What is a Bill Of Lading?
When it comes to international trade, an original bill of lading is one of the most important documents for shippers and consignees. Issued by a carrier, it specifies consignment title and is used to guarantee receipt of goods for importers and payment for exporters. Sometimes abbreviated as B/L or BoL, a bill of lading is a legal document that additionally catalogues contract terms and conditions for the sale and purchase of merchandise.
Lost, Destroyed or Stolen
An original bill of lading facilitates delivery of goods to the consignee at the destination port. Should the document be lost, destroyed or stolen, there are ways to resolve – though prevention is better than cure. For anyone unfortunate enough to experience the distress of losing the original bill of lading, their consignment may be liable for additional fees and charges (i.e. detention, demurrage, bank guarantee, etc.).
Note: Regional laws, regulations and carrier specific requirements may vary. Please check with your carrier or freight forwarder for further information and assistance.
What To Do
Whether it is a simple case of misfiling or the result of something more sinister (i.e. stolen), there are some steps you can take to resolve a missing original bill of lading.
- If lost in transit, use your courier reference number to track the documents. This will pinpoint the location of your mail and if it was signed upon receipt.
- Contact your freight forwarder to inform them of the loss. Their thorough industry knowledge and experience will be an invaluable resource throughout.
- Subject to the carrier’s policy, some international transporters may still accept a bill of lading if one of a set of three is missing.
- Lending institutions can provide a letter of indemnity, indemnifying carriers (if approved) from liability for the release of goods to the consignee. In such instances, the original bill of lading must be returned to the carrier if found.
- There are other ways to complete cargo delivery if a bill of lading is missing. Speak to your carrier or freight forwarder for more information.
Tips and advice to help you protect your original bill of lading from loss.
- Before the original bill of lading is produced, carriers issue drafts to shippers which can be amended and refined. While such copies won’t be legally admissible, filing these documents is wise as they contain important consignment information which can be referenced later if required.
- Carriers typically issue a set of three original bill of ladings. It is prudent for shippers to retain any excess copies if not required by third-parties and the consignee.
- When issued, the shipper should double-check to ensure they have received all original copies.
- Use a reputable courier to send documents which offers tracking and ‘signature required’ services.
- If terms of sale allow, utilise telex release services which are available through either the carrier or your freight forwarder.