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HomeBill of LadingDifference between Ocean, Sea Waybill and Memo Bill of Lading

Difference between Ocean, Sea Waybill and Memo Bill of Lading

Are there any differences between these types of bills of lading..??


types of bill of lading - shipping and freight resource

A Bill of Lading has 3 basic purposes or roles

  1. Evidence of Contract of Carriage
  2. Receipt of Goods and
  3. Document of Title to the goods


There are also different types of bill of lading all of which perform 1 or 2 or 3 of the above roles..


Ocean Bill of Lading : is a bill of lading issued by the shipping line/carrier to their customer after the payment of all charges and submission of all customs/port documents relevant to that country..

An Ocean Bill of Lading is a Negotiable document which serves also as an Evidence of Contract of CarriageReceipt of Goods and Document of Title..

Usually issued as 3 originals (signed and stamped and negotiable) + 6 non-negotiable copies..

Using an Ocean Bill of Lading, shipper has the option to consign the shipment to either

  • To a direct customer (in this case the bill of lading becomes a Straight Bill of Lading and is no longer Negotiable although it still retains the other two characteristics of a Receipt of Goods and Evidence of Contract of Carriage)
  • To Order of a customer
  • To Order of a Bank
  • To Order of Shipper (To Order)

This bill of lading when  consigned to either of the last three mentioned parties, allows the goods to be endorsed to another party in case the original buyer decides to resell the cargo..

If it is a Straight Bill of Lading, cargo can be delivered to the nominated consignee but ONLY after the bill of lading is presented to the discharge port agents..


Sea Waybill of Lading : is a bill of lading issued by the shipping line to their customer after the payment of all charges and submission of all customs/port documents relevant to that country..

A Sea Waybill of Lading is NOT a Negotiable document as there is NO ORIGINAL ISSUED.. It is also NOT a Document of Title..

A Sea Waybill of Lading serves as an Evidence of Contract of Carriage and Receipt of Goods.. This document is more relevant for non-commercial transactions, inter company sale or where there is no involvement of any documentary credits..

A Sea Waybill of Lading CANNOT BE CONSIGNED TO ORDER of someone else.. It has to be consigned to a direct customer only.. Delivery of cargo covered under a Sea Waybill of Lading can be made ONLY to the consignee on the bill of lading or his authorised representative..

A Consignee thus properly identified, is not required to present any transport document at the port of discharge..

A Sea Waybill of Lading is usually issued :

  • when the shipper and consignee are part of the same business group and there are no negotiations required between the two either directly or via bank for release of the cargo
  • the shipment doesn’t involve any bank and the shipper doesn’t really need to submit original bill of lading to secure his payment
  • when the shipper doesn’t have the time to print the original bills and courier the same to the consignee
  • the shipper is a freight forwarder and he wants to issue a house bill of lading to his customers

When the cargo covered under a Sea Waybill is released, the release maybe termed as Express Release..


Memo Bill of Lading : Short for Memorandum bill of lading, it is basically a non-negotiable, non-transferable, unfreighted bill of lading that is only used as a receipt of goods and DOES NOT classify as a Document of Title..


Trust this assists in clarifying the difference between Ocean Bill of Lading, Sea Waybill of Lading, Memo Bill of Lading..


  1. Can the customer demand to be listed as “the shipper” on the SWB? (even though incoterms are CIF). Will they then become liable for the container during transport? We have this strange request from one of our customers.. Thanks to clarify

  2. Dear Mr Hariesh

    i still misunderstanding the memo bill of lading , is it similar to seaway bill

    what do u mean with unfreighted bill of lading ? that is mean that client doesn’t pay the freight to shipping line



    • Assume 1 BILL of LADING having 4 containers and 1 container is unavailable during loading on respective vessel due to non-clearance of the container or missed container in terminal. In this case all 3 containers loaded on nominated vessel but not that 4th container. Then to load that 4th container on next available vessel Memo bill ( to show proof that container is loading on vessel ) is generated which shows all details of current vessel with information of actual bill of lading i.e. shipper/consignee, loading/discharge port etc. except the freight details as its already shown on actual bill of lading. It’s also mentioned on memo B/L that container delivered upon showing actual bill of lading at discharge port.

  3. Thanks for the article. As a buyer, We differentiate between Ocean Bill of Lading and Seaway Bill of Lading as Original B/L and Express B/L respectively. It is good to know the trade names. I landed on this article through your recent article on impact of type of B/L on insurance.

  4. i think this is a very useful information and it was delivered in a simple manner plus very easy to understand. Appreciates the effort.

  5. hello! this is very helpful blog. I am new here thank u very much for all the information. I ll ask u many question later 🙂

    • to order only in this case b/l free to sold any company but to the order of (like bank ) in this case the bank must be endorsement to new company

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