What is Ocean Bill of Lading?

In the world of shipping, the proper documentation is paramount, and one such essential document is the Ocean Bill of Lading (Ocean BOL). Unlike a standard Bill of Lading (BOL) used for domestic shipments, an Ocean BOL is specifically tailored for international maritime transport.

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Defining the Ocean Bill of Lading

An Ocean BOL represents a legally binding contract between the shipper and the carrier, functioning as both a receipt and an invoice for items destined for overseas shipment. It comprehensively outlines the parties involved in the shipping process, provides a detailed description of the articles being shipped, and offers routing particulars.

Key details within the Ocean BOL encompass the nature, quantity, condition, destination, and location of the shipped goods. This document effectively serves as evidence of the consignment and its financial implications, underlining its legal significance.

Ocean Bill of Lading Terms and Conditions

The Ocean bill of lading meticulously lays out terms and conditions related to the merchant, carrier subcontractor, container, goods, carriage, port-to-port shipment, combined transport, vessel, freight, and special drawing right.

It delves into critical aspects like tariffs, warranties, subcontracting procedures, and the carrier's responsibilities. Additionally, it addresses package weight, limitations, notice of loss, and various other considerations.

The document comprehensively covers transportation methods and routes, handling of dangerous or hazardous goods, and the necessary actions for different shipment scenarios. It outlines matters related to temperature-controlled articles, delivery, collision liability, war risks, government orders, transshipment bills of lading, contractual variations, validity, applicable law, and jurisdiction.

Issuance of the Ocean Bill of Lading

An Ocean BOL is issued once the shipping line or carrier has completed the loading of goods onto their ocean vessel. This typically occurs after the supplier has fulfilled all customs formalities and submitted a 'Let Export order' to the shipping line.

Types of Ocean Bill of Lading

There are several types of Ocean BOLs, including:

  • Straight Bill of Lading: Issued exclusively to the consignee, granting them authority over the shipment.
  • Shipper's Order Bill of Lading: Effective upon approval by the shipper or their representative, often used in financial transactions.
  • Clean Bill of Lading: Issued after a quality inspection of the shipment upon arrival.
  • On-Board Bill of Lading: Signed by the vessel owner, indicating that the shipment is loaded and on board.

Tracking the Ocean Bill of Lading

To track the status of cargo, Ocean BOL tracking is available through carrier websites. This tracking relies on booking numbers, bill of lading numbers, or container numbers. Tracking systems can be either a Standard Container Tracking System, recording port movements, or a GPS Container Tracking System, providing real-time container location data.

Ocean Bill of Lading Example

An Ocean BOL contains specific details about the shipped articles, quantity, destination, commercial value, packaging, and more. The shipper initially receives the Ocean BOL, signs it, and then it is countersigned by the carrier. Upon shipment completion and delivery, the Ocean BOL is provided to the receiver, who also signs it.

Whether it's automotive shipments overseas or inland transportation, understanding the necessity of the Ocean BOL ensures proper documentation and adherence to international shipping standards.


Ocean Bill of Lading (Ocean BOL) stands as an indispensable document, serving as both a receipt and a contract. This legal instrument meticulously defines the parameters of overseas shipments, encapsulating crucial details, terms, and conditions. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining transparency, accountability, and compliance with international trade regulations. To ensure smooth sailing in the complex world of global commerce, a comprehensive understanding of the Ocean BOL is paramount.

Written By: PolicyBazaar - Updated: 15 September 2023
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