Identity of Goods

The bill of lading is a commercial document covering transport, some or all of which will be across the sea.  It states that goods have been shipped on a particular ship or that they have been received for shipment. It is signed by/on behalf of the carrier and states the terms on which those goods have been delivered to and received by the carrier. Most shipping lines and other carriers have their own forms of bills of lading or use one of the standard forms.  Once the bill of lading (B/L) is signed by the carrier it will be handed to the shipper. Transportation by sea is unique.  Where it differs from any other form of transport is that, for a considerable period of time, the goods are out of reach of any human intervention and it is this period of physical remoteness that lends to a bill of lading some of its exclusive properties. The quantity and of the identity of goods and in the case of non-containerised cargo, this will usually state the number of tonnes and/or the volume in cubic metres also any identifying marks or numbers. In most B/Ls the printed words include the phrase “in apparent good order and condition”.  If these words are unqualified the B/L is referred to as being a clean bill of lading.  If, however, the goods were clearly not in apparent good order and condition then the B/L is referred to as being claused. Where a container is involved, if this is presented as a full container load (FCL), the carrier has no way of knowing either the quantity or condition of the goods themselves and beyond checking that the weight of the container does not exceed its permitted load, the B/L will only show the container number and if the shipper needs reference to the contents the B/L will include the words “said to contain”.