Instrument

The bill of lading enables the holder to obtain delivery of the goods at the port of destination and during transit it enables him to “deliver” the goods by merely transferring the bill of lading.  In Horst Co v. Biddel Brothers (1912) the lawyers refused to pay for the goods until they were actually delivered.  The Court held that possession of the bill of lading was in law equivalent to possession of the goods and under a c.i.f. contract the seller was entitled to payment on shipping the goods and tendering to the buyer the documents of title. A bill of lading unlike a bill of exchange is not a negotiable instrument.  The holder of a bill of lading who indorses it to an indorsee cannot therefore give a better title than he himself has.  If he has no title then he cannot pass one.  When the word negotiable is used in relation to the bill of lading it merely means transferable.  What the transfer of a negotiable bill of lading does pass is constructive possession; the right to demand of the carrier the delivery of the goods on presentation of the bill of lading. In liner traffic the bill of lading is the main document for the regulation of the relationship between the shipper, the carrier and the consignee. The contract of carriage is based on a booking, often no more than a telephone conversation, whereby the agent of the carrier promises the shipper space in a particular vessel or within a certain period of time. In liner operations the carrier normally arranges and pays for the loading and discharging and often offers port and terminal service.