Saturday, June 22, 2024
shipping and freight resource services
HomeBill of LadingHow many original bills of lading must I surrender to get release...

How many original bills of lading must I surrender to get release of cargo..??

  • The bill of lading is one of the most important documents in shipping
  • There are various types of bills of lading issued to the customer
  • An original bill of lading is an important document for the release of cargo

This question popped up on my comments and emails quite a few times since the beginning of this year and therefore I decided to write this short note to answer it..

Before I get to the answer to the above question, let me refresh your memory as to what is a bill of lading and what are the functions of a bill of lading..

Bill of Lading (abbreviated to B/L or BL) is one of the MOST important documents in the whole shipping and freight chain..

how many originals to surrender for release

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

The answer to the above question lies in identifying :-

  1. What type of bill of lading was issued..??
  2. How many originals were issued..??

When I say type of bill of lading I refer to a bill of lading being issued as a

  • Straight Bill of Lading or
  • Sea Waybill of Lading or
  • Negotiable Bill of Lading

There is a big difference between these 3 types of bills of lading and it is therefore important to identify the type of bill of lading issued and understand how each of it works before understanding how many original bills of lading are required for release of cargo..

1) When a B/L is issued in Original(s) to a “named” consignee it is referred to as a “Straight B/L” and a straight B/L is a NON-NEGOTIABLE & NON-TRANSFERABLE DOCUMENT..

Release of cargo at destination may be issued ONLY to the named consignee and ONLY upon surrender of at least 1 of the original bills issued..

This B/L satisfies roles 1 & 2 above fully and does not satisfy role 3 (Document of Title) as the document is not negotiable or transferable..


2) When a B/L is issued to a “named” consignee but without any originals it maybe considered as a “Sea Waybill“.. This B/L is also a NON-NEGOTIABLE & NON-TRANSFERABLE DOCUMENT..

A Sea Waybill is usually issued

  1. for inter company shipments like from ACME Company Hollywood to ACME Company in the Middle of the Australian Outback or
  2. where the shipment takes place between two different companies but there are no negotiations required between the two either directly or via bank for release of the cargo and
  3. the shipper doesn’t need to submit an original B/L to anyone to secure his payment

Since no originals are issued in the case of a Sea Waybill no surrender is required and the release may also be termed as an Express Release and is mentioned as such on the body of the B/L and manifest..

This B/L satisfies roles 1 & 2 above and does not satisfy role 3 (Document of Title) as the document is not negotiable or transferable..


3) When a B/L issued is in Original(s) and consigned “TO ORDER” or “TO ORDER OF SHIPPER” or “TO ORDER OF XYZ BANK” it is termed as “Negotiable B/L or Order Bill“..

What is a bill of ladingOne of the most important aspects of a B/L is that it can be used as a negotiable instrument for payments between a buyer and seller using Letter of Credits.. You can read how a Letter of Credit works here..

A negotiable B/L must be treated like gold and due care must be taken not to lose it.. There are several cumbersome procedures to be followed if an original B/L is lost..

Another notable feature of this type of B/L is that it contains the Terms and Conditions of the Carrier on the 1st Page of the B/L..

The 1st page is what we all commonly refer to as the “back of the B/L”..

Sea Waybills issued by some carriers do not have these Terms and Conditions on the back (also known as “blank back short form B/L“)..

Destination port agent may issue release of cargo only after at least 1 of the issued originals are surrendered and after checking the endorsements on the back of the B/L as it is possible for this type of B/L to be endorsed or transferred to another company.. This B/L satisfies all of the above 3 roles..

Read the permutation and combination regarding the consignee..

Ok now to the question “How many original bills of lading must I surrender to get release of cargo..??


There are only two types of bills of lading that involve the issuance of original bills and they are Straight Bill of Lading and Negotiable Bill of Lading..

In either case, the ruling is the same as shown below in the screen grab of a Hapag Lloyd bill of lading..

This shows how many bills of lading are required for the release of a cargo (wherein a Negotiable Bill of Lading or Straight Bill of Lading has been issued)..

original bill of lading and release of cargo

If you look at the highlighted parts, you can see that release of cargo (delivery order) can be granted to the authorised consignee after presentation of 1 of the number of original bills of lading issued..

But there are also cases wherein the shipping line might require the surrender of all the issued originals, specially in cases where they maybe making some exceptions on the endorsements required on the bill of lading..

Standard number of original bills of lading issued seems to be 3 Originals, so assuming 3 originals have been issued, upon surrender of one of the duly endorsed original bill of lading, the other 2 becomes null and void..

If you want to know which original has been surrendered, most of the lines have a stamp that says FIRST ORIGINAL, SECOND ORIGINAL, THIRD ORIGINAL.. The numbers don’t have a hierarchy and is just for the sake of identification..

So the answer to the question “How many original bills of lading must I surrender to get release of cargo..??

  • if it is a Negotiable Bill of Lading, AT LEAST one duly endorsed original bill of lading
  • if it is a Straight Bill of Lading, AT LEAST one original bill of lading

In the case of a Straight Bill of Lading however, there are several opinions and cases relating to whether ANY (whether 1 or more) original bill of lading is required for the release of cargo, depending on the country and which COGSA has been used..

For example the US COGSA does not require the presentation of the original straight bill of lading for release of cargo whereas certain Scandinavian and Chinese jurisdictions require same.. UK COGSA has also been shown to be fickle in this aspect..

Discussion on LinkedIn about this post

Article republished after critical updates

Liked the content..??

Sign up below to receive the best and most reliable industry content for free from THE Definitive Online Resource for Shipping and Freight..




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. Hello Family!
    please, i would like to understand this :

    (1)Suppose the top right of B/L shows COSCO. PLS complete the signature on behalf of the following identity:

    the carrier,agent of the carrier,the master, agent for the master.

    (2)Suppose the top right of B/L shows COSCO (the carrier). PLS complete the signature on behalf of the following identity:

    the carrier,agent of the carrier,the master, agent for the master.

  2. Dear Harish
    If a bill of lading is consigned to the ‘order of ABC Bank’, shipper/consignor need not endorse it. Since the title is in the name of the consignee. If it is consigned to ‘order’, without specifying any name, then it needs to be endorsed by the shipper. Please correct me if I am right. Best wishes.
    Interesting topics. Users must be aware about the basics.

  3. Hi Hariesh, All your posts are really very helpful. Could you please advise whether a shipping company is within their rights if they ask for all 3 original BLs from the consignee to release the DO.

    Case in point

    Consignee on BL is To Order of a Bank
    Notify on BL is the Receiver
    Bank has endorsed the BL in Favour of the receiver.

    The line has given two options to the receiver :
    1. Furnish BL duly endorsed by the shipper. (As per my understanding since BL is consigned to order of the bank, shipper’s endorsement would make the BL discrepant.)
    