Bill of Lading and its Types

A Bill of lading is one of the most important documents in the shipping and freight industry. The bill of lading was created due to the practical needs for transportation of goods in the early years. However, it has transformed into more than just proof of transportation in recent times. Let us see the various types of bill of lading.

Definition of Bill of Lading

A bill of lading is an international trade document provided by a carrier to a seller/ shipper. This document acknowledges the boarding of certain goods on the ship as cargo that is to be delivered to the consignee. The consignee is mostly already identified. The document got its name from the verb ‘to lade,’ which means loading cargo or goods onto a type of transportation, mostly a ship.

Contents of Bill of Lading

A typical bill of lading contains the following information:

  • Names and detailed addresses of the shipper and the receiver.
  • Account numbers and PO numbers are used for tracking the orders.
  • Details of the ports of destination and departure.
  • Special instructions to ensure swift delivery.
  • Shipment date and arrival date.
  • A number of units to be shipped.
  • Kind of packaging used such as cartons, drums, pallets, etc.
  • A note if hazardous material is being shipped.
  • Items’ description, including the common name and the material of which it is made.
  • Freight Classification.
  • The weight of the consignment.
  • The value of the item being shipped.

Features of Bill of Lading

A bill of lading has the following three important features:

Proof of Contract of Shipment

The bill of lading is the ‘proof’ of a contract of shipment between the shipper and the carrier and not the contract of shipment as many would think. It is also not a contract between the buyer and the seller. It is only the evidence of the shipment’s contract to transport the cargo as decided by the buyer and the seller.

Receipt of Shipment

The bill of lading also acts as a receipt for goods received by the carrier in good condition from the shipper. The carrier issues the bill of lading in exchange for the receipt of the goods to be shipped.

Title to the Shipment

The bill of lading gives the holder the ‘title’ to the shipment. The goods are transferred to the holder, who can either claim them or transfer them to someone further.

Types of Bill of Lading

There are various types of bill of lading depending on the requirements of the shipment:

Straight Bill of Lading

A Straight Bill of Lading is used when the goods are already paid for and are directly shipped to the customer.

To Order Bill of Lading

To Order Bill of Lading is used when the goods are sold on trade credit, and the shipment can be either to a distributor or the customer.

Clean Bill of Lading

A clean Bill of Lading states that the goods were in proper condition when loaded. This is a sign-off from the carrier.

Bill of Lading

Soiled Bill of Lading

Soiled Bill of Lading is used when the goods are marred in any way or are damaged.

Inland Bill of Lading

Inland Bill of Lading is used to ship goods domestically through railways or roads, but not through seas.

Ocean Bill of Lading

Ocean Bill of Lading is used to ship goods through the seas, both nationally and internationally.

Through Bill of Lading

Through Bill of Lading is used in complex transactions where the shipment passes through different ways of transportation and also various centers of distribution. This bill of lading requires an ocean and inland bill of lading.

Multimodal/ Combined Transport Bill of Lading

Multimodal/Combined Transport Bill of Lading is a type of through bill of lading where a shipment involves at least two ways of transport.

Direct Bill of Lading

Direct Bill of Lading is used when the vessel is used to pick up the cargo and deliver the shipment to the final destination.

Stale Bill of Lading

The Stale Bill of Lading is used when the goods reach the port before the bill of lading.


The bill of lading is, thus, an important part of trade transactions. Though there are several types of bill of lading, it is best to discuss the shipping requirements with the shipping carrier to choose one. 123

Sanjay Borad

Sanjay Bulaki Borad

MBA-Finance, CMA, CS, Insolvency Professional, B'Com

Sanjay Borad, Founder of eFinanceManagement, is a Management Consultant with 7 years of MNC experience and 11 years in Consultancy. He caters to clients with turnovers from 200 Million to 12,000 Million, including listed entities, and has vast industry experience in over 20 sectors. Additionally, he serves as a visiting faculty for Finance and Costing in MBA Colleges and CA, CMA Coaching Classes.

7 thoughts on “Bill of Lading and its Types”

  1. Hello. Great job. I did not expect this, this is a great story. Thanks!

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  3. Hello Sanjay, would like to share a quick list of 16 data elements that most B/Ls require to show. I hope your readers find it useful!
    1. Name of vessel or airline reference
    2. Name and address of the shipper
    3. Name and address of the consignee
    4. Name and address of the notify party
    5. Place of receipt
    6. Port of loading
    7. Port of discharge
    8. Place of delivery
    9. Description of cargo.
    10. Marks and numbers
    11. Number of packages
    12. Kind of packages
    13. Gross weight of goods
    14. Handling requirements
    15. Declared carriage value
    16. Freight terms – pre-paid of collect
    Hope your readers find it useful!


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