading is filled in as "to the order of shipper", and the shipper endorses it in blank on the back of the bill of lading. This bill of lading can also be endorsed by name in accordance with the provisions of the letter of credit. The consignee may also not make an endorsement, in which case only the shipper can take delivery of the goods, that is, the seller retains the ownership of the goods.


The so-called release without a bill of lading refers to the behavior of the carrier not delivering the goods with the original bill of lading.


At present, for the order bill of lading and the bearer bill of lading, the carrier must release the goods with the original bill of lading. liability for breach of contract. This point is unified in my country's maritime judicial practice. But in the case of a bill of lading, if the carrier fails to deliver the goods to the bearer with the original bill of lading, can the legal holder of the bill of lading claim liability for breach of contract against the carrier? At present, both theory and practice have a negative tendency.


To sum up, domestic consignors should fully understand the dangers of registered bills of lading, and should not arbitrarily agree to a trade buyer’s request to issue a registered bill of lading with it as the consignee, so as to ensure that in the event of obstruction of foreign exchange settlement by letter of credit and other methods, the If the carrier releases the goods without a bill of lading, it will be held accountable for its breach of contract.


Bill of lading release type

1. Electric Discharge: The original "Electric Discharge Guarantee" needs to be provided.

The letter of guarantee is to issue a statement stating which customer of this batch of goods is to be given to you, and then stamp the official seal below and pass it to the freight forwarder, and you don’t have to worry about the rest. (Of course, the premise of telegraphic release is safe collection! Generally, the former TT receives the money before telegraphic release), confirm the bill of lading, ship the goods, and wait for the forwarder to send back the copy of the bill of lading, and then pass it to the customer.


2. Separate order: 3-4 days after the ship sails (when the customer has ordered the same cabinet in us and other factories, for the sake of convenience and safety, the bill of lading can be divided and sent to the customer separately.)


3. Consolidation: same as above


4. Place orders in different places: It is subject to the approval of the shipping company.


Container loading situation

1. Door to door: It is to book a space with the freight forwarder, make an appointment, and then the freight forwarder will send a team to your factory or a designated place to load the goods, and then return to the port.


2. Built-in: Refers to the factory directly sending the goods to the warehouse of the freight forwarder, and then they will help you pull it into the port area. The owner has no right to send it directly into the port area.


Not to be underestimated the notify for the bill of lading 

In the ocean bill of lading, there is a role that is often overlooked by us, but its importance cannot be underestimated, it is notify. Usually, there are two companies or even three companies that need to be filled out in the port of destination information part of the ocean bill of lading, usually Consignee and Notify party. Some shipping companies' bills of lading will also list the First Notify Party and the Second Notify Party.


Difference between Consignee and Notify Party

Consignee refers to the consignee, usually the destination port customer, that is, the real buyer. Under the conditions of letter of credit payment, it is usually a bank.


Notify refers to notify party, which refers to the contact party of the customer at the port of destination. If the customer himself can fill in the same as consignee, otherwise it will generally be marked as the customer's agent or trader at the port of destination.


The meaning of Notify Party

After the goods arrive at the destination port, the shipping company will notify notify of the arrival information as soon as possible, so that notify will notify the consignee to pick up the goods or do other processing. To prevent untimely delivery of goods, resulting in demurrage charges or even huge fines. Therefore, in order to prevent failure to notify, sometimes, there will be two notifiers. Because under the condition of L/C payment, the Consignee on the bill of lading is often the issuing bank, not the real consignee; when all documents are handed over to the issuing bank, the issuing bank will notify the real consignee to negotiate and other processes .


Fill in can not be arbitrarily

In many cases, when notify is used as a notify party, it is not known or communicated well in advance, so that the arrival notice cannot reach the consignee in time, resulting in delays in delivery and additional costs. This requires special attention to the notify party column when confirming the bill of lading, not arbitrary.


About To order

Sometimes we come across To order bills of lading. To order bill of lading generally refers to the order bill of lading. The general format is 'To order of xxx', and the endorsement of 'xxx' is required to transfer or pick up the goods. If the consignee column on the bill of lading only has 'To order', then the meaning is 'To order of shipper', and the endorsement of 'shipper' is required. The notifier only plays the role of notifying the consignee and has nothing to do with endorsement.


Questions about notify

1) Q: If the consignee of the bill of lading is inconsistent with the notify party, who is the general delivery notification sent to?

A: It is generally notified to the notify party. Most bills of lading use the information of the notify party as the main information for the shipping agent at the destination port to contact the consignee. Because the consignee of most bills of lading is To order, it is not directly named. Sometimes, notify can not contact, will find the consignee, or contact the shipper if necessary.


2) Q: To do bill of lading telegraphic release, who should I give it to?

A: Receiver. Whether it is the original or the telegraph release, it is a transfer of property rights, and the fundamental thing is to transfer it to the owner of the property rights. The real owner of the goods is the consignee.


3) Q: Is it ok for both the consignee and notify party of the bill of lading to be To order?

