What is Bill of lading?
A bill of lading (B/L) is a document issued by a carrier which details a shipment of merchandise and gives title and requires a carrier to deliver the merchandise to the appropriate party. An order bill of lading is used when shipping merchandise prior to payment, requiring a carrier to deliver the merchandise to the importer, and at the endorsement of the exporter the carrier may transfer title to the importer. Endorsed order bills of lading can be traded as a security or serve as collateral against debt obligations.
Bills of lading have a number of additional attributes, such as on board, received-for-shipment, clean, and foul. An on-board bill of lading denotes that merchandise has been physically loaded onto a shipping vessel, such as a freighter or cargo plane. A received-for-shipment bill of lading denotes that merchandise has been received, but is not guaranteed to have already been loaded onto a shipping vessel. Such bills can be converted upon being loaded. A clean bill of lading denotes that merchandise is in good condition upon being received by the shipping carrier, while a foul bill of lading denotes that merchandise has incurred damage prior to being received by the shipping carrier.