The Bill of Lading document is compulsory and it is used globally for shipments transported via the sea. This document is filled in by the shipping agent or shipping line after having received from the seller / shipper shipping instructions. The information provided by the shipper to the shipping agent is very similar to what we have described in the process of the Air Waybill with some small differences.
Below you may see a list of the information included in the Shipping Instructions:
- The shipper’s contact info (company name, address, post code, city, country, phone and contact person)
- The consignee’s contact info (company name, address, post code, city, country, phone and contact person)
- Notify party contact info at destination (if different than the consignee)
- Terms of payment and loading (i.e. EXW the loading plant address, or FOB the loading port, or CIF the destination port etc).
- Loading and ship to ports.
- Information about the packaging and the quantity plus information about the shipments net and gross weight. This information is very important and in case they are not filled in correct and the original Bill of Lading is issued there is a penalty to revise the Bill of Lading and it is a procedure that usually takes some days. So, it is important to be very careful when supplying and verifying these information. Unlike aircargo shipments, usually what is considered to be an accepted pallet in road transport is also accepted sea shipments as the space inside the container can be easily compared with the space inside a truck trailer.
- Information about the type of material that will be loaded and their EAN code is also important and are requested by the shipping agent.
- The container number is also an important element inside the Bill of Lading and is given in the shipping instructions.
- In many cases where the shipment contains chemicals the shipping lines will most probably ask for the materials safety data sheet (MSDS) as well.
The Bill of Lading is not a document that escorts the shipment. This document is sent to the shipment consignee either by the shipping line/ shipping agent or the seller (it depends on the procedure that the seller wants to follow). The buyer though needs to have the originals of this document in order to make the custom clearance and import. If the buyer receives the original Bill of Ladings with significant delay after the arrival of the container at the destination port he will be asked by the shipping line and the port authorities to pay penalty for delaying in picking up the container. Usually, the port authorities and shipping line allow a container to be stored in the port without a penalty the first seven days after the container has been unloaded in the port. If this time passes and the container is still in the port demurrage costs will start to be valid which will count from the first day the container was stored in the port. The demurrage costs vary from port to port but they are usually an amount that can increase the cost of the shipment significantly.
Below you may find some sample forms of how the Bill of Lading looks like: