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What is Ocean Bill of Lading?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 11/01/2024
  • 2 min read

When it comes to legally transporting a shipment through seaways, the carrier is required to carry various legal documents for a successful transit. One such important document is the ocean bill of lading (BOL). It is mainly used for international transport.

In this blog, we will discuss everything about marine bills of lading, including the ocean bill of lading meaning, its uses, and how it is different from normal bills of lading and shipping bills.

We will also discuss the significance of ocean BOL when purchasing a marine insurance policy. Keep reading!

Ocean Bill of Lading Meaning

An ocean bill of lading, or BOL, is a legal agreement between the carrier and the shipper. It works as an invoice as well as a receipt for all the items that are required to be transported to a given destination.

As discussed above, it is an important legal document that outlines all the critical details of the shipment and the parties involved in the operation. This includes the information of the shipper and carrier, details of each item in a cargo, and a few other details.

In simple words, it contains information on the source, destination, quantity, nature, and condition of the goods that are being shipped. It acts as legal evidence of the shipment along with its financial obligations.

Different Types of Ocean Bills of Lading

There are mainly four types of ocean bill of lading. These are as follows:

Straight BOL

The straight ocean BOL is only issued to the recipient of the consignment. No other party involved in the transit is issued this type of BOL.

**Clean BOL

The clean BOL is issued after the inspection of the shipment post its arrival. Once the inspection is cleared, a clean BOL is issued, and the importer/consignee can receive the shipment.

**Shipper’s Order BOL

This type of marine bill of lading is effective after approval by either the shipper or their selected representative. It is mainly used for financial transactions.

**On-Board BOL

It is signed by the owner of the ship carrying the goods. It indicates that all the specified goods are successfully loaded on the ship.

How Does an Ocean Bill of Lading Work?

An Ocean Bill of Lading enables the shipper to move his cargo across international waters. This legal agreement states all the information about the shipment and the involved parties in the transit.

  • At the time of picking up the goods, the shipper receives the ocean BOL. It must be duly signed by the carrier as well as the shipper.

  • Once the transit is complete and the goods are delivered to the receiver, this BOL is also given to him as an acknowledgement receipt.

  • Upon receiving the goods and the Ocean BOL, the receiver must also sign the contract.

Terms and Conditions of Ocean Bill of Lading

Following are the important terms and conditions of the ocean bill of lading:

The ocean BOL defines the terms of all the parties involved in the given transit operation. This includes the carrier, goods, merchant, subcontractor, carriage, container, port-to-port shipment, combined transport, freight, special drawing right, and vessel.

An Ocean BOL also mentions the tariff applicable to the goods carrier regarding vehicle demurrage (delay in loading/unloading vehicle) and the container. Further, it contains the details regarding the carrier's responsibilities, warranties, and subcontracting processes. Here, the responsibilities of a carrier include general provisions, port-to-port shipment, and combined transport requirements.

Other important details outlined by an ocean BOL include the weight of the package, time bar, limitations, carrier’s containers, shipper containers, description of goods, inspection of goods, shipper’s /merchant’s responsibilities, deck cargo, freight charges, etc.

Finally, the terms and conditions for transportation routes and methods and the transport of hazardous/noxious goods are also mentioned, along with the possible shipment scenario and actions associated with them. The same goes for temperature-sensitive articles, war risks, blame-to-blame collision, government regulations, validity, and contract variations are also clearly defined in the marine bills of lading.

As you can see, the terms and conditions of the ocean BOL are very comprehensive. In order to avoid any disputes or challenges in shipping, it is advisable to go through all of them carefully.

Ocean Bill of Lading Example

An Ocean BOL contains the complete details of shipped goods, source, destination, quantity, and more. It is received and signed by the shipper and then by the carrier. Upon the completion and delivery of the shipment, the BOL is given to the receiver, which he must sign.

Suppose a company, XYZ Private Limited, is shipping some antique furniture to a company called ABC Traders in Singapore. The port from where the items are loaded is Mumbai, and the port of unloading is Singapore. This is what an ocean BOL will look like in this case:

  • Ocean Bill of Lading
  • Shipper: XYZ Private Limited
  • Consignee: ABC Traders
  • Name of Vessel: Sealink 7
  • Date of Shipment: [Date]
  • Port of Loading: Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT)
  • Port of Discharge: Jurong Port, Singapore
  • Description of Articles: Antique Furniture
  • Quantity of Articles: 150
  • Details of Freight and Applicable Charges: [Details]
  • Terms and Conditions: [T&C]
  • Declared Value of Goods: ₹65,00000
  • Signature of Carrier: [Signature]
  • Date of Signing: [Date]
  • Note: This is just an example. The details and format of an actual Ocean BOL can vary depending on various factors.

    How to Track Ocean Bill of Lading?

    The Ocean bill of lading is also used for tracking the status of the cargo. It allows the shipper to keep an eye on his shipment and make sure of a safe and timely delivery. The tracking service is usually provided by the carrier through their websites. Some of them even provided regular real-time updates to the shipper for their peace of mind.

    Generally, there are two types of container tracking services provided by the carriers: the Standard Container Tracking System (SCTS) and the GPS Container Tracking System. While the former records the movement of the container as it moves through different ports, the latter shows the real-time location of the same.

    Further, for tracking a shipment, details such as booking number, container number, bill of lading number, etc., are required.

    Is an Ocean Bill of Lading Required for Buying Marine Cargo Insurance?

    Normally, you do not require an ocean bill of lading to purchase a marine insurance policy. However, it is an important document that can be very helpful in the process.

    This is because you need to provide details such as the type and quantity of goods, their route, method of shipment, etc., at the time of buying an insurance policy. An ocean BOL comes in handy during this time as it allows you to provide all these details to your insurance provider readily.

    Final Words

    Ocean bill of lading works as an indispensable document in intentional marine transport. It acts as legal proof that offers complete information about the cargo, shipper, and carrier. From the description of goods, source, and destination to the information of carrier and shipper, everything is outlined by an ocean bill of lading.

    To cover your transportation risks, choosing a suitable marine insurance provider is crucial. Tata AIG offers marine insurance with features like liability protection, international coverage, and more to provide cargo protection overseas.


    Who creates the ocean bill of lading?

    The ocean bill of lading is generally created by the carrier of goods and issued to the shipper, who is mostly an exporter of goods.

    What is the difference between a bill of lading and an ocean bill of lading?

    Bill of lading is a legal transport document outlining the important details of cargo, shipper, and carrier. It is used for transport via air, sea, road or rail. On the other hand, an ocean bill of lading is the same document but used specifically for international maritime transport.

    What is the difference between a Shipping Bill and a Bill of Lading?

    The shipping bill is a critical customs document that acts like an application for permission to export the goods. It contains the complete details of the goods being shipped, such as their quantity, value, and the information of the exporter. Further, it also contains the details of the mode of transportation, origin, and destination port, etc.

    The exporter or their representative creates it and needs to be filed by the customs administrators. The shipping bill is a critical legal document that allows customs authorities to ensure that the goods being exported meet the legal requirements.

    A bill of lading is just a transport document that acts as a legal agreement or contract between the carrier and shipper. It describes all the goods being transported and the parties that are involved in the process.

    It is important for the exporters to understand the difference between both documents and use them carefully to avoid any challenges in their shipping operations.

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    Disclaimer / TnC

    Your policy is subjected to terms and conditions & inclusions and exclusions mentioned in your policy wording. Please go through the documents carefully.

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