Liner Ship Agency Documentation
The paper used in the liner business must be responsible for the decimation of more forests than all the rest of shipping business put together. Every consignment will have a Mate’s Receipt handed by the ship to the exporter when the cargo is first taken on board.
A Standard Shipping Note may precede this or Dangerous Goods Note if the cargo is first delivered to the port authority, terminal operator or whoever controls the transit sheds. Meantime the shipper has presented a set of Bills of Lading to the line’s agents, which will be signed by or on behalf of the Captain when the Mate’s receipt shows that the cargo has been shipped on board.
A set of bills of lading can often be three originals and anything up to a dozen copies. The line’s agent retains at least one of the copies and data from it is used to complete the Manifest, which is a comprehensive list of all the cargo in the ship.
This will be produced in several copies, for the file, the owner, the ship, the Customs and, of course, the discharging port. Before being signed, each bill of lading has to be checked against the Mate’s receipt to ensure that the description and quantity in the bill of lading agrees with what has actually been shipped and then it has to be ‘freighted’, i.e. calculating the freight due.
If the freight is to be paid at loading port it is customary for a Freight Account to be produced and unless there is an arrangement for the shipper to be granted credit, the bills of lading are not passed back to the shipper, with the all-important ‘Freight Paid’ endorsement, until the money is handed over.
If the freight is to be collected at discharging port then the amount due is entered on the bills of lading. It is not, therefore, unusual for as many as 20 sheets of paper to be involved for a single consignment and there can well be a thousand consignments in a deep-sea liner.
Widespread use of computer systems at least ensures that several documents are produced from the same input of data which eliminates some of the manual checking but even so there still has to be a very large human as well as paper component in the movement of liner cargo.