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HomeBill of LadingDifference between House bill of lading and Master bill of lading

Difference between House bill of lading and Master bill of lading

Difference between House Bill of Lading and Master Bill of Lading

A Bill of Lading maybe issued as a House Bill of Lading or a Master Bill of Lading..

  1. A House Bill of Lading (HBL) is issued by an NVOCC operator, or a Freight Forwarder to their customers..
  2. A Master Bill of Lading (MBL) is issued by the Shipping Line (Carrier) to the NVOCC Operator, or Freight Forwarder..

Image for MBL and HBL

When issued for a FCL shipment (non-groupage), a HBL should always be issued on a back to back basis with a MBL which means that the HBL should be an EXACT replica of the MBL issued by the actual Shipping line in respect of all details except the shipper, consignee and notify party details which will be different in the HBL and MBL..

In the HBL

  • the Shipper will usually be the actual shipper/exporter of the cargo (or as dictated by the L/C)
  • the Consignee will usually be the actual receiver/importer of the cargo (or as dictated by the L/C)
  • the Notify could be the same as Consignee (or any other party as dictated by the L/C)

In the MBL

  • the Shipper will usually be the NVOCC operator, or their agent or the Freight Forwarder..
  • the Consignee will usually be the destination agent or counterpart or office of the NVOCC operator, or the Freight Forwarder
  • the Notify could be the same as Consignee or any other party..

In the interest of the NVOCC operator and their insurance coverage/exposure, it is recommended that all the details on the HBL and MBL like vessel/voyage information, cargo description, number of containers, seal numbers, weight, measurements should remain the same.. The only difference should be in the shipper, consignee and notify details..

Unless disallowed by the L/C, the HBL is also used/treated as a negotiable document and can be considered to fulfill the roles of a bill of lading.. But due care must be taken when using HBL as a negotiable document as I have come across a counter-productive and dangerous practice of consigning the HBL and MBL exactly the same which means that there are two sets of bills of lading issued by two different entities for the same cargo..!!!!!!

Such issues have happened due to the ignorance of the NVOCC or Freight Forwarder..

Have you come across such instances..?? If so, maybe you can share them as Case Studies for this blog..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Hi Hariesh,
    Very interesting article.
    When you say HBL and MBL should be exactly the same (but for shipper / consignee), do you mean the HBLreverse side of the HBL should also ideally include back to back the shipping line applicable general terms and conditions (reverse side of the MBL)?

    • Hi Lila, good question.. The answer is NO.. Page 2 – where the details of the shipment are shown should have the same details except for shipper/consignee/notify.. The Page 1 with all the terms and conditions will depend on the issuer of the HBL.. Each entity that issues a bill of lading will have their own terms and conditions and contracts of carriage etc..

  2. hi, my agent want to issues 2 hbl + 1mbl, but there is 3 container for this shipment. it is possible to put same container number (3 cntr) on 2hbl?

  3. Hi ! I have a school assignment considering of these MBL and HBL contracts. The question I am wondering is that what is the relationship among the contracting parties when there is a House Bill of Lading and a Master Bill of Lading for the same shipment. Is some of the contracts “better” than the other or does it change the outcome that there is both contracts made?

    • Hi Sara, in a HBL/MBL situation, the contracting parties to the “contract of carriage” will be different.. So on the MBL, the actual carrier will have the contract with the forwarder/NVOCC usually and on the HBL, the forwarder/NVOCC as carrier will have the contract with the actual customer.. There will be no change in the “sales contract” as a contract of carriage is not part of that..

  4. Hello,
    I have a query. I am a licensed MTO in India having our House BL. My agent with whom I have written contract is located at Netherlands.
    Due to freight rate issues I buy rate from a forwarder say XYZ & Co. (who doesn’t own House BL or MTO) who has a good rate agreement with carrier. The carrier issues Master BL with shipper as XYZ & Co. and consignee as my agent at Netherlands. No issues with delivery at destination.
    But my question is that my House BL is not backed up by a Master BL of carrier in which I am shipper.
    So am I violating any law or regulation of DG Shipping? or am I breaking any set rules or the trade?
    In simple words is it necessary for an MTO to obtain master BL in which he is names as shipper? Or he can proceed to obtainer master BL with shipper anyone but consignee the delivery agent?
    I extend my sincere thanks in advance for your valuable guidance.

  5. I have one shipment from SUB to SIN. Can we issue HBL (term: Collect) and MBL (term: Prepaid) with:
    1), Same number of HBL and MBL.
    2). Same Name of Shipper in HBL and MBL.
    3). Same Consignee in HBL and MBL.
    4). Same Notify in HB/L and MBL.
    The purpose of issuing these such unusually HBL and MBL:
    1). Consignee can clearance by using MBL.
    2). HBL only for Shipper filling.
    Please advise whether this is against the rules and against Customs rules.
    (Christina Rita)

  6. Hi Hariesh,
    I am the freight forwarder, have an FCL shipment plan from Jakarta to Tampa, FL (USA) , I use contract rate of our USA agent and also their FMC B / L. If Shipper is a FF and they also have agent in USA. Please guide us how to issue hbl to our USA agent and also how issue hbl to FF, and how to issue even to the shipping line.

    waiting for your kind advise. Thank you

  7. Hello – I need your help please. Our client needs to ship to Honduras with final destination Tegucigalpa. The route he prefers is as follows:
    Port Everglades – Puerto Cortez – San Pedro Sula – Tegucigalpa.
    Client needs to clear cargo In San Pedro Sula. He shared with me a copy of a BL he had with details below:
    Port of Loading: Port Everglades
    Port of Discharge: Puerto Cortez
    Place of Delivery: San Pedro Sula
    Final Destination: Tegucigalpa

    Does this mean on Master BL the final destination is at San Pedro Sula and on HBL it is Tegucigalpa and an agent is responsible to deliver to Tegucigalpa? If final destination on BL MBL is Tegucigalpa, that means he can only clear cargo in that city, but client needs to clear in one city and then haul container to its final destination.

