Conventional Bill of Lading

The Conventional Bill of Lading. Such a B/L is almost invariably a “shipped” B/L and will be issued for any cargo except that which is carried in a container. It has, for many years been the basic document for general cargo and, as has been mentioned earlier, often forms the backbone of any documentary letter of credit transaction. A fundamental legal point is that  – in principle – liability under such a B/L does not commence until the goods pass the ship’s rail at loading port and cease immediately the goods pass the ship’s rail at discharging port.  It can be seen that this has, from time to time, caused interesting disputes.  Take for example, cargo slipping out of the sling over the quay-side.  It will not have passed the ship’s rail thus the B/L conditions will not have come into play.  Whether or not the quayside workers are sub-contractors to the carrier may be a moot point.  Generally quayside workers (dockers) are employees of the terminal with whom the shipper would have a separate contract. Workers on the ship itself (stevedores) are almost invariably servants of the carrier. A similar quandary may face the importer who was delayed in collecting his goods which were left on the quayside after the ship sailed.  On collecting them they were found to have suffered rain damage while lying there.  No claim is possible under the B/L which ceased at the ship’s rail.  There may possibly be a claim against the terminal operator depending upon the contractual situation.  Perhaps even a claim in tort against the agent for the ship who had a duty of care towards the cargo owner.