Master bill of lading

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Master bill of lading
See also

Master bill of lading when the bill of lading is issued by the ship owner or operator, know as the carrier, this is called a master bill of lading. This type is the best type for the financier because it represents the contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier.

Sometimes an agent will sign the master bill of lading. The full name of agent must be shown, together with an indication on whose behalf they are signing and what capacity. For example, a signature placed along with the words For and on behalf of the carrier, signed by Agencia Logistics as agent for the carrier Transporte Sud would be acceptable[1].

Functions of Master bill of lading

A Master bill of lading may perform three functions.

  1. It is usually very good evidence of the terms of the contract for the receipt, carriage and delivery of the cargo.
  2. It is often a negotiable document of title to goods carried, providing evidence of ownership of the cargo
  3. It is acts as a receipt of cargo loaded aboard the vessel

Before signing the bills of lading, the Master should ensure that[2]:

  • the goods are actually aboard and the bill of lading is correctly dated
  • the description of the goods complies with the mate's receipts, failing which the bill of lading should be claused
  • that he only ever signs the same number of originals as is shown on the face of bill of lading
  • the bill of lading contains a clause referring to any relevant charterparty, and includes the protection clause specified in that charerparty. Very specific wording is often required in order to achieve the protection of all relevant charterparty provisions, and if in doubt the master should consult the owners

Types of Bill of Lading

There are different types of Bill of Lading depends on the issuing party and its intended use[3]:

  • Ocean Bill of Lading (aka Master Bill of Lading) is issued by an ocean freight carrier and would generally cover the transport from sea port to sea port. Ocean Bill of Lading's are commonly requested for in Letter of Credits as only they truly represent the cargo.
  • House Bill of Lading (aka Trough Bill of Lading) is issued by a Freight Forwarder and may be for the whole transport from origin to destination or only a portion of the transport. Lading for every shipment inside the container.
  • Sea Waybill of Lading just like a Bill of Lading, is a transport contract between a merchant and the carrier to transport the goods from and to a said location. Unlike a Bill Of Lading, a Sea Waybill is not a document of title and need not be presented to the carrier in exchange of the cargo
  • Feeder/Service/Cover bill a bill of lading issued by a sub-carrier to the main carrier under a combined transport or trough Bill of Lading, which covers only the stage and form of carriage performed by the sub-carrier, e.g. carriage by barge of parcels of cargo either from inland ports or from smaller or more remote coastal ports to a principal coastal port served by a combined transport liner service operator


  1. S. A. Jones 2018, p.69
  2. G.S. Randhawa 2016, p.37-38
  3. M. Michelmann 2010, p.76-77


Author: Daria Polewka