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What is the definition of a master bill of lading and an house bill of lading in international trade? 
Master bill of lading is a transport document which is issued by a sea carrier or its agent. House bill of lading is a transport document which is issued by a freight forwarder.
 











What does master bill of lading mean in export and import business?

Master bill of lading (MBL) is a transoport document, which is used in sea shipments, issued and signed by the sea cargo carrier or its agent, generally on a pre-printed carrier's bill of lading format, evidences the terms and conditions of the carriage of goods between port of loading to port of discharge.

What are the main features of a master bill of lading (MBL)?

  • Master bill of lading generally issued on a pre-printed bill of lading form of an issuer carrier.
  • Master bill of lading issued and signed by the carrier or an agent on behalf of the carrier.
  • A master bill of lading (MBL) is subject to Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and US COGSA (US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936.  ) etc.
  • Master bill of lading is signed by the actual carrier and states the terms and conditions of the carriage, as a result consignee may have protection in case the goods are damaged or lost in transit.






















Figure 1 : Master Bill of Lading Sample (Carrier : Maersk Line) 

What does house bill of lading mean in export and import business?

House bill of lading (HBL) is a transport document, which is used in sea shipments, issued and signed by a freight forwarder, generally on a freight forwarder's bill of lading format, evidences the terms and conditions of the carriage of goods as specified by the freight forwarder.

What are the main features of a house bill of lading (HBL)?

  • House bill of lading generally issued on a freight forwarder's bill of lading format.
  • House bill of lading issued and signed by a forwarder without indicating any signing authority either carrier or as agent of the carrier. In some occasions forwarder companies sign HBLs "as carrier", especially when their clients require a letter of credit compliant bill of lading.
  • A house bill of lading (HBL) may or may not be subject to Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and US COGSA (US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936.  ) etc.
  • House bill of lading is signed by the forwarder and states the terms and conditions of carriage for the forwarder company's perspective. House bill of lading does not contain actual carrier's carriage contract, as a result shipper stated on the house air waybill is not the direct participant of the carriage contract indicated on the master bill of lading.





















Figure 2 : House Bill of Lading Sample 


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Understanding the differences between master bill of lading and house bill of lading in export and import transactions:
  • How to define master bill of lading and house bill of lading?
  • Who issues a master bill of lading and a house bill of lading? 
  • How to distinguish a master bill of lading from a house bill of lading?



bill-of-lading-sample
housebilloflading
 Master Bill of Lading:
  1. Issued by the actual carrier, such as MSC, Maersk, Yang Ming Lines, etc.
  2. Signed either by the carrier or an agent of the carrier.
  3. Issued on a pre-printed form of an actual carrier's bill of lading.
  4. Always subject to Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and US COGSA (US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936.  ) etc. 
  5. States the terms and conditions of the carriage, as a result consignee may have protection in case the goods are damaged or lost in transit.
  6. States actual carrier's bill of lading number.


House Air Waybill:
  1. Issued by the forwarder company, such as XYZ Forwarding Ltd, etc.
  2. Signed by the forwarding company without any agency indication of the carrier.
  3. Issued on a pre-printed form of a forwarder company's bill of lading.
  4. May or may not be subject to Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and US COGSA (US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936.  ) etc. 
  5. States the terms and conditions of the forwarding company, as a result consignee will not be having a legal protection in case the goods are damaged or lost in transit.
  6. States forwarder company's bill of lading number.


How to distinguish a master bill of lading from a house bill of lading?