Multimodal Bill of Lading

What is a multimodal bill of lading? How to use a multimodal bill of lading in a letter of credit transaction correctly?


Multimodal transportation is the movement of one unit load from origin to destination by several methods or transportation under one document without breaking up the unit load.

A very good example of a multimodal transportation is that containers loaded in continental Europe travel by train to Rotterdam, then ship on a vessel to Dar Es Salaam, then are delivered inland in Tanzania by truck. (Source: UNDP Shipping and Incoterms Practice Guide, Page: 6)

Multimodal bill of lading is a transport document that is evidencing more than one mode of transport, one of which is typically by sea shipment, although it is not required.

Bill of lading for combined transport is another name of the multimodal bill of lading.

MMBL (Multimodal Bill of Lading) or MMTD (Multimodal Transport Document) are the most frequently used abbreviations.

Types of Multimodal Transport Documents:

Multimodal bills of lading can be classified under two main types: multimodal transport bill of lading and through bill of lading.

types of multimodal bill of lading

Multimodal Transport Bills of Lading: These types of multimodal bills of lading are issued by a multimodal transport operator and mostly printed on FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations) standard pre-printed form.

Multimodal transport operator (MTO) means any person who concludes a multimodal transport contract and assumes responsibility for the performance thereof as a carrier for the whole journey.

Through Bills of Lading: Through Bills of Lading are virtually identical to the Multimodal Transport Bills of lading but with one major difference.

The Multimodal Transport Bill of Lading is issued by the Multimodal Transport Operator (MTO) (shipping lines, freight forwarders, NVOCC Operators) who takes responsibility of the goods (e.g. shortages, losses, damages) during the entire period of transport, thus not only for the sea passage but also for the other transport modes as well.

The Through Bill of Lading is issued by the sea carrier but the carrier states on the contract of carriage that he is only responsible of the goods for that part of the carriage he takes care of, such as the sea passage only. (Source : )

How to Use Multimodal Bill of Lading in Letters of Credit Transactions:

The rules related to the multimodal bill of lading can be found under article 19 of UCP 600.

A transport document covering at least two different modes of transport (multimodal or combined transport document), however named, must appear to:

  1. indicate the name of the carrier and be signed by:
    • the carrier or a named agent for or on behalf of the carrier, or
    • the master or a named agent for or on behalf of the master.
  2. indicate that the goods have been dispatched, taken in charge or shipped on board at the place stated in the credit.
  3. indicate the place of dispatch, taking in charge or shipment and the place of final destination stated in the credit,
  4. be the sole original transport document or, if issued in more than one original, be the full set as indicated on the transport document.
  5. contain terms and conditions of carriage or make reference to another source containing the terms and conditions of carriage (short form or blank back transport document).
  6. contain no indication that it is subject to a charter party. (Source : UCP 600)

Special Hints Regarding the Multimodal Bill of Lading From ISBP (International Standard Banking Practice):

  • In all places where the term “multimodal transport document” is used within this document, it also includes the term combined transport document.
  • A document need not be titled “Multimodal transport document” or “Combined transport document” to be acceptable under UCP 600 article 19, even if such expressions are used in the credit.
  • If a credit requires presentation of a transport document covering transportation utilizing at least two modes of transport … the transport document must not indicate that shipment or dispatch has been effected by only one mode of transport.

Multimodal Bill of Lading Example:

You can find a multimodal bill of lading example below, that is evidencing a soybean shipment from USA to Japan.

multimodal bill of lading example

Above multimodal bill of lading evidencing both road and sea transportation. It is most probably issued by a freight forwarder, because of the fact that the transport document has been signed “As CARRIER”.

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