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Documentation in Sea Transport

Documentation in Sea Transport

Bill of Lading

    • Bill of Lading (B/L) or (BoL)/Ocean Bill of Lading (clean or dirty’ B/Ls is a legal document issued by a carrier to a shipper that details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried by a ship or vessel on sea or waterways. 
    • A bill of lading also serves as a shipment receipt by the carrier to the shipper when the carrier receives or delivers the goods at a predetermined port of loading or destination.
    • A BoL is that document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company. 
    • It serves as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods. 
  • Clean Bill of Lading: A clean bill of lading is a document that declares there was no damage to or loss of goods during shipment.

Freight Forwarders (House) Bill of Lading:

  • Freight Forwarders Bill of lading/House or Forwarding Agent’s Bills of Lading. 
  • A House Bill of Lading (HBL) is a document created by an Ocean Transport Intermediary (OTI) such as a freight forwarder or non-vessel operating Common Carrier Company (NVOCCC). 
  • The document is an acknowledgment of the receipt of goods by freight forwarder that are received from the consignee as Less Container Load (LCL) to be shipped as Full Container Load (FCL).

Master Airway Bill

  • MAWB is Master Airway Bill which is issued by main carrier/airline of goods on receipt of goods from a freight forwarder to deliver at destination as per agreed terms. 
  • HAWB means House Airway Bill issued by a freight forwarder on receipt of goods from shipper agreeing to deliver goods at destination.

Through Bill of Lading

  • A through bill of lading is a legal document that allows for the transportation of goods both within domestic borders and through international shipment. 
  • This one is always used when goods cover both legs of the journey. 
  • The first journey is the Port of Loading and the second journey is the Port of Delivery. 
  • This B/Ladings are always issued by the major carrier and not NVOCCCs or Freight forwarder.

Straight Bills of Lading:

  • Straight bill of lading is a non-negotiable bill of lading. It is used where the goods have been paid for or do not require payment such as donations or gifts. 
  • Under this bill of lading, the shipping company/carrier will deliver the shipment to its consignee on presentation of identification.

Shipper’s Order Bills of lading:

  • “To order” means that the bill of lading has been consigned to order of the shipper. 
  • The shipper indicated on the bill of lading determines who should collect the goods at the port of discharge by surrendering at least one original copy to the carrier.

Combined Transport Bills of lading:

  • A combined Transport Bill of Lading is a document that gives information about goods being transported in large volumes of containers by sea and land by vessel, road and railway. 

Charter Party:

  • The Charter Party is a document commonly used and agreed upon by both parties in tramp shipping. 


  • Freight/Cargo Manifest: A summary of cargo loaded on a ship/vessel or an aircraft showing the weight, measurements, freight details, Total freight either prepaid or payable at destination, etc. 
  • For example, a cargo manifest might be used for shipments made by sea, air or land, and will generally show the shipment’s consignor and consignee, as well as listing product details such as number, value, origin and destination.

Commercial Invoice:

  • This is a legal document between the supplier/shipper and the buyer/consignee that clearly describes the sold goods, and the amount due on the buyer. 
  • The commercial invoice is one of the main documents used by customs in determining customs duties. 
  • This document bears the value/price and origin of the goods shipped. 
  • It normally contains details of the invoice number, the date, the seller/buyer’s details/reference, Consignee details, Country of origin and destination, Terms of delivery and payment

Certificates of Origin

  • A certificate of Origin is a document used in international trade to identify the “Economic Nationality” of the goods; just as we use passport to identify our origin). 
  • Certificate of Origin is a document confirming the nature, quantity, Value, etc. of goods and their origin or country of manufacture. 
  • Source document: Chamber of Commerce or Accredited Trade Association.