Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L)
One of the earliest of the data aligned documents to appear was the Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L). First introduced in Sweden, it is now widely used, and a common form was produced by the General Council of British Shipping in 1979.
The object of the exercise was to simplify documentation and increase the speed of production by reducing the amount of information on the bill. This result was achieved by removing the printed terms of the contract of carriage from the reverse of the bill and substituting a straightforward clause incorporating the carrier’s standard terms and conditions.
Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) can be produced either in a proprietary form with the carrier’s name printed at the head, or in a common form in which the name of the selected carrier is inserted in the bill by the shipper. The latter type has considerable advantages since it is available for universal use and dispenses with the need for the shipper to carry separate stocks of bills appropriate to each individual carrier.
The most important characteristic of the Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) is that it possesses all the qualities of the standard long form in that it acts as a receipt, provides evidence of the contract of carriage, and constitutes a transferable document of title enabling the holder to sell the goods in transit or pledge them with a bank. It is thus available as a direct substitute for the long form bill in any context and has received the final accolade by being recognized as acceptable in the banking world as security for documentary credits.
Like the long form bill of lading, Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) will be subject to the Hague- Visby Rules where applicable in the United Kingdom. The main problem associated with the short form bill is the effectiveness of the incorporation clause in different jurisdictions. There would appear to be little doubt as to its validity in the common law world, since it would comply with all the requirements of the doctrine of notice developed in the series of ticket cases.
On the other hand, there may be more doubt as to the reaction of courts in civil law jurisdictions, particularly if a copy of the carrier’s standard terms is not readily available. Similarly, the courts may be more sympathetically disposed towards the assignee of a short form bill who may be prejudiced by lack of access to a copy of the standard terms, in contrast to the shipper who will no doubt have a copy in his office. For this reason some shippers feel safer to type the crucial provisions of the contract on the short form, thus to some extent defeating the object of the exercise. Such terms include jurisdiction and choice of law clauses which has crucial importance to the consignee, arbitration clauses and clauses expressly incorporating the Hague-Visby Rules.
It must also be remembered that the Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) is basically a Received for Carriage Document, whereas banks providing for documentary credits normally call for a Shipped Bill of Lading (B/L). While facilities exist for adding a shipped notation, the delay involved will naturally defeat the time-saving objective.
What is Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L)?
A Bill of Lading (B/L) is a document issued by a carrier (or their agent) to acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment. In short, it’s a legally binding document between the shipper of the goods and the carrier detailing the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. The B/L also serves as a shipment receipt when the carrier delivers the cargo at the predetermined destination.
There are two (2) main types of Bills of Lading: short form and long form.
A Short Form Bill of Lading (Short Form B/L) is a simplified version of the document which does not include all the terms and conditions of carriage. Instead, it refers to the full terms and conditions of the carrier’s standard long form B/L, which are usually available on the carrier’s website or upon request.
The Short Form B/L is generally used for its convenience, as it is more straightforward and less complex than its long form counterpart. It contains essential information such as the shipper’s name, the consignee’s name, the port of loading, the port of discharge, the type and quantity of goods, and the vessel’s name. However, it’s important to note that it is legally equivalent to the long form and that all the terms and conditions of the long form are binding, even if they are not explicitly stated in the short form document.
Always remember to thoroughly understand the terms and conditions mentioned in the full B/L, because when using a Short Form B/L, you are agreeing to these conditions by reference.
Importance of Short Form B/L:
A Short Form B/L is important due to its simplicity and convenience. For regular shippers who are familiar with a carrier’s terms and conditions, using a Short Form B/L can save time and reduce complexity in documentation. However, it’s essential to note that the legal implications remain the same as a long form B/L, meaning it’s not a way to bypass the terms and conditions of the carrier.
Even if the terms and conditions are not explicitly mentioned in the Short Form B/L, they are implicitly agreed to by the shipper. Therefore, it’s crucial for shippers to fully understand the referenced terms and conditions. While the Short Form B/L simplifies the process, it does not eliminate the responsibility or the obligations that come with shipping goods.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that if any dispute arises, courts will consider the terms and conditions contained in the full (long form) Bill of Lading, not just the details in the short form. So, the shipper and receiver must be well aware of all the terms and conditions that apply to their shipment.
Short Form B/L vs Long Form B/L
The primary distinction between a Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) and a Long Form B/L lies in the amount of detail and the terms and conditions that are included directly in the document.
Short Form Bill of Lading:
A Short Form B/L is a simplified version of the Bill of Lading. It only contains the essential details of the shipment, such as:
- The shipper’s name
- The consignee’s name
- The port of loading
- The port of discharge
- Description of the goods
- The vessel’s name
It does not include the full terms and conditions of carriage in the document. Instead, it references the carrier’s standard long form B/L, which contains these terms and conditions. The short form is popular because of its simplicity and brevity. However, it’s important to remember that even though the terms and conditions are not directly included in the document, they still apply to the shipment.
Long Form Bill of Lading:
On the other hand, a Long Form B/L contains all the terms and conditions of the carriage directly in the document. This form includes everything from the details of the shipment, obligations, and responsibilities of the shipper and the carrier, to specific clauses regarding potential disputes or claims.
The Long Form B/L provides a comprehensive view of the agreement, which can be beneficial for shippers and consignees who want to fully understand all the terms and conditions related to their shipment. However, due to its extensive details, it can also be more complex and cumbersome to manage compared to the short form.
Both forms are legally equivalent, and the choice between a Short Form B/L and a Long Form B/L often comes down to the shipper’s preference for simplicity versus detail. It’s always important, however, to fully understand the terms and conditions associated with the shipment, whether they are directly included in the B/L or referenced in a short form document.
It must also be remembered that the Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) is basically a Received for Carriage Document, whereas banks providing for documentary credits normally call for a Shipped Bill of Lading (B/L).
A Short Form Bill of Lading (B/L) is essentially a document that acknowledges the receipt of goods for transportation. It’s an important document in international trade, used between the shipper and carrier. This document stipulates the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried.
However, unlike a long form B/L, a short form B/L does not include the complete terms and conditions of carriage. Instead, it refers to the terms and conditions as stated in the carrier’s long form B/L, which can usually be accessed on the carrier’s website or available upon request.
The short form B/L is often used for its convenience and simplicity, but it’s important for the shipper to be aware of the detailed terms and conditions in the long form B/L to avoid potential legal issues.