A bill of lading, often abbreviated as B/L, is the ticket outlining the journey of your cargo from origin to its destination. Much like an airline issuing a ticket to a passenger, a B/L is issued by a carrier to a shipper detailing the method and path of a shipment, be it by any combination of air, sea, road, or rail. It functions as a contract for the movement of the goods, with the fine print – the terms of the contract – frequently outlined on the back of the bill. It also serves as a receipt for the cargo and can act as proof of ownership of the goods being transported.
In short, it’s an important document!
The Who of your bill of lading:
Much like a ticket, it outlines the players involved with your shipment, including:
The What of your shipment:
The bill of lading outlines what goods are being shipped and any specific handling instructions. This information will include:
The Where of your precious cargo
The bill of lading maps out the journey that your shipment will undertake to get from your seller to you, with details such as:
Like booking airline travel, shipment bookings can take many forms and routes; like travel, the more stops and the slower it is, the cheaper it is to get there. Thus it’s not unusual for a shipment originating in Indonesia to stop by Singapore before continuing on to a port on the U.S. west coast. Once there, it can be loaded onto a train or truck headed to a de-consolidation warehouse in New York, where it will be sorted for a local trucker to deliver it the last mile to the buyer’s warehouse.