Everything You Need to Know about Bills of Lading
When it comes to an industry as large and complex as freight shipping, there are all manner of documentation that ensures the safe and efficient movement of goods all across the world. At the core of all of this is the Bill of Lading, or BOL.
Even the most novice of freight shippers will have at least some experience with BOLs, and yet it’s easy to lose sight of just how important a role they play in the shipping journey.
We’ve talked on the blog before about important shipping documents, but today we’re going to dive into what a BOL is, and why it just might be the most important shipping document you use.
What is a BOL?
At its core, the BOL is a contract between a shipper, a carrier, and a consignee agreeing upon goods being transported from one point to another.
For example, if a buyer requests four pallets of fertilizer, the shipper will mark the quantity down on the BOL. From there, the carrier will verify that the information on the BOL is accurate at pickup, and finally, the buyer will do the same upon receipt of the goods, and proceed to issue a cheque payable to the shipper.
This is, of course, only one facet of the BOLs role in the shipping journey. To better understand how else a BOL is used, let’s take a closer look at the information you can expect to find on one.
What Information does a BOL Contain?
Simply put, a BOL contains all the information necessary to complete a shipment safely and successfully.
What does this include? To start, the names and addresses of both the shipper and the consignee, as well as the shipment date.
Further, the BOL will include the details of the contents of the shipment, including detailed descriptions of all products contained, the quantity of said products, their weight, and the overall value of the shipment.
Finally, the BOL will contain information pertinent to the act of moving the shipment, such as the packaging materials used, as well as any special handling instructions that the carrier requires.
Why are BOLs Important?
As mentioned above, a BOL is essentially a contract for a shipment. This contract is three-fold:
- It is a receipt for the goods shipped.
- It is a contract for the service provided by the carrier.
- It is a document of title.
Because a BOL is essentially a contract between the parties involved with a shipment, it is treated as legally binding. This becomes especially important in the case of disputes between any of the parties. A signed BOL is treated as proof of liability, and as such each party assumes liability for the information on the BOL which applies to them.
How do BOLs Function Internationally?
Any time a legal document crosses international borders, additional rules will apply. This is no exception when concerning a BOL.
Ensuring that the BOL is in the hands of the consignee in a timely manner can take many forms. Most commonly a shipper will send an express bill of lading, or a seaway bill, in advance of the shipment. This allows the consignee to settle the invoice in advance of a shipment arriving, which allows the freight to be released upon arrival, along with the original BOL.
In regards to the contents of the BOL itself, when shipping internationally, it is important to note that the information on the BOL must legally comply with the standards outlined in the consignee’s country of operation.
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Written by Brandon Draga
Brandon Draga is a full-time content writer at Freightcom, the leading shipping solution for businesses in Canada. When Brandon is not writing content to help businesses with their shipping needs, he can be found at local skate parks or writing fantasy novels.