A bill of lading (sometimes abbreviated as B/L or BoL) is a document issued by a carrier (or his agent) to acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment. In British English the term relates to ship transport only, and in American English to any type of transportation of goods
A bill of lading must be negotiable,and serves three main functions:
- it is a conclusive receipt, i.e. an acknowledgement that the goods have been loaded; and
- it contains or evidences the terms of the contract of carriage; and
- it serves as a document of title to the goods, subject to the nemo dat rule.
Bills of lading are one of three crucial documents used in international trade to ensure that exporters receive payment and importers receive the merchandise. The other two documents are a policy of insurance and an invoice. Whereas a bill of lading is negotiable, both a policy and an invoice are assignable.