    Please let me know.

    • The MBL should be consigned based on what your quotation with the shipping line is.. If the shipping line is going to do the oncarriage right upto door Tegucigalpa then their bill should show that.. If shipping line is doing only upto the last sea port before Tegucigalpa then they will not show any final destination or place of delivery.. I am not sure of the local regulations in Honduras, but generally if a container enter into a country through its main port of entry and customs cleared there, it can move anywhere else within the country..

    • Hi Hariesh – Thank you for your prompt response and clarification.
      Can final destination on MBL from shipping line be different from the House BL? In other words the booking is to point B but the NVOCC ‘s HBL is to point C. The NVOCC s agent must pick up from B to deliver to C per HBL. This last leg is charged seperately.

  8. Hello everyone,
    I am Dipu from sea blue logistics ( BD) ltd at Dhaka Bangladesh. An intenational freight forwarding agent in Bangladesh. May, I use MBL freight collect & HBL freight prepaid in one shipment ?

  9. Hello Sir,

    We have come across the case wherein MBL and HBL are exactly same with same shipper, consignee and notify party.
    We had to stop payment as we as forwarder did not receive either of these BLs and cargo is already been delivered to actual consignee. This MTO registered forwarder has sue me for stop payment and it is at this time we came across HBL which is completely same as MBL. However it is obvious the MBL was been handed to actual shipper/consignee directly basis which cargo has been cleared.
    Please advise whom we can raise complaint about this.

  10. We would like to ask you if there is a way for my client’s clearing agent to clear the shipment for them if our company name is the consignee on the the Master Bill. Can their clearing agent clear for them under HBL.

    Please advise how this can be done client’s agent can clear the shipment, but our company is on the MBL.

  11. Hai Hariesh Thanks for your reply but recently i read an article in EXIM INDIA ONLINE LINK PASTED: for your easy reference that is why I have raised this question as per MTD rules in INDIA it is clarified as :

    ( “Multimodal Transport Operator” (MTO) means any person who –
    (i) concludes a multimodal transport contract on his own behalf or through
    another person acting on his behalf;
    (ii) acts as principal and not as an agent, either of the consignor or of the
    carrier participating in the multimodal transportation, and who assumes
    responsibility for the performance of the said contract; and
    (iii) is registered under sub-section (3) of section 4 of the Act)

    Still I doubt if we sign mere ( as Agent or As Carrier ) without mention any carrier name on the HBL does it pose any legal complication

    Just to clarify ..

  12. Hello Shipping friends ; Suppose if we issue HBL ( House Bill of lading ) or FBL ( Forwarders Bill of lading) how do we given the title of signatory such as showing on the B/L As Agent , As Carrier or Authorized Signatory . Which is the correct title to sign HBL or FBL . Looking forward for your suggestion

    • Hello Ashok, when it comes to signing bill of lading there are only two options – the signatory must sign AS CARRIER or AS AGENTS FOR THE CARRIER.. There is no other title.. This applies to HBL issued by NVOCC/FF or MBL issued by shipping line.. The entity that is issuing the bill of lading (stationery) is the carrier and the entity signing the bill can be the Carrier or the Agent of the Carrier..

      Trust this helps..

  13. Dear,

    HBL description & MBL description need to be same or not ???

    Eg : HBL description : Frozen Salted Omasum
    MBL description : Beef Stomach Salted
    This Bls issued that accept or not.

  14. Hi,
    We are a US freight forwarder, we handle an FCL Export shipment from Long Beach, US to Bangkok, Thailand.
    My customer who is Exporter is an US company ( of course). But he requested Shipper on House B/L is a company which located in Hong Kong (in stead of US company). Exporter is not relative to the company in HK
    Do we have any regulation/laws against if i follow my customer’s request ?
    Thank you very much !

  15. Hello Hariesh,
    We are a shipper in US and our customer/recipient has requested Sea Waybill. We are using an NVOCC that issues a house BL. Do we only worry about the House BL being issued as a Sea Waybill, or does the underlying Master BL also have to be a Sea Waybill?

  16. Hi Sir, good day to you.

    Is the HBL description must tally with MBL?
    I am asking this because I have encountered the consignee want to change the HS Code (NCM) on the BL from 940340000 to 9401.69.
    What if the agent only change the detail on the HBL but not the MBL, what is the consequences for doing this?
    Please advise.

    • Hi Ng, YES all details on the HBL and MBL must be same except for shipper/consignee/notify.. Only these can be different.. If there are any other variances there will be issues at the time of clearance, especially with HS code..

  17. I am interested to operate a freight forwarding company in the US. I have checked on information’s thru GOOGLE. They have the system like I S F the submission of cargo details w/in 24 hours after loading like the 10+2 data ELEMENT, POA, (Power of Attorney) authority from Consignee in the absence of LCB, the securing of specific bonds for cargo guarrantee. Specific type of bonds for truckers to operate outside the state, being compliant to FMCSA & PHMSA, Registration with IATA, DOT, NCBFFAA. Federal Maritime Co. ( to issue HBL or HAWB). Pls advise anything missing. And the good service rates of a liner and airlines. Kindly advise where and how to avail these rates. Thank you very much.

