Bills of lading and sea waybills
Produced in partnership with James Watthey and Quentin Tannock of 4 Pump Court
Bills of lading and sea waybills

The following Commercial guidance note Produced in partnership with James Watthey and Quentin Tannock of 4 Pump Court provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Bills of lading and sea waybills
  • Types of bills
  • The bill of lading as a receipt
  • The bill of lading as a document of title
  • The bill of lading as a contractual document
  • Incorporation of charterparty terms into a bill of lading
  • Parties to the contract of carriage
  • Transfer of rights under bills of lading and sea waybills
  • The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992
  • Negotiable bills of lading as security for finance
  • more

This Practice Note explains the law and practicalities relating to bills of lading and sea waybills in the context of an arrangement for the carriage of goods by sea. It explains the differences between bearer bills, order bills and seaway bills and explains how the functions of the bill of lading as a receipt, document of title and contractual document. The Practice Note also explains who the parties to the contract of carriage are and their interplay with third parties and how a transfer of rights under the documentation may be achieved.

A bill of lading:

  1. is produced by or for a carrier of goods by sea to the person with whom the contract of carriage is entered

  2. contains or evidences the contract of carriage and its terms

  3. provides evidence of the receipt of the goods

  4. is a document of title

Types of bills

Bearer bills and order bills

There are two types of bills of lading:

  1. ‘bearer bills’ require that the goods be delivered to the bearer (holder) of the bill of lading

  2. goods shipped under ‘order bills’ must be delivered to the person named on them or to their order. Such bills may be transferred

Sea waybills

A sea waybill performs a similar function to a bill of lading in that it evidences receipt and the terms of the