There are different criteria on which bill of ladings can be defined and differentiated. Few of these criteria being the “place from where carriers takes the responsibility of the cargo” (Port to port, Multimodal and through bill of ladings) or if the owner of the cargo can sell the cargo before it reaches by transferring the title of the bill of lading (Negotiable and non-negotiable bill of lading)

Different types of bill of ladings based upon Negotiable and non Negotiable documents

The main difference between the two types is title (ownership) of the one can be transferred to another party while the other is consigned to a named party and hence he/she has to be the final recipient of the cargo as the title of this type of bill of ladings cannot be transferred.

Readers should not confuse the negotiable and non-negotiable types of bill of ladings with the “negotiable” and “non-negotiable” copies of signed bill of ladings.

1. Straight bill of lading:

The straight bill of lading is specified to the particular party and the specified party cannot re-assign it to anyone else. The party only has to take the delivery of the cargo and the cargo cannot be sold by transferring the bill of lading to another party’s name.

Q: Can you think of an example when straight bill of lading can be and will be used?

2. Order bill of lading

This is the bill of lading that one would mostly come across onboard. The bill of lading is to the consignee or to his order. That is the named consignee will be the owner of the cargo or he can order the shipment to be delivered to another party by endorsing the bill of lading to that party.

As the title (ownership) of the bill of lading can be transferred, Order bill of lading is negotiable document.

3. Bearer bill of lading

The bearer bill of lading is the one in which the bearer of the bill of lading is the owner of the cargo and their is no consignee named in the bill of lading. This kind of bill of lading is very seldom found as there are huge risks involved in the misuse of this kind of bill of ladings.

Again as the title (ownership) of the bill of lading can be transferred, Order bill of lading is negotiable document.

4. Switch bill of lading

This can said to be the duplicate bill of lading for a cargo of which the bill of lading was already issued. Switch bill of lading is generally requested by the consignee from the owner of the vessel when the consignee do not wish to reveal to the new buyer the identity of the shipper of the cargo.

Types of Bill of ladings based upon carriers responsibility

1. Port to port bill of lading (also called Ocean bill of lading)

In this kind of bill of ladings, Carriers responsibility starts at port of loading and ends at port of discharge

2. Multimodal or Combined bill of lading

This kind of bill of lading cover more than one mode of transfers (for example, Ocean and rail or Ocean and road) and covers all the mode of transfers. Carrier has the responsibility from place of receipt to place of delivery of the cargo. Carrier can hire/sub contract to carry the cargo in one or more mode of transfers.

3. Through bill of ladings

The main difference between multimodal and through bill of lading is that in through bill of lading there is only one mode of of cargo movement but has different legs, like sea and inland waterways. Whereas in multimodal bill of lading there has to be at least two modes of cargo movement (like sea and land).

With respect to carrier’s responsibility, In through bill of lading, carrier is responsible only for their leg of sea transport.

Many believe there is no difference between the Multimodal and through bill of ladings which is not correct.

* If you think there is another important bill of lading that has been missed out here, please share in comment section and I would be happy to include that in this blog.

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Capt Rajeev Jassal

About Capt Rajeev Jassal

Capt. Rajeev Jassal has sailed for over 19 years mainly on crude oil, product and chemical tankers. He holds MBA in shipping & Logistics degree from London. He has done extensive research on quantitatively measuring Safety culture onboard and safety climate ashore which he believes is the most important element for safer shipping.

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Y V SATYA kumar
Y V SATYA kumar
Sep 12, 2016

Required types of b/l with pictures

Jan 13, 2017

maybe also mention shipped vs received for shipping and waybills?

May 1, 2017

kindly also comment on a bill of lading with consignee as "to order" and notifiy (generally mentioning the buyer's name.

Abhishek Singh
Abhishek Singh
Jun 8, 2017

Sir, can you please clarify What is the meaning of “negotiable” and “non-negotiable” copies of signed bill of ladings??

Aug 18, 2017

plz expalin something abt documementry credit system

Njabulo  Ximba
Njabulo Ximba
Aug 20, 2017

There are two bill of ladings missed which are clean bill of lading and clause bill of lading.please investigate them.

Mukul Mudgalkar
Mukul Mudgalkar
Jan 3, 2018

Stale bill of lading...

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