  18. Good afternoon
    would appreciate your feedback on the following scenario:
    HBL is required as per L/C
    Freightforwarder A : handles only FOB for the Supplier
    Freightforwarder B : is booking Agent and contracts for the seafreight

    FF A supplies the information for FF B to complete the SI for the shippingline for the MBL details. However as the L/C requires a HBL, it was requested that FF B issues a HBL. They are now refusing saying the L/C forms part of the FOB and has nothing to do with the Seafreight, and they will therefor not issue the HBL.

    FF B who only handled the FOB for the supplier has no involvement with the Freight and is therefor stating they cannot issue the HBL.

    Please advise which FF should issue the HBL?

    • Hello Rina, this is a unique situation since usually many importers/LCs don’t encourage HBL.. Anyway, from what you have described above, as a bill of lading is issued AFTER the shipment has been loaded on board and also as it is an evidence of contract of carriage which starts from Port to Port, it should be FF B who issues this HBL.. But did the importer check if FF B is able to issue their own HBL or if they even have their own HBL before they contracted that part of the biz to FF B..??

      Not all FFs have their own HBL.. Trust this helps..

  19. Could you advise who is the shipper on the BOL, the supplier or the buyer?
    Supplier (USA) is acting as agents of buyer (USA) of the merchandise and end customer (notify) is in India.

  20. Hi,

    I have a shipment going to Sydney but cnee showing on MBL is our agent at Brisbane, kindly adv whether this is acceptable. HBL is showing actual shipper and actual cnee for both ends.

    Looking forward to hear from you.. Thanks.

  21. Dear Sir,
    Good Morning
    SBL : We usually issue Switch BL, in which the containers booked up to final destination and shipper is XX and the consignee is YY, ones we receive original BL we change the shipper name from XX to YY and we define new consignee as ZZ at final destination and reprint new BL with change of information and replace our (YY) CI, COO & Pl and usually sent to our clients (ZZ). We feel expenses involved in this is high and to keep us competitive, we prefer to do the following.

    Shipper (XX) will ship to final destination with ZZ as consignee and will mention YY as notifiying party. After getting original docs from shipper, we will only add our CI, COO & PL and will sent to our clients by which we will save re-issuance of BL cost.

    Now the question is; will the port authorities will accept this, please advise.



  22. Dear Sir,
    Good Morning
    SBL : We usually issue Switch BL, in which the containers booked up to final destination and shipper is XX and the consignee is YY, ones we receive original BL we change the shipper name from XX to YY and we define new consignee as ZZ at final destination and reprint new BL with change of information and replace our (YY) CI, COO & Pl and usually sent to our clients (ZZ). We feel expenses involved in this is high and to keep us competitive, we prefer to do the following.

    Shipper (XX) will ship to final destination with ZZ as consignee and will mention YY as notifiying party. After getting original docs from shipper, we will only add our CI, COO & PL and will sent to our clients by which we will save re-issuance of BL cost.

    Now the question is; will the port authorities will accept this, please advise.



  23. Hi Dear Hariesh

    as I found from our clients, HBL is not acceptable for Iranian Banks. and Bank asks MBL or FBL from Cnee.
    is it normal to issue FBL for cargo that shipped by sea?
    why HBL not acceptable in L/C payment?

  24. hi we had done shipment to USA using FMC hbl, now issue is our agent had released cargo to the Consignee without presentatiuon of orignal HBL ,and when we were chasing with our agent they clearly informed us if mbl is telex released then we dont have any right to hold the shipment , so what is the use of releasing FMC hbl to shipper .We just need to know whether we can take legal action against consignee in USA .

    • If shipper request freight forwarder to issue original HBL, and received original HBL from forwarder, then agent at destination must receive original HBL with endorsement on the back from consignee.
      The reason for issuing original HBL is for shipper’s protection. Shipper wouldn’t release original HBL to consignee until payment collected. If agent release cargo without collecting original HBL from consignee, they would be responsible for payment of cargo.

  25. Hi,

    I would like to know the requirements that need to be met by a freight forwarder to issue HBL or to have HBL stationary. Does he need to register with some agencies to have HBL stationary?


    B. Abraham

  26. Hi Hariesh, could you pls confirm if the HB/L needs to be FMC approved like the case in North America while issuing.

    kind regards
    Sharan Pinto

  27. Hello Sir,
    After realizing that destination details are incorrect we have been forced to amend the status of the BL. However there are two shippers. One in the MBL and another in the HBL which shipper is supposed to write to the shipping company to instruct correction of the destination ?

  28. Hi
    I have to ship two consignements, the shipper is the same, but there is two importers, in the same container.
    The two importers are paying the exporter but “payment against documents” so there is no LC.
    What is the best way to do this please? as the maritime shipping company ( MSC ) do not issue 2 BL for one container.

    Thank you

    • Hi
      Thank you for your reply.
      What i mean is how to do the house BL and master BL.
      The shipping line does not do a master BL for each importer, they only do one per container.
      so i think the house BL gets involved here but i’m not sure how.

    • Hi
      Since there is no LC, on the HBL the notify will be same as consignee, correct?
      But what about MBL, what to put in Notify?
      Also, isn’t necessary to do 2 MBL? Showing the 2 notify on each one?

      Thanks again

    • Thanks again.
      If it’s not necessary to do 2 MBL, on the 1 MBL do we indicate the total weight and total packages of both house BL?

