The Bill of Lading sometimes referred to as the “BOL” serves as a legal agreement between the shipper and the carrier. This document details the type, quantity, and the destination of the goods that are being shipped. This document serves as a receipt of the shipment once delivery of the goods to the predetermined location has occurred. There are different types of documents and each type comes with unique stipulations and different conditions on proper usage. Most people know the basic designs, but there are five document types that shippers may be unaware of. Understanding those five can create a better understanding of documents for international shipments.
1- Claused Bill of Lading
A claused bill of lading is one which contains remarks or special notes pertaining to defects in the packaging or in the transportation of goods. This bill of lading is also referred to as a foul or a dirty bill of lading. If you are shipping something that requires special notes because of a defect in the packaging this is exactly what you need on hand.
2- Hitchment Bill of Lading
The hitchment bill of lading is a document which allows loading of shipments to occur in multiple segments, at more than one loading point or port. For example, if you are trying to ship a large load of goods and you want such to be on board at two or more ports, then a hitchment bill of lading would allow for that. So, you can take advantage of loading multiple components manufactured in separate areas for the same delivery location with this document.
3- Intermodal / Multimodal Bill of Lading
There are certain situations where the best total shipping cost might not be the same as the best transit time route. If this happens to you as the shipper, you can use a combination of transport carriers to get the best shipping cost for your door to door goods if money is of more concern than time. However this does typically require more coordination, logistically speaking, and more involvement. If you use a single transport carrier you will get the best routing time and less paperwork alongside fewer logistical nightmares.
Intermodal is when your cargo moves from the origin to the destination point using several modes of transportation, each of which relies upon a different transport carrier with an independent contract. If you have a shipment that over the course of a single journey will fall into the hands of multiple carriers, you will have several contracts if each carrier that handles requires an intermodal bill of lading.
As the shipper, an advantage to this is the ability to choose which carriers to use in order to capitalize upon the cheapest rates for each leg of transportation. You also enjoy increased flexibility in loading and unloading your goods at different ports. Another benefit is that you can reduce your carbon footprint by only selecting environmentally friendly carriers to handle your shipment. You also have heightened security for your shipments during transportation, which is always a plus. Finally, as a shipper, you have more access to different equipment which allows you to better control your transit schedule.
Multimodal is when movement of your cargo occurs from the point of origin to the destination by way of several modes of transport. In this situation, each mode of transport has a different carrier but everything is under the same bill of lading. You have a single carrier for a single journey. You might use the same transport carrier to ship your goods across all legs of the journey using all modes. For this, you would need a multimodal bill of lading which stipulates that various modes of transport are used, but with one carrier responsible.
Advantages to this mode of shipping include the ability to choose carriers who provide you with the highest level of efficiency for door-to-door delivery. You can get access to remote parts of the world using one transport carrier. Better overall efficiency and better delivery times occur, and you can minimize the logistics coordination requirements and expenses.
4- Negotiable Bill of Lading
A negotiable bill of lading is a contract which allows the transfer to a third party. Essentially, this is a document distinguished by the contract of carriage not being specifically defined between one or two parties. Specifically, this document can be transferred by one of the consignees to a third party, if and only if the consignee has signed or endorsed the document and delivered it to the new third-party. In order to fully transfer this negotiable bill the cosigner, the person or the business that is originally shipping the goods have to stamp and sign the document, and then a carrier delivers. This document must be written to the order of the consignee and it must be clean. This means that the carrier issues the bill, and the bill declares that the goods are received without any defects and in the appropriate condition. Like any other document, the negotiable document will list the goods that are being transported. Regardless of who has it, it will serve as a contract for the terms of the shipment.
5- Stale Bill of Lading
A bill of lading becomes a stale bill of lading if presented to the bank or the consignee after the last date specified in any relevant letter of credit. Each of these documents have specific end dates at which point if presented after the end date they are no longer accepted as a valid document. The Uniform Commercial Code stipulates that rejection of these documents can occur if the presentation is more than 21 days after the original date of arrival for the shipment. If it takes more than 21 days to arrive, the document becomes stale.
With so many vast shipment types and varying agreements, it’s essential to understand which documents are necessary for your business. Having knowledge of the various types of bill of lading documents will allow you to operate your shipping business with confidence. If your business operates outside of these required documents, consider researching further document protocols for your needs.