A: On the surface, this is easy to operate and can be transferred to any recipient. However, in practice, the general shipping company stipulates that the bill of lading consignee and the notify party cannot be To order at the same time. There can only be one, this is also to prevent freight risks.


4) Q: The customer letter of credit requires the notify party to write two companies together on the bill of lading. Is this possible?

A: Some shipping companies have a first notify party and a second notify party in the bill of lading. If not, you can fill in two companies under one notify party.


5) Q: In the case of the consignee To order, can the notify party on the ocean bill of lading be able to pick up the goods?

A: No, when the consignee of the original bill of lading of the shipping company is To order, the consignor does not endorse and send it to the customer, and the consignee cannot mention it, let alone notify.


6) Q: The customer requires that To order is displayed in the Notifier column of the bill of lading, is it ok?

A: Better not to order. After all, the function of notify is to know the situation of the goods in time and notify the consignee to receive the goods in time. Generally, if not notify, you can write Same as consignee.


7) Q: The consignee of the bill of lading To order, the notifier is Same as consignee

A: If the consignee is To order, you must provide a Notify party with specific contact information. Otherwise, after the ship arrives at the port, the goods will not be able to be picked up due to the inability to notify the importer or the relevant responsible party, and may even lead to being Serious consequences such as customs confiscation. If you want to declare AMS/ACI, it may also lead to a huge fine by the other customs.


8) Q: Does the To order bill of lading need to be endorsed by the notifier?

A: If the consignee of the bill of lading is To order, and there is no other content after that, such as: not To order of the XXX, then this is called a blank instruction bill of lading, which needs to be endorsed by Shipper (consignor). Notify party is the notifier at the port of destination and has nothing to do with endorsement.

9) Q: The goods have arrived at the port, and the customer said that the letter of the notifier was not written in full, and asked to change the order, otherwise it would not be able to clear customs. Does it really affect it?

A: Notify the wrong title will not affect, as long as the consignee on the bill of lading is correct, as long as the notify information does not affect the authenticity of the judgment, it will not affect the customs clearance of the destination port customer.


Common Problem

1. Why sometimes foreign merchants can pick up the goods without a bill of lading?


We know that the bill of lading should theoretically be a "document of title", that is, whoever "legally obtains" the bill of lading is equivalent to getting the goods.


On the bill of lading, there are shipper (exporter) Shipper, carrier (forwarder/ship owner) Carrier, consignee Consignee, and the notifying party Notify Party. Among them, "Consignee" determines the ownership of the goods.


There are usually two ways to fill in the "Consignee Consignee":

One is "by order (TO ORDER or TO ORDER OF...)", that is, who the consignee is has not yet been determined, this kind of bill of lading can be freely transferred by endorsement (the original holder signs on the back of the bill of lading, indicating the transfer). Valuable-----because whoever gets the bill of lading "legally" owns the goods. Such a bill of lading is called a "bill of lading". In the operation of the bearer bill of lading, foreign businessmen have no right to pick up the goods if they cannot get the original bill of lading (unless the freight forwarder and shipping company mess up and release the goods without a bill of lading illegally), it is very safe, and it is recommended for everyone to use it. Under the letter of credit, the bank usually also requires the issuance of such a bill of lading.


The other is the registered bill of lading, that is, the "Consignee Consignee" column specifies the name and address of the consignee's company (usually a foreign businessman), and only this company can pick up the goods. Because the consignee is specified, it is useless even if others get the bill of lading, and the bill of lading cannot be transferred. On the other hand, just because the consignee is dead, only he can pick up the goods, so some countries recognize that the consignee can pick up the goods even if he does not have the original copy, as long as he proves his identity.


This is why we encounter foreign merchants who can pick up the goods without getting the original bill of lading in our business.


In this case, handing over the goods to the freight forwarder to issue a bill of lading is almost equivalent to direct delivery to foreign merchants. If the payment for the goods is not recovered at this time, there is a certain risk, and it is up to the foreign businessmen to decide whether to pay or not. The registered bill of lading also loses the validity of the "certificate of title".



2. Which countries can take delivery without the original bill of lading?


Not all countries can take delivery without the original (registered bill of lading).

At present, there are two mainstream legal systems in the world, the common law system and the civil law system. Among them, only the common law system, in the past that the name bill of lading is not a document of title. Therefore, countries in the common law system are prone to the phenomenon of privately picking up goods under a registered bill of lading.


Common law countries include:

United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Bahamas, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Cyprus, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho , Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, etc. .


When in doubt, you can check online whether the foreign business belongs to a common law country.


However, even in Anglo-American countries (including the United Kingdom), there have been some cases in recent years, which hold that a registered bill of lading is also a document of title. In the common law system, precedent is the law, which can be regarded as a turning point. Even so, we must be cautious. After all, prevention is the main thing. Once an accident occurs, even if the lawsuit is won, it will not be worth the loss for the vast majority of small and medium-sized export enterprises. What's more, it's not always possible to win the battle, and it is easy for experienced foreign businessmen to turn lawsuits into commercial disputes and wrestle for a few years.


