What is a Bill of Lading?

A Bill of Lading, quite literally a 'list of cargo,' functions as a receipt for the goods transferred from the exporter to the carrier. It establishes a contract between the shipper and the carrier, particularly when there's no separate contract in place. The carrier issues the BOL, acknowledging the receipt of the goods in good condition.

Read more

Get right expert advice

Hassle free policy

Speedy Claims

Fast-track your search with instant quotes from top insurers

Get ₹10 lakh cover
starting at ₹591/transit+

Step 1/2
Instant policy copy
Covers transit losses, damages and risks
Single transit and annual covers

Get ₹10 lakh cover starting at ₹591/transit+

Instant policy copy
Covers transit losses, damages and risks
Single transit and annual covers
secure-icon We don't spam
Get Updates on WhatsApp
Check Your Premium Now
By clicking on "" you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use

Get ₹10 lakh cover
starting at ₹591/transit+

Step 2/2
Get Updates on WhatsApp
Fast-track your search with instant quotes from top insurers
Expert advice

Buy right

Instant policy

Quick & Hassle free

Dedicated team

Speedy Claims

Functions of the Bill of Lading:

  • Evidence of Contract: It serves as evidence of the agreement between the shipper and the carrier, providing a legal basis for the transaction.
  • Receipt of Goods: The ship's master or captain typically verifies the receipt of goods and forwards this confirmation to the seller's agent.
  • Document of Title: The Bill of Lading represents the title of the goods. Buyers can claim the goods by presenting this document at the destination port, which can also be used to secure advances or loans from financial institutions.
  • Unique Identifier: Each Master Bill of Lading carries a unique number that helps the shipping company identify the shipment. This number is used for tracking the container's journey during shipment.
  • Purpose and Importance in Exports: After the goods are shipped, possession shifts from the exporter to the carrier, even if payment has not been received by the exporter. This makes the Bill of Lading a critical component of the transaction. It allows the exporter to relinquish control of the packages to the carrier while retaining indirect control over the goods during transport.

Additionally, the information contained in the BOL influences various activities, including shipment destination, package count, billing details, payment instructions, and handling instructions at docks or trailers.

Issuers of the Bill of Lading

In a typical trade transaction, two types of Bills of Lading are issued:

  • House Bill of Lading (HBL): Issued by the CHA (Customs House Agent), freight forwarder, or NVOCC (Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier). While linked to the Master Bill of Lading, the HBL is not legally enforceable.
  • Master Bill of Lading (MBL): Issued by the shipping company (Vessel Operating Common Carrier) to the seller or their nominee, depending on the incoterms of the export. Responsibilities, including duties and insurance, vary based on incoterms.

Negotiable and Non-negotiable BL:

  • Negotiable BL: This type is transferable to a third party and instructs the carrier to deliver goods to the holder of the original endorsed BOL. Lack of the original document prevents cargo release from the port.
  • Non-negotiable BL: Designed for specific buyers, consignees, receivers, or agents, this type must be accompanied by other documentation to authenticate the transaction.

Cost of a Bill of Lading

The cost of a Bill of Lading, typically ranging from USD 5 to 20 dollars, is charged by the cargo carrier. These charges are payable at the time of releasing the BOL and cover all associated documentation expenses.

Varieties of Bills of Lading (BL)

Bills of Lading (BL) come in various types, tailored to specific terms, conditions, and circumstantial requirements. Here's an overview of 15 distinct types of Bills of Lading:

  • Clean Bill of Lading: Issued by the shipper or its agents, it carries no indication of defective goods on board.
  • Claused Bill of Lading: This type highlights damage to the consignment or missing parts of it.
  • Switch Bill Of Lading: Employed when the seller wishes to withhold supplier information from the buyer.
  • Received for Shipment Bill of Lading: An acknowledgment from the carrier before vessel loading, confirming receipt of goods for shipping.
  • Through Bill of Lading: Permits the carrier to transport a shipment via multiple modes or distribution centers, including Ocean and Inland Bill of Lading.
  • Master Bill of Lading: Issued by carriers for their shipping companies, outlining transportation terms, shipper and consignor details, consignee, and possessor of the goods.
  • House Bill of Lading: Generated by non-vessel operating companies or ocean transportation intermediary freight forwarders, affirming the receipt of shipped goods. Also known as Forwarder's Bill of Lading, it's issued to suppliers upon receipt of the shipment.
  • Short Form/Blank Back Bill of Lading: Necessary when shipping contract terms are absent in the original Bill of Lading.
  • Straight Bill of Lading: This type confers no greater rights to the endorsee than to the endorser, often viewed as risky from a banking perspective.
  • Order Bill of Lading: Delivery aligns with further orders from the consignee.
  • Charter Party Bill of Lading: Represents an agreement between a vessel owner and charterer for the shipment of goods.
  • Multimodal Transport Document (Combined Transport Document): A form of Through Bill of Lading involving both land and ocean transportation.
  • Stale Bill of Lading: Provided 21 days after the shipment date (or other specified dates) for negotiation.
  • Surrender Bill of Lading: Terms require the negotiating bank's receipt to be presented to release documents.
  • Bearer Bill of Lading: Allows delivery to the holder of the bill, facilitating negotiation by physically delivering the goods.

Contents of a Bill of Lading (BL):

The precise content of a Bill of Lading varies depending on its type, shipping terms, and business arrangements. However, a typical BOL generally includes the following information:

  • Name and particulars of the shipping line.
  • Shipping bill number and date.
  • Name, address, and contact details of the shipper and receiver, along with the shipment date for tracking.
  • Purchase order number or a similar reference number, facilitating cross-referencing of agreed terms and conditions (e.g., delivery terms and expense incidence).
  • Special instructions section, encompassing extra service requests, terms, conditions, and reminders for carriers.
  • Description of the goods, providing details on units, dimensions, weight, and content specifics.
  • Packaging details, disclosing information about cartons, crates, pallets, drums, or other shipping containers used.
  • Freight classification, determining the shipment's cost.
  • Indication of hazardous shipment, if applicable.
  • Signatures and initials of the relevant officers involved in the shipping process.


Understanding the different types of Bills of Lading and their content is crucial for seamless international trade and shipping operations. Also, covering the voyage with marine insurance against unforeseen incidents is crucial.

Written By: PolicyBazaar - Updated: 14 September 2023
Marine Insurance Articles
Transit of goods through waterways involves high risks. Marine insurance plays a significant role in safeguarding...Read more
23 Nov 2022 by Policybazaar 5223 Views
Warranties in marine insurance are referred to as assurances or promises by the policyholder about a certain act...Read more
20 Jul 2023 by Policybazaar 1474 Views
Traders who export or import their goods across distant lands are aware of the risks during transit. While there...Read more
23 Feb 2022 by Policybazaar 6495 Views
Marine insurance is not of recent times and is one of the oldest forms of insurance. Besides, with time, it has...Read more
10 Feb 2020 by Policybazaar 9611 Views
Marine insurance coverage is divided into two types. One is International Cargo Clause (ICC) and the second is the...Read more
13 Aug 2022 by Policybazaar 5044 Views
Navigating the complex landscape of transit insurance claims...Read more
24 Nov 2023 by Policybazaar 24 Views
Effective logistics, relying on enhanced trade infrastructure...Read more
22 Nov 2023 by Policybazaar 28 Views
Logistics is a pivotal force driving industrial innovation in...Read more
22 Nov 2023 by Policybazaar 21 Views
Transportation companies in India have a substantial impact on...Read more
22 Nov 2023 by Policybazaar 26 Views
The movement of goods across the globe is the lifeblood of our...Read more
14 Nov 2023 by Policybazaar 17 Views
Policybazaar for Business - Marine Insurance - Customer Reviews
View all
Based on 114 reviews
out of 5
Based on 114 reviews
14 users
87 users
13 users
0 users
0 users
3.8 April 20, 2023
Great Experience
I recently purchased Marine insurance from Policybazaar for my shipping business and I must say I am thoroughly impressed with their service and coverage. From start to finish, the experience has been smooth and hassle-free.Thankyou.
4.3 April 03, 2023
Provides Comprehensive Protection
When it comes to coverage, Marine insurance that i bought from PolicyBazaar has exceeded my expectations. It provides comprehensive protection for my cargo and vessels during transit, ensuring I can focus on my business operations with peace of mind. Thankyou.
4.3 March 17, 2023
Excellent Services
I highly recommend Marine insurance from PolicyBazaar website to anyone in the shipping or logistics industry. Their user-friendly website, comprehensive coverage, and excellent customer service make them stand out from the competition. With Policybazaar, I feel confident in navigating the high seas, knowing that my business is well-protected. Thank you, Policybazaar.
4.3 February 28, 2023
User Friendly Interface
The website's user-friendly interface made it easy to compare different plans and find the perfect fit for my business needs.Thanks
4.3 February 11, 2023
Prompt Services
I appreciate the transparency and honesty with which Policybazaar handled my claims. They were prompt in processing my claim and their claim settlement process was hassle-free.Thanks PolicyBazaar.
3.8 February 10, 2023
Exceeds Expectations
I recently had the pleasure of purchsing marine insurance from Policy bazaar website and I must say it has been an outstnding experience from start to finish. I am thrilled to share my positive customer review, as this truly exceeded my expectations. Thanks PB.
3.8 January 31, 2023
Easy Navigation
The ease of navigating the Policy bazaar website and finding the right marine insurance policy was impressive. The website's user-friendly interface and intuitive design made it incredibly simple to compare various options, understand the coverage details and make an informed decision. I appreciated the transparency provided throughout the process. Thanks.
3.8 January 21, 2023
Excellent Support
The customer service provided by Policy bazaar was decent. Their team was responsive, knowledgeable and went above and beyond to assist me at every step. Their professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction were truly commendable.Thankyou.
4.3 January 11, 2023
Sanjeev Rathor
Efficient Process
When it came to claims processing, Policy bazaar demonstrated remarkable eficiency and effectivenes. I had an unfortunate incident during the coverage period and filing a claim was a breeze. The entire process was streamlined and their team guided me throuugh every necssary step, making it hassle-free. The promptness with which my claim was setled reflected their commitment to their customers' well-being and peace of mind. Thankyou.
3.8 January 01, 2023
Comprehensive Coverage
I must mention the comprehensive coverage provided by the marine insurance policy I purchasd through Policy bazaar. It offered me the necesary protection and peace of mind. Thankyou PolicyBazaar.