Bill of Lading as a Contract of Carriage

Bill of Lading as a Contract of Carriage

Bill of Lading as a Contract of Carriage: The third function of the bill of lading is as evidence of the contract of carriage between the owners of the goods shipped aboard the vessel, and the party who has agreed to carry the goods (‘the carrier’).

Most commonly, the carrier is the actual owner of the ship on which the goods are loaded. This is not always the case. It is quite common for time charterers of vessels to issue their own bills of lading, evidencing contracts between goods owners and the time charterer

It is worth remembering that because a bill of lading is merely evidence of a contract of carriage, the contract can exist before the bill of lading has been issued which happens only when loading is complete.

Typically, bill of ladings fall into two categories:

1- Liner Bills of Lading
2- Charterparty Bills of Lading


1- Liner Bills of Lading – These bills of lading are intended to be complete contracts and have full contract terms printed on their reverse. An example of this is CONLINEBILL 2000; and

2- Charterparty Bills of Lading – These are bills of lading with relatively few terms and conditions. Many more terms are required. They are provided by incorporating terms from an underlying charterparty. An example is the Congenbill, which is intended to work with the Gencon form of voyage charterparty. Incorporation of charterparty terms into bills of lading is discussed further below.


One of the functions of a bill of lading is as a contract of carriage. Voyage charterparties are also contracts of carriage. It is quite possible for goods to be carried under two separate contracts of carriage, that is, by a voyage charterparty and a bill of lading.

It may sometimes happen that the same people are parties to a voyage charterparty for carriage of goods aboard a ship, and the bill of lading for carriage of the same goods on the same ship, that is, there are two separate contracts between the same people for the carriage of the same goods. Those contracts are in conflict. Are they both valid and binding? If yes, the parties may have different rights and obligations under the two separate contracts. English law resolves this simply. It says that the bill of lading is not a contract of carriage. The voyage charterparty will be the only contract of carriage between those parties. The bill of lading will resume its function as a contract of carriage when it is endorsed to someone who is not the voyage charterer. Then, there will not be identical parties to both contracts.