Therefore, for unfamiliar foreign businessmen, especially D/P ones, it is best to use the registered bill of lading with caution. In fact, if the name is not registered, it will not bring too much inconvenience to foreign businessmen in serious business operations.


3. Is the freight forwarder's bill of lading and the owner's bill of lading the same thing?


In practice, we will encounter two types of bills of lading: the owner's bill of lading and the freight forwarder's bill of lading. The shipowner is the freight company that owns the ocean-going freighter. An ocean-going freighter costs a lot of money, and a company with its own ocean-going fleet is naturally strong. In a sense, such companies are also more secure, because they pay more attention to reputation when doing long-term business, and they will not destroy their reputation for petty profits. Relatively speaking, they are more formal in operation. Another freight company is a freight forwarder, or freight forwarder for short. The freight forwarder does not own a ship, and in a sense, the nature is similar to that of an ordinary trading company. After they solicited the goods, they took it to the shipowner to book the space together. We might as well regard the difference and relationship between shipowners and freight forwarders as wholesalers and retailers, and commodities are the "space" of ocean-going freighters. The shipowner wholesales the space to the freight forwarder, and the freight forwarder retails the space to us.


It is not difficult to imagine that although shipowners are safe, they are often inferior to freight forwarders in terms of service flexibility and attentiveness. There are a large number of freight forwarders and a wide distribution. It is very convenient to communicate with us in foreign trade, and we are more willing to cooperate with our operations, especially the special operations such as "back-signed bills of lading" mentioned above. Therefore, in actual work, it is more common for us to deal with freight forwarders.


On the surface, the shipowner's bill of lading and the freight forwarder's bill of lading have similar effects. We sell the original bill of lading to a foreign businessman, and the foreign businessman can pick up the goods with the bill of lading. But there is actually a difference. First of all, the bill of lading itself is a kind of "transportation contract". When the freighter issues the bill of lading to us, it is equivalent to signing a contract of carriage. The shipowner's bill of lading is a contract between us and the shipowner, but the freight forwarder's bill of lading is not. We hand over the goods to the freight forwarder, and the freight forwarder hands it to the shipowner. There is a shipping agreement between the freight forwarder and the shipowner. The shipowner is only responsible to the freight forwarder and not to the owner, because under the operation of the freight forwarder's bill of lading, for the shipowner , the freight forwarder is the "cargo owner".


Therefore, with the owner's bill of lading, you can pick up the goods directly at the destination port; but the freight forwarder bill of lading is not acceptable. You need to take the freight forwarder bill of lading to the port agent to "replace the order", that is, issue a delivery notice according to the freight forwarder bill of lading, and then pick up the goods. Of course, for us the consignee, this is just an extra procedure on the surface, and it does not affect the pickup, so it is not a risk. On the contrary, we can use this to better control property rights. For example, after we hand the freight forwarder's bill of lading to the customer, we suddenly find that the customer has fraudulent behavior and may not give money. At this time, we can ask the freight forwarder for help and notify the destination port agent to "hold" the goods, so that foreign businessmen can even hold the freight forwarder's bill of lading. The goods are also temporarily unavailable, to buy us valuable time (there is no official reason, and it is inconvenient to forcibly detain the goods at the destination port, which can only be delayed for a few days, but for foreign trade disputes, this delay is very beneficial to exporters).


In short, if there is an unfortunate accident in the transportation of goods, when we pursue the responsibility of the freight company, it is obvious that the powerful ship owner is more capable than ordinary freight forwarders. Usually, the freight forwarder can cooperate with our work better than the ship owner. In handling the bill of lading flexibly and preventing commercial fraud, the help of the freight forwarder is very important. In addition, the freight forwarder's transportation price is also very advantageous, and there are often discounts.


The operation difference between MBL and HBL: 

MBL is the bill of lading of the shipping company; HBL is the bill of lading of the freight forwarder.


1. SHIPPER sends the consignment note to FORWARDER, indicating whether it is FCL or LCL.


2. FORWARDER makes a booking with the shipping company, after the ship is ON BOARD. Shipping company issues MBL to FORWARDER. MBL's SHIPPER is FORWARDER at the port of departure, and CNEE is generally the branch or agent of FORWARDER's destination port.


3. FOWARDER signs HBL to SHIPPER. HBL's SHIPPER is the real shipper. CNEE generally does the letter of credit as TO ORDER.


4. CARRIER will deliver the goods to the port of destination after the ship has opened.


5. FORWARDER will send MBL to the branch of destination port through DHL/UPS/TNT, etc. (INCLUDING: CUSTOM CLEARANCE DOCS)


6. After SHIPPER gets the bill of lading, it will present the document to the domestic negotiating bank within the presentation period and settle the foreign exchange. If you do T/TSHPPER, send the documents directly to foreign guests.


7. The negotiating bank settles the full set of documents to the issuing bank.


8. CNEE pays the redemption note to the issuing bank.


9. FORWARDER takes the MBL to the shipping company to change the order to pick up the goods and clear the customs.


10. CNEE took HBL to deliver goods to FORWARDER.


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