Difference between Original Bill of Lading and Sea Waybill of lading

Original B/L vs Sea Waybill
Original B/L vs Sea Waybill

A bill of lading (abbreviated as B/L or BoL) is usually issued to acknowledge the receipt of a cargo. The bill of lading is issued by a carrier or their agent. A bill of lading is also used as an evidence of contract of carriage. Subject to nemo dat rule, a bill of lading also serves as document of title to the goods.

An original bill of lading is issued by the carriers or a freight forwarders to the shipper once all relevant documents are submitted to the customs and port authorities at the origin port.

The original bill of lading serves all three purposes i.e.

  • Evidence of contract of carriage
  • acknowledge receipt of cargo
  • Document of title to the goods

Usually an original bill of lading is released in 3 original (negotiable) and 3 or 6 non-negotiable copies. The original bill of lading can be consigned to the order of consignee, a bank or shipper. These bills of lading can be endorsed to a third party during the transit of the goods.

A Sea waybill of lading on the other hand serves only two purposes i.e

  • Evidence of contract of carriage
  • acknowledge receipt of cargo

A Sea waybill of lading is not a document of title to the goods and cannot be negotiated. Hence Sea waybill is always issued and released as a non-negotiable document. When a sea waybill is released, it is called as an express release since no freight documents or original bill of lading are required at the destination to release the cargo. Since sea waybill of lading is a non-negotiable document, it cannot be consigned to order of any third party. As a result, the delivery of cargo under sea waybill of lading (express release) can only be made to the consignee or its authorised agent.

A Sea waybill of lading can be used when

  • there isn’t enough time to send the original bill of lading to destination without incurring storage fees.
  • original bill of lading is not required since the transaction is between trusted parties (related/group companies)
  • Banks are not involved in the trade finance and original bill of lading is not required to be submitted to the bank.
  • Cargo payment have already been secured through other means.

A carrier or its agent at the discharge port need not look for any documentation to release the cargo. This means that the origin port or agent has no control over the release of cargo and may not be able to hold delivery to consignee.

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