Bill of Lading

A document known as a bill of lading (B/L or BOL) is provided by a carrier or their agent to acknowledge the receipt of cargo for shipment, regardless of the mode of transportation. This document, along with an insurance policy and an invoice, is one of three important documents utilized in international trade to ensure that both exporters and importers receive proper payment and merchandise, respectively. While a bill of lading is transferable and serves as a document of title to the goods, a waybill is not transferable and does not confer title.

In the United Kingdom, the lawful holder of a bill of lading is granted all rights of suit under the contract of carriage. A bill of lading has three primary functions: to serve as an acknowledgement that the goods have been loaded, to contain or demonstrate the terms of the contract of carriage, and to serve as a document of title to the goods. Typical export transactions involve the use of Incoterms terms such as CIF, FOB, or FAS, with the exporter/shipper delivering the goods to the ship and the carrier or a third party stevedore handling the loading.