What is a Bill of Lading?

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What is a bill of lading? What is the function of a bill of lading? The bill of lading is the basis for handling the rights and obligations of both parties during transportation between the carrier and the shipper. Although it is generally not a contract signed by both parties, the main items that constitute the contract, such as ship name, sailing date, route, port of call and other related freight items, are well known; there are freight rates and transportation conditions, and the carrier It is also stipulated in advance.

Therefore, the contract is deemed to be established when the shipper or its agent makes a reservation with the carrier. Therefore, although the terms are unilaterally drafted by the carrier, the shipper should also consider that both parties have approved it, which constitutes a contract of carriage.

What is a Bill of Lading

What is the function of a bill of lading?

Goods Receipt

For the shipper who hands over the goods to the carrier for transportation, the bill of lading functions as a receipt for the goods. The carrier not only has the obligation to issue a bill of lading for the goods that have been shipped, but also has the obligation to issue a bill of lading at the request of the shipper, even if the goods have not yet been shipped, as long as the goods are in the carrier’s control, which is called “receipt of goods”. Bill of Lading for shipment” obligation.

Therefore, once the bill of lading is issued by the carrier, it means that the carrier has loaded the goods on the ship or has confirmed that it has taken over the goods. As a receipt for goods, the bill of lading not only proves the type, quantity, mark, and appearance condition of the goods received, but also proves the time when the goods were received, that is, the time when the goods were shipped. Originally, when issuing a bill of lading, as long as it could prove receipt of the goods and their condition, it did not necessarily require that the goods had been loaded onto the ship.

However, loading the goods on the ship means that the seller delivers the goods to the buyer, so the shipping time also means the seller’s delivery time. On-time delivery is a necessary condition for the performance of the contract. Therefore, it is very important to use the bill of lading to prove the shipment time of the goods.

Certificate of ownership of goods

For the holder of a legally obtained bill of lading, the bill of lading functions as a document of property rights. The legal holder of the bill of lading has the right to exchange the bill of lading at the port of destination.

To pick up the goods, as long as the carrier delivers the goods against the bill of lading in good faith, the carrier has no responsibility even if the holder is not the real owner of the goods. Moreover, unless specified in the bill of lading, the bill of lading can be transferred to a third party without the consent of the carrier. The transfer of the bill of lading means the transfer of property rights, and continuous endorsement can be transferred continuously.

The legal transferee or holder of the bill of lading is the legal holder of the goods recorded on the bill of lading. The property rights represented by the bill of lading can be transferred with the transfer of the bill of lading, and the rights and obligations stipulated in the bill of lading are also transferred with the transfer of the bill of lading. Even if the goods are damaged or lost during transportation, since the risk of the goods has been transferred from the seller to the buyer with the bill of lading, the buyer can only make a claim for compensation against the carrier.

Documents proving the establishment of the contract

The terms printed on the bill of lading stipulate the rights and obligations between the carrier and the shipper, and the bill of lading is also the legally recognized basis for handling the transportation of relevant goods. Therefore, it is often considered that the bill of lading itself is a contract of transport.

However, according to strict legal concepts, the bill of lading does not have the basic conditions that an economic contract should have. It is not the product of unanimous expression of intention by both parties. The terms of the bill of lading that bind the two parties are unilaterally drawn up by the carrier; its performance comes first and issuance comes later. , long before the bill of lading is issued, the carrier begins to accept various tasks related to cargo transportation from the shipper to consign the goods and load the goods onto the ship.

Therefore, rather than saying that the bill of lading itself is a contract of carriage, it is more reasonable to say that the bill of lading is just proof of the contract of carriage. If there is a transportation contract between the parties before the bill of lading is issued, both parties shall act in accordance with the originally signed contract regardless of the terms of the bill of lading.

However, if there is no prior agreement and the shipper does not raise any objection when accepting the bill of lading, then the bill of lading will be regarded as the contract itself. Although due to the characteristics of ocean transportation, the shipper did not sign the bill of lading, the bill of lading is different from a general contract, so regardless of whether the bill of lading holder signs the bill of lading, the terms of the bill of lading are binding on them.

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