Mate Receipt

As cargo is loaded on board the vessel the shipper is entitled to be given some acknowledgement of the receipt of that cargo. Traditionally that was a ‘mate’s receipt’ signed by a ship’s officer containing remarks as to the nature, quantity and condition of the goods concerned. These documents may, in fact, be prepared prior to commencement of loading, thereby providing advance information for ship’s personnel about the cargo to be loaded, assisting stowage plans, and forming a convenient means of recording a cargo’s good condition, or remarking upon its shortcomings. Such receipts also form valuable evidence of cargo quantity and quality. Mate’s receipts are, however, merely receipts and not documents of title that can be exchanged commercially. They are released to shippers in return for cargo loaded and thereafter tendered to the master or to the owner’s agents in return for one or for a set of signed bills of lading. Today the ‘mate’s receipt’ issued by the ship’s command is in very many ports replaced by a document issued either by the terminal or port authority, or a shore based tallying company identifying the cargo loaded on board. Many bulk cargo terminals have their own system for determining the quantify loaded. Where the mate’s receipt is not used it is important that the ship’s command identify clearly any reservations they have regarding quantify or quality to the ship’s agent or shipper so that appropriate clauses may be placed on the Bills of Lading. A bill of lading (B/L) can be drawn up in a variety of ways and wordings, but it is nearly always prepared on a pre-printed form. Mate’s receipt form may relate to a specific or to a general cargo trade or it may be designed for liner services.