Document

The document under which cargo is carried on board vessels is a bill of lading and may be defined as a receipt for goods signed by the master or other duty authorized person on behalf of the shipowner and constitutes a document to title of the goods specified therein. In the case of non-containerised cargo, the bill of lading is preceded by a mate’s receipt or a document fulfilling that purpose. As its name implies, the mate’s receipt provides the shipper with evidence of the property being passed into the care of the carrier; the goods are then in the carrier’s (shipowner’s) possession and at his risk. As a general rule the person in possession of the mate’s receipt is the person entitled to the bills of lading which should be given in exchange for that receipt, and he can sue for wrongful dealing with the goods. The mate’s receipt is not a document of title to the goods and mere endorsement or transfer of it without notice to the shipper or his agent does not pass the property in the goods, and its possession is not equivalent to possession of the goods. It is not conclusive and its statements do not bind the shipowner as do the statements in a bill of lading signed within the master’s authority. It is however prima facie evidence of the quantity and condition of the goods received. The bill of lading is a commercial document which states that goods have been shipped on a particular ship or that they have been received for shipment. It is signed by/or behalf of the shipowner and states the terms on which those goods have been delivered to and received by the shipowner. Most shipping lines have their own forms of bills of lading and once signed by the carrier will be handed to the shipper.