What is Bill of Lading (BOL)?

The word BOL is also known as Bill of Lading, which is basically a receipt that is generated by a carrier to a shipper that consists of all the shipping details. A bill is nothing but a printed or written statement of the costs involved in the delivery of goods. It literally means a list of the cargo being delivered with the term being of ancient English origin. So, in shipping terms, a record of the goods taken on board is referred to as a bill of lading. The bill of lading is actually an agreement in writing about the transportation of goods between the transportation company and the shipper. These records are issued to the shipper by the transporter.

Bill of Lading - BOL meaning exaplied

What is the Importance of a Bill of Lading?

The shipment of the goods sees the shift of their physical possession to the carrier from the exporter. The exporter might still not have received the payment which makes the BOL a truly vital element in the entire transaction. A BOL while allowing the exporter the handing over of control over the goods to the carrier, it also hands the exporter indirect control over the goods while they are being transported.

Due to the information it carries, a BOL is also important during the shipping of goods as it has an impact on various other activities too. The information that the BOL carries may include,

  • The shipping destination
  • The number of packages that the consignment includes
  • The details of billing
  • The instructions for recovery of payment
  • Specific instructions mentioning how the packages need to be handled at the docks or while being carried in the trailers.

Therefore, while on one hand, a BOL acts as a contract binding the carrier and the shipper regarding the transportation of the goods, on the other hand, it also acts as a receipt from the carrier to the shipper.

Thus, a BOL is more like a legal document that providing the shipper and the carrier with essential shipment detail.

Also, find the meaning of DAP Incoterm.

What are the Types of Bill of Lading?

Depending on the terms and conditions involved and the circumstantial needs that it fulfills, some of the major bills of lading are-

  • Clean Bill of Lading: This type of lading tells that there was no such type of damage that happened o during the shipment of the goods
  • Claused Bill of Lading: It’s an indication of the consignment having suffered any damage or parts of it or the entire consignment missing.
  • Container Bill of Lading: It indicates the consignment having been delivered from the port of origin to another port in a container that was secure.
  • Through Bill of Lading: Including Ocean Bill of Lading or Inland Bill of Lading, a Through Bill of Lading allows a carrier the shipment involving multiple modes of transport and separate distribution centers.
  • Received for Shipment Bill of Lading: This is an acknowledgment given by the carrier before the consignment is loaded into the vessel coming with an approved goods receipt for shipping.
  • House Bill of Lading: It’s a confirmation of the goods shipped having been received and is issued by the non-vessel operating company.
  • Order Bill of Lading: Under this bill of lading, the delivery is made when there is a possibility of a further order being placed by the consignee.
  • Short Form/Blank Back Bill of Lading: This form of a bill of lading becomes necessary when the original bill of lading has no mention of the terms of the shipping contract.
  • Charter Party Bill: This is an agreement reached between the charterer of the goods shipped and the owner of the vessel.

A Bill of Lading’s Contents

  • The receiver and the shipper’s complete name and official address
  • To help the shipper and the consignee release the consignment for pickup or acceptance at the time of delivery, the purchase order or the invoice numbers
  • The pickup date used to track the consignment
  • Item details like the number of units shipped, the nature of the cargo being carried, the weight and dimensions of the product, etc.
  • With the purpose of adhering to the special rules and requirements involved in shipping hazardous materials, the Department of Transportation hazardous material designation should be tagged while shipping hazardous items.
  • Whether the packaging includes crates or drums or palates or cartons, etc.
  • Any special notes or instructions that the carrier should know of.


This article describes in considerable detail what a bill of lading means. It also sheds light on the importance of a bill of lading. The major types of bill of lading are mentioned too. The article mentions a standard bill of lading’s contents to give you a thorough insight into how an ideal bill of lading should be. We hope that you have found the article informative and easy to comprehend.

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