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What is the difference between Air Waybill and Bill of Lading? 
Air waybill is a transport document which is used in air shipments. Bill of lading is a transport document which is in sea shipments. 
 











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

Bill of lading (B/L) is a transport document, which is used in port-to-port sea shipments, issued and signed by liner 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 and port of discharge.

What are the main features of a bill of lading (B/L)?

  • Negotiable bill of lading represents and gives title to the goods and normally has to be surrendered at the port of discharge to the carrier's agent to obtain delivery of the goods.
  • Bill of lading is a negotiable document as a result it can be issued "to order and black endorsed" or "to order of an issuing bank". 
  • Bill of lading issued and signed by the carrier or an agent on behalf of the carrier. Alternatively it can be issued and signed by a freight forwarder. But carrier bill of lading and forwarder bill of lading are not the same documents.
  • A bill of lading generally issued subject to Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and US COGSA (US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936.  ) etc.
  • Bill of lading should be used in port-to-port sea shipments, as a result only it can be used in conjunction with all types of incoterms. 
















Figure 1 : Bill of Lading Sample 

What does air waybill mean in export and import business?

Air waybill (AWB) is a transoport document, which is used in air shipments, issued and signed by an airline cargo carrier or its agent, generally on a pre-printed air waybill format, evidences the terms and conditions of the carriage of goods over routes of the airline carrier(s).

What are the main features of an air waybill (AWB)?

  • Air waybill, contrary to bill of lading, is not a document of title, as a result it is not a negotiable document. Carriers' agents deliver goods by approving the identity of the consignee without requesting surrender of the original air waybill.
  • Air Waybill is not a negotiable document as a result it cannot be issued "to order and black endorsed" or "to order of an issuing bank". An air waybill can only be consigned to a "named company".  
  • Air waybill issued and signed by the carrier or an agent on behalf of the carrier. Alternatively it can be issued and signed by a freight forwarder. But carrier air waybill and forwarder air waybill are not the same documents. For more information please read my article "What is the difference between MAWB (Master Air Waybill) and HAWB (House Air Waybill)?"
  • Air waybill generally issued subject to Warsaw Convention, Hague amendment, Montreal Convention, etc.
  • Air waybill should be used in airport-to-airport shipments, as a result it cannot be used in conjunction with the incoterms available only sea shipments such as FAS, FOB, CR and CIF. For further information please look at "What happens if a letter of credit calls for a wrong Incoterms?".
















Figure 2 : Air Waybill Sample  


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Understanding the differences between bill of lading and air waybill in export and import transactions:
  • When you should use a bill of lading or an air waybill? 
  • Which incoterms can be used in conjunction with these two transport documents? 
  • Can both transport documents issued "to order"? 
and more...


master-air-waybill-mawb
Air Waybill:
  1. Air waybill should be used in air shipments.
  2. Air waybill is not a document of title.
  3. Air Waybill cannot be issued "to order and black endorsed" or "to order of an issuing bank". 
  4. Air waybill generally issued subject to Warsaw Convention, Hague amendment, Montreal Convention, etc.
  5. Air waybill cannot be used in conjunction with the incoterms available only sea shipments such as FAS, FOB, CR and CIF. 



Bill of Lading:
  1. Bill of lading should be used in port-to-port sea shipments.
  2. Negotiable bill of lading is a document of title. At least one original bill of lading must be surrender to collect the goods from the carrier.
  3. Bill of lading can be issued "to order and black endorsed" or "to order of an issuing bank". 
  4. Bill of lading generally issued subject to Hague Rules, The Hague-Visby Rules and US COGSA (US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936.  ) etc.
  5. Bill of lading can be used in conjunction with all of the incoterms available. 


What is the difference between Air Waybill and Bill of Lading?


billofladingsample