Bill of Lading (BoL)

Bill of Lading (BoL)

What Is a Bill of Lading (BoL)?

A bill of lading (BoL) is a key shipping document issued by a carrier to acknowledge that the cargo has been received for shipment. It also serves as a binding contract and signifies the transfer of responsibility for the goods from the shipper to the carrier.

Functions of a BoL

  • Receipt for goods: As evidence that the freight has been picked up by the carrier for shipment.

  • Contract for carriage: As a legally binding contract between the shipper and the carrier, outlining the terms and conditions of the shipment.

  • Document of title: As proof of ownership of the goods during transit, which can be transferred to another party.

Types of BoL


A straight or non-negotiable BoL specifies a consignee to whom the goods are to be delivered, meaning that ownership cannot be transferred to another party during transit.


This type of BoL offers flexibility in terms of ownership transferability. The goods are consigned to the shipper and marked “to order” indicating that ownership can be transferred via delivery of the original BoL and endorsement by the named party.


This document is made out to the “bearer” of the original BoL, indicating that whoever holds it is the owner of the goods. Endorsement is not needed.

Multimodal/Combined Transport

This is a single transport document that covers the entire transit of goods across multiple transport modes, such as sea, air, rail, and road. It is issued by a multimodal transport operator (MTO).


Similar to the above type, this is a single BoL covering the transport of goods across multiple carriers and modes of transportation. However, it is issued by a single carrier and further requires Ocean and Inland BoLs to cover different legs of the journey.

What to include on a BoL

  • Shipper and consignee details: Names, addresses, and contact information of both the sender and receiver of the goods.

  • Carrier details: Name, address, and contact information of the carrier company.

  • Origin and destination of the goods: The locations of where the goods are loaded onto the first carrier and the delivery point.

  • Description of the goods: Details such as weight, type, quantity, dimensions, and (optionally) the Harmonized System (HS) code.

  • Specific handling instructions: Any special instructions or requests regarding handling, storing, and transporting the goods.

  • Terms and conditions of the carriage: The agreed-upon terms and conditions of the shipment. This includes roles, liability, insurance, and payment terms.

  • Signature or stamp: The BoL must be signed or stamped by the carrier to ensure its accuracy and authenticity.

Legal bearing of a BoL

A BoL is a shipping contract between the consignor and the carrier. It establishes the rights and obligations of both parties and is enforceable under contract law.

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© 2024 Beebolt