    • Hi again
      So basically we have exporter A, importer B ( 7 palets, 4000kg ) and importer C ( 5 palets, 3000kg ), all in one container.
      importer B and importer C pay exporter A by “payment against documents”.
      We do 2 HBL,
      1 HBL = shipper A, consignee B, notify B, 7 palets, 4000kg
      1 HBL = shipper A, consignee C, notify C, 5 palets, 3000kg.
      in the goods origin, there will be freight forwarder X, and in the receiving country freight forwarder Y.
      So on the 1 MBL, we put shipper X, consignee Y, notify Y.
      On the 1 MBL = 12 palets, 7000kg.

      is this all correct ?

      Please confirm, thank you

  29. Hello, we are a shipper (exporter) in France, we have a cargo needed to send to Haiphong port; Now our Customer ask us to issue MBL & HBL with different consignee/notify details. Our foward told us that they can not issue HBL, but only MBL. it is correct?? Can we ask the shipping company to issue 1 MBL & 1 HBL with different details??

    what is the clearance procedure at the port of discharge for a MBL and a HBL??

    If the consignee abandon the container, which one is better for the protection of exporter?

    Thank you.

  30. Hi, I’m working ff, we have an import consignment to India and MBL was filed by liner and by that we have not informed to carrier that hbl to be at your side. Now the shipment is under HSS. how do I resolve if hbl is not manifested by liner. What are the steps to be taken in this? Pls suggest your valuable anwser

    • @Krishina, the Freight forwarders handling inbound shipments are usually required to submit electronic house bills of lading prior to the arrival of cargo in the destination country.

  31. I am an NVO in the USA and have been asked by an agent in Bangladesh for my companies FMC bonded HB/L to be mailed to their office. I am unsure exactly why this is needed as they are an NVO as well. Another agent in china has also asked for our HB/L to be mailed to their office. This is not particular to any shipment they just want it for future use. Can you explain why that would be needed?

    • Hello Nick, if the agent in Bangladesh is also an NVO registered with FMC then there is no need for them to use your bill of lading, they can also use their own bill.. The main reason some agents ask for your HBL maybe if the biz has been generated by you then they feel its better to use your HBL using your insurance and liability covers than their own.. Unless there is a real trust in counterpart agents and there is a lot of regular business dealings with them, one should be careful in sending blank HBLs as they could be mis used..

  32. Hi iam raffi i have small doubt

    Ref port : Dammam port, Saudi Arabia

    We are NVOCC operator
    I have done an shipment from chennai, india to Dammam, saudi

    I have issued HBL to shipper as actual (shipper,consignee,notify)
    and in MBL i have updated shipper as us and consignee and notify as our counter part agent.
    Kindly confirm is this correct procedure for dammam port

    Or i have update MBL shipper as us and consignee as actual consignee and notify us our counter part agent

  33. Dear Harriesh,
    I work in a FF company , pls advise if it is OK to issue Original HB/L consigned to actual cgnee and Master SEA WAY BILL consigned again to actual cgnee ? Fyi, our client does not want our local destination agent to interfere….
    Furthermore, in the past we used to issue ORIGINAL MB/L consigned to direct cgnee ,send Originals to shipper and then shipper send docs to cgnee bank, but since transit time of shpt is only 4-5 days, many times , due to human factor delays , shpt was arriving before the B/L and rest documentation …and demmurages occured..

    So I was wondering, if cgnee could use our Original HB/L for his bank and the actual Master SWB to receive the shpt…

  34. Dear Hariesh
    I am a customer for personal effects (family relocation) and naturally am using a NVOCC/FF to organise a sea freight from the UK to Brazil. I’ve previously done LCL and cleared the customs myself but that was a good while back and this time is a FCL, which has different procedures.
    I’ve been in touch with my NVOCC/FF but must confess am still a bit confused as to how the paperwork should be properly organised as again I am planning to clear customs myself and only use an clearing agent as a last resource.
    My question is with regards to the HBL and MBL details. I know most people here are talking about generic exports, including commercial stuff and are NVOCC/FFs, but from I understood for personal effects I would be both the shipper and the consignee/notify for the purpose of HBL? As for MBL, what would be the accurate details (FYI, the shipping line would be either Hapag or MSC) ?

    This is important piece of information for us because we’ve got mixed details from others, whereby some clearing agents in Brazil keep telling us that the BLs must be consigned to the owner of the goods, otherwise it will be difficult to clear customs and in Brazil they tend to be very red tape. Does this vary according to the shipping line and in the event that the MBL must only be consigned to an agent, does this mean that only them could deal with the customs clearance even though this is personal effects?

    Sorry, I am a beginner and still trying to do my homework before embarking to unchartered territory.

    Any useful advice will be most welcome.

    Many thanks

    • Hi Fabio, in Brazil they require original bills of lading and they don’t accept seaway bills.. As far as I know you cannot do clearance on your own without a customs clearance agent.. But in terms of bill of lading, you don’t really require MBL and HBL.. You can make the booking directly with the shipping line and take only MBL if you are confident that you can handle all the activities of shipping yourself.. Even if you use a forwarder you can still insist on an MBL with you and your address in UK as the shipper and you and your address in Brazil as the consignee..

  35. What happens if you’re an NVOCC with HBL but your customer (shipper) does not want you to consign to your agent office overseas, but directly to their consignee? In this case, the HBL and MBL would be consigned the same, and as you stated above that is an issue. But you also can’t just use MBL because as the NVOCC you are listed as the shipper on the MBL and the consignee is expecting the shipper to be your customer…

    • Hi Ryan, you cannot have that situation.. The shipper and consignee must come to terms on the documentation requirements and release the suitable bill of lading.. You cannot have two original bills consigned to the same consignee..

  36. Can you tell me why there would be two different B/Ls? We are shipping personal belongings and we received the B/L from the shipper with the correct destination, Debrecen Hungary. But the freight forwarder sent a B/L with the destination listed as Bremerhaven and the phrase “GOODS IN TRANSIT TO DEBRECEN, HUNGARY ON THE CONSIGNEE’S RISK AND EXPENSE”. Why is there two B/L? Which is the correct one?

    • Hi Karen, that would be because the shipping line is only contracted upto Bremerhaven which is the gateway port of discharge.. From Bremerhaven to Debrecen will be done by the freight forwarder.. So the MBL will be upto Bremerhaven and the forwarders HBL will be upto Debrecen..

  37. Hello, we are a newly licensed NVOCC in the USA. I am very familiar with the import process but not so much on the export process. If I issue a HBL on a shipment, am I required to have it filed somewhere? I know on the import side it must be filed in the AMS. Is AMS filed on the export side? Also, who must we provide the Bill of Lading to? I trust this would depend upon the shipping terms? If under FOB, with MBL and HBL we should provide the HBL to the destination Agent who hired us to arrange the exportation? Appreciate any guidance. Thank you,

  38. Hi.. I am new to this industry and to all compliances, for the first time I imported 10 MT of polymer from China, the destination port is Mumbai and discharge port was Tianjin port , it was suppose to be LCL, as per the invoice i issued LC from my bank of 95% of Invoice and 5% advance, the shipper informed me that the consignment had shipped on 26th Oct and the documents of shipping including BL, certification of origin and rest has been couriered by Bank, after few days my bank receives documents and hence the payment was transfered to the shipper acount.

    The problem starts when I give these set of documents to custom agent to file bill of entries, I understand for the first time that I have received HBL and not MBL, my agent said to track the cargo we need to know who is freight forwarder and their counterparts in India, now the problem is my shipper/supplier from that day is not answering my call and no reply to emails, the last message from them was that the BL is a house BL so I need to sort it from my end.

    On HBL the shipping line name is OOCL but the OOCL staff says that since its not a master BL they can’t track it they need the freight forwarder Name.

    I would really appreciate if someone can give me suggestion about how to track my cargo and get it cleared.

    • you have container number? usually be it both HBL or MBL, it should be there.. you can use it to track your cargo via the OOCL website and track via container number.

  39. Hi , we have shipment bound to Iraq under LC with condition that I will get paid % Base on endosement of HBL or Multimodal BL or CMR confirming that goods have entered Iraq border. The endorsment will Base on client’s representative at border receiving the DO confirming that the goods have entered country. The ? In this context is it permitered (as per international trade compliance rules) for us to issue MBL under the dircet consignee in order to get the DO release and obtained endorsement and 2nd is it possible to process customs clerance base on 2nd set of shipping documents to avoid delay in getting the shipment cleared avoiding extra cost. Shipment would under duty exemption. Thanks

  40. Hi,

    If I’m the shipper and I sell my products via an agent but I ship the goods directly to their customer. How does the BL works? Do I ask FF to provide MBL (agent to customer) and HBL (shipper to customer)? I’m not quite sure on the MBL and HBL functions.

    • If you ship FCL (full container load), you get your fwder to give you MBL.
      LCL (Lesser than Container Load), you can only get HBL issued by your forwarder.

      The process is>
      CARRIER (aka the shipping line) will only recognise their own document, which is the Master Bill of Lading (MBL). So Carrier “sell”(outsourced the troublesome workload) their vessel’s space to NVOCC or Freight forwarders for them.
      So Freight Forwarders who sell the space will issue House BL (under their name) to their customers.
      Generally, if you are shipping 1 FCL load of cargo, make sure your forwarder give you MBL. because there are some idiot forwarders who will combine their various customer’s orders from same port of loading to the same port discharge under 1 MBL.. so if Carrier decides to offload containers due to overweight, or customs want to inspect particular MBL… the WHOLE set of HBL under this MBL will be affected.
      Why are forwarders doing this? Because Carrier charges them only 1 MBL charge. But to split it into muliple HBL, they will charge the BL charges to their customers. At the same time, this process do not reduce risk but increases the risk of delay due to potential Carrier unloading of containers and customs inspections… and subsequent costs incurred due to these activities… Also, at port of discharge, the EXCHANGE DO charges is also re-charge again.. because there’s only 1 MBL charge here.. but forwarders can charge multiple EXCHANGE DO for their HBL…. so that’s very very good money to forwarders.

      For LCL, too bad…

  41. HI,
    in regards to SOLAS it was said that “the shipper” is responsible to obtain and transmitt the VGM to the carrier. However, who is the shipper? The one mentioned on the MBL (i.e. the freight forwarder) or the shipper on the HBL (actuall shipper, exporter)?

    • Shipper on the bill of lading issued by the Carrier because that is the only info the Carrier has.. Carrier doesn’t know or care who the cargo belongs to or who is the actual shipper.. The person shown on their bill of lading as the shipper will be responsible for the VGM..

    • Generally, shipper is the one who needs the cargo to be delivered. Usually, shipper is the owner of the cargo. But can also be an outsourced partner.

      SOLAS require responsibility from the Cargo OWNER or the cargo OWNER’s appointed Partner/Provider so if there’s any issues, it will be placed on them instead of anyone else.

  42. Under a letter of credit requiring a full set bill of lading …..issued by XXX we received 2 full sets of bills of lading as described above:
    one set House Bill of Lading issued by XXX (a freight forwarding Company) and a 2nd set of Master bill of lading (for the same cargo) issued by the Shipping Company.

  43. Hi Hariesh,

    Thank you for maintaining an open forum for Logistics related enquiries. My question is , for a start up Freight forwarding company , all the shipments dispatched the actual shipper will be the client of the FF company. I would like to know what Is the actual registration required to make the shipper same as the FF company instead of the our client company on the MBL. We are planning to pitch into LCL business, for this do we need to do NVOCC registration, OFAC and Marine. Could you pls advise. I am sorry if I am a bit confusing , but I don’t know how o put forward my question in a better way.

  44. Hi so how is the MBL and the HBL handled at the port of discharge. Kind run me through the procedure of attaining the delivery order from the shippingline.

  45. this article is really helpful to understand the difference between the two i.e. MBL & HBL. but, what if the consignment is unloaded on the Port of Discharge, and the similar container is required to move onward. Then who would be responsible if the container is lost, freight forwarder or shipping.

    • Hello Arsalan, the responsibility of pre and on-carriage will depend on how the bill of lading has been issued.. Depending on whether the bill of lading issued is a Port to Port Bill of Lading or a Combined Transport Bill of Lading the responsibility will vary..

  46. hi..i have a serious problem, i received the 3 HBL originals and 3 HBL copies directly from a supplier (customer) not from FF, un fortunately we lost 3 original HBL but we got MBL from our supplier (customer) and we cleared that shipment, after some time FF asked from us to give those 3 original HBl which we lost.. FF is asking us for bank guarantee and as this shipment was not LC how we would provide them bank guarantee we are too much confused because FF is mailing us again and again and we want to solve this issue ASAP.

    • Hello Mohsin, the FF is concerned because in this transaction they have been cut off because the shipping line released cargo directly to you based on the MBL which should have actually gone to the FF.. Since cargo has already been released, FF cannot ask for bank guarantee.. Maybe either the shipper or consignee owes the FF freight or other charges and hence they are trying to recover that money..

    • Hello Josee, that would depend on the company you are dealing with.. Some of the best NVOCCs in the world have their own software which they may allow their customers to use, but otherwise it is all done manually..

  47. I have a query as to whether we can call for house bills of lading or house airway bills under an LC. Do they fulfill the same role of a bill of lading or airway bill?

    • Hello Varun, as mentioned in the last para of this article “Unless disallowed by the L/C, the HBL is also used/treated as a negotiable document and can be considered to fulfill the roles of a bill of lading..”

  48. I have lost my original bill of lading and I have requested to my supplier to ask to the carrier to release the ne one at destination, but my supplier says that I have to pay $1,000.00 to exonerate if reponsabilities to the carrier. IS IT CORRECT. Am I obbligated to pay this $1000.00?

  49. Hi I have questions about Master Bill of Lading. After clearing customs, which parties will have the three Original copies of M B/L? Is it possible for the actual shipper to collect these three copies of M B/L if the actual shipper needs to fix gross weight on the Master B/L and House B/L? Thank you for your answers!

  50. Hi… I have one import cargo from USA to UAE. Now I have given the instruction for House Bill of Lading with shipper as actual shipper, same with the consignee and notify party is the one who will do the export clearance. Now, counterpart agent in USA is asking for MBL instruction. I advice to put shipper (actual), consignee (shipping line agent) and notify party same on the HBL. But I am confused, who will provide the shipping line agent details? Me or the agent in USA because obviously I dont have any idea regarding the shipping line agent..

    Second is, can I consign the MBL to the third party who will collect the DO and do the export formalities? What would be the difference then? Which one will be the easy way to collect the DO from shipping line? DO charges upon collection may differ based on the consignee details on MBL??

    Please do enlighten me.. Awaiting for your kind reply! 🙂

    • Hello Louchie, general rule for HBL/MBL shipper/consignee/notify details is

      On MBL

      Shipper = Your agent in USA
      Consignee = Your details in UAE
      Notify = Your details in UAE
      Release Agent at destination = Actual shipping lines agent (example : MSC’s agent in UAE)

      On HBL

      Shipper = Actual shipper of the cargo
      Consignee = Actual importer of the cargo
      Notify = Actual importer or their clearing agent
      Release Agent at destination = Your company, so you can collect your charges and send release to the MBL agent for final release..

      Trust this assists..

  51. I have serious questions about the legal relationship between the Carrier (Liner), MBL holder (Master Bill of Lading ) , HBL Holder (House Bill of Lading holder issued by MBL holder), and ultimate consignee as seen on HBL. I am the consignee of HBL and face the practical problem in India, where Forwarder in United States or China collude with the Destination Agent in India to extract exorbitant charges towards DO oir Delivery Order charges.

    I arranged for a shipment from China and issued a MBL to their Shipping Agent mentioning destination agent as consignee. In HBL issued by the forwarder, the ultimate consignee was us. However, destination agent was same as in MBL. The Destination Agent billed heavily towards Destination DO charges, claiming Rs 41,000 ($700) for a small LCL Shipment of just 4 cbm/260 kgs which was just 4% of full FCL by volume or 1% by weight. The CIF Value of the machine was $ 1,137 (Rs 66,600) . In short, the Destination Agent billed almost 61% of CIF Value as their charges just to issue Delivery Order.

    Now, when Destination Agent does not issue DO, we can not present the shipment to customs, and we go on incurring Demurrage charges. Since we are the True, Legal and rightful owner of the Shipment, the Liner (Carrier) is legally required to deliver the cargo/property to the True and Rightful owner, that is, we as consignee.

    The Carrier contends that they have no direct relationship with the Consignee as per HBL and they owe the liability only to MBL Consignee (who is not legal owner of the cargo or goods because it was bought by us against payment). We want to claim the cargo from the Carrier whose agent the MBL holder issued the HBL. The actions of the agents are binding on the Principal (Carrier) and in fact, the forwarder has issued the HBL as Agent for the Carrier.

    The normal charges are about $125 or about against which the Destination Agent is charging us $700. They may claim even $1 Millions which we are not supposed to pay.

    We have claimed the Cargo from the carrier under HBL issued by the Forwarder as Agent for the Carrier. So far, there is no reply. Our goods are incurring the demurrages. we are prepared to pay normal charges to the carrier as per their normal scale. If the Carrier does not oblige us, we want to Sue the Carrier for “Default on Delivery under Freight Prepaid Bill of Lading” and inform all shipping companies around the world to bring moral pressure. We can not allow ourselves to be blackmailed, and cheated by the Destination Agent.

    Are there any innovative thoughts to claim our goods under Freight Prepaid Bill of Lading without becoming victim of blackmail of the destination agent?

    • Dear Mr. Sunil. right now we are facing the same issue with one of the freight forwarder in china and they are black mailing us as well. shipment is from china to Nhava Sheva india. please share how you got over this problem. your kind reply will be extremely appreciated. please note my contact details. :; cell: +92-323-8483043.

    • HI

      Hope you have sorted our above mentioned issue.

      For future LCL shipments you should check the Destination charges from Origin before you book the shipment.
      If you negotiate the charges from Origin then you will not be charged higher at destination.

      In this case you can only request/put pressure on your supplier to sort it out from Origin, to reduce the destination charges.
      Supplier can negotiate with origin agent & origin agent will sent instruction to destination agent to reduce the charges.

  52. Hi Bill, it seems from your msg, you dont know the supplier or have confidence in them.. In such cases, it is ALWAYS advisable to go the Letter of Credit route so you know that your payment is secure and there is less chance of fraud.. However, since you have already undertaken the journey, here is my suggestion :

    1) Insist on the Shipping lines bill of lading consigned directly to you
    2) If you are able to change the payment terms then pls arrange for the Master Bill to be issued first (but unlikely the first time supplier will agree to this – they also need their security)

  53. Hello all
    I have a shipping and forwarding license operating in UAE
    Is there any specific requirement for issuing a house bill of lading for lcl and fcl shipments

  54. There are 3 types of bills of lading: Ocean or Regular bill which is the PPI (principal party of Interest) or cargo shipper directly to the Ocean carrier (vessel). No NVOCC is involved. then there is Master bill which is issued by the steamship line to an NVOCC, and a House Bill which is issued by the NVOCC to the actual PPI or cargo shipper. If there is a Master bill there should always be a House bill. If there is an Ocean bill or Regular bill, no House bill is expected.

    • So basically any freight forwarder can issue their own HBL without any rules and regulations set by government or other government agencies?

  55. Dear sir, pl tell who issues delivery order “overseas counterpart of the freight forwarder or overseas counterpart of the carrier. from Priyankara

  56. hi ,again .Mr. Hariesh I was reading about the types of master bill of lading(which is issued by shipping lines ) and came to the conclusion that they are 5 types :
    1-org. bill of lading
    2-express bill of lading
    3-seaway bill of lading
    4-way bill of lading
    5-draft bill of lading

    Am I wright with this ?
    plz answer soon.

  57. hi ,thanks for the info . I work in a freight forward company and I have a question :
    you say that hbl & mbl differ in the shipper , consignee and notify but I saw hbls and mbls for the same shipment that have the same shipper,the same consignee and the same notify party .can you please clarify this ?
    thank you very much

  58. Hi, I am a student interested in this field. I have questions : looking from the exporter perspective, when a forwarder service is involved,

    1. The BL number on the invoice sent from forwarder to exporter, must include the BL number as stated in HBL or MBL?
    2. If the BL number used is as in MBL, can the exporter get the original MBL from the shipper?
    3. May exporter get it from the forwarder or must acquire it themselves from the shipper?

    Many thanks!

  59. First of all thanks for your knowledge . Sir I need to know on b/l is anywhere mention HBL or MBL ? or we just check details of shipper , fright forwarder , customer etc.

  60. Hi Hariesh, Thanks … The explanations to the queries raised by readers are given in clear & precise terms. I found your blog site very useful, keep the good work going.

  61. Sir , i have master bill of lading n there is exporter name mention on b/l in shipper column then according to you it would be HBL because as per you advice HBL shows actual shipper name Please clarify this

    • Hi Ganga, whether it is a House Bill or Master Bill, if it is a negotiable bill, it bears the same value and importance.. In cases where there is a HBL and and MBL, usually the HBL will be the negotiable document..

      HBL can show consignee name as TO ORDER and will be accepted by banks as part of the negotiating documents..

      There maybe cases however, where LC’s might insist on the shipping lines direct ocean bill of lading rather than a house bill of lading..

  62. Hi! Just want to know if there will be problem in releasing if in my Liner BL I will mention the destination agent (X) as Consignee and the real consignee (Y) as my Notify Party?! All other shipping documents will be named to Real Consignee (Y).

    • Hi Grace, if bill of lading is consigned to a named consignee (straight bill of lading), it can be transferred to anyone else by way of an endorsement from consignee on the bill of lading – say from X to Y.. This can be done ONLY BY THE NAMED CONSIGNEE ON THE BILL OF LADING..

    • Hi Leslie, Through Bill of lading refers to the way in which the cargo will be delivered and will include various receipt and delivery points.. A Straight Bill refers to a bill of lading where the consignee is a DIRECT consignee (a company or individual) and this bill is a Non-negotiable bill.. Basically only the person who has been nominated on the bill of lading as consignee can take delivery of the cargo after proving identity, whether company or personal..

    • Hi Leslie, straight bill of lading refers to the terms of who the cargo must be delivered to.. Basically cargo is shipped by X to consignee Y.. So only consignee Y has the right to transfer it to someone else if they so wish..

      Through bill of lading refers to the terms how the cargo must be delivered to – say for example it is moved from Port Louis to Durban by a feeder vessel and from Durban to Antwerp by mainline vessel and then Antwerp to Oslo by feeder vessel.. There will be 1 document issued showing Pre-carriage from Port Louis and On-carriage to Oslo..

      Through bill can be consigned to a named consignee as well which will make it a straight bill of lading..

  63. I have misplace original OBL (full set-export ) and i have notified the carrier of the same. what are consequences and what i am suppose to do as the forwarder

  64. Hey! I have a tricky question. If I received from my freight forwarder house bill of lading, and then my forwarder contracted the other freight forwarder (let’s say forwarder Nr. 2) and received from him master bill of lading. Am I in cotract terms with forwaerder Nr.2?

  65. Can anyone tell me if I have to submit the original Bill of Lading to US customs? I have brokers in Baltimore to do this for me but they aren’t being really helpful. I have a scanned copy from the shipper. I am getting a full container shipped from Pakistan to Baltimore (US). The container went from Karachi (Pakistan ) to Oman on a vessel number X. From Oman to Baltimore the vessel number changed. Should I expect a new BL since the vessel number changed? I only have the BL that was issued in Karachi and has the original Vessel number on it.

    • Hi Suhail, the Original Bill of Lading is to be surrendered to the Shipping line that issued it.. Transhipment is a normal process that takes place with most cargoes, therefore a bill of lading with the first vsl name on it is fine.. When the shipping line files the manifest with customs, they will file under the actual discharging vessel..

    • Hariesh,

      Thanks for the reply. I also got this from my broker “We received a copy of a non-negotiable bill of lading from you already which usually means that a original bill of lading is not needed by the shipping line”. I think that means that I do not need to provide them the original document. I appreciate your response.

    • Suhail, if you have taken an original bill of lading, you must have taken it for a reason.. Either to fulfill an L/C requirement or pass onto your buyer as a proof of shipment so you can get paid.. If an original bill of lading was issued, it needs to be surrendered to the shipping line either at origin or destination in order for them to release the cargo to you or your consignee.. Receiving the copy of a Non-Negotiable bill doesn’t mean that an original bill of lading is NOT required.. Maybe your broker is talking about a Seaway Bill or Express Bill.. If you wish you can scan the bill of lading to my email id and i can check and advise you..

  66. can the NVOCC BL be considered as a “carrier” BL when their own container is used but on another carrier where there is slot arrangement

  67. hi, Sometimes a big forwarder gets a better rates according to his big work volume how can another forwarder use his rates without the customer knows does HBL and MBL do the job here?? thanks

  68. Thank you for valuable information. As far as Ocean Freight Charges are concerned, I need the explanations and differences between following:

    1. Master Collect and House Collect
    2. Master Collect and House Prepaid
    3. Master Prepaid and House Prepaid
    4. Master Prepaid and House Collect

  69. I am not familiar with all this matter but now I have to deal with it. I have received MBL with ” Verify Copy ” written on it and I giveit to the consignee but they ask for MBL without ” Verify Copy “. Please advise what is the different ?

    • Hi Indah, Verify Copy is the copy of the bill of lading that the shipping line sends to the shipper/or their agent to confirm and verify that all the details on the bill of lading are correct and final before the issue the ORIGINAL BILL OF LADING.. Once this bill is verified as correct and final by the shipper/or their agent and if there are any charges, there will be manifest correctors..

      Your consignee is asking for MBL without Verify Copy means he is asking for the ORIGINAL BILL OF LADING.. He cannot get release of the cargo without the original bill of lading.

      Trust same is clear..

    • Hi Talita, definitely not.. The HBL has to be an exact replica of the MBL except for any changes in Shipper, Consignee and Notify details.. Other than that, in the interest of the NVOCC or Forwarder issuing the HBL, they better make sure that the HBL/MBL are the same..

  70. Some thing that you should notice here is which hold responsibility in term of payment..for example, by Letter of credit card,payment in advance,document against payment..or telegraphic complicated something goes…

  71. Q1// What is the difference between Release bill of Lading, Telex Release bill, Surrendered bill and SeaWay bill ? Please explain separately with examples.

    Q2// Why and When does the BL is Released ? Actually When does it require to release the bl ? Is it a matter of payment term? Is there any bank involvement?

    Why and When does the BL is surrendered ? Actually When does it require to surrender the bl ? Is it a matter of payment term? Is there any bank involvement?

    Q3// Who take the decision that the BL should be Released or Surrendered or Telex Released or Sea way bill? Supplier or Consignee or Freight Forwarder or the Shipping Line?

    Susmita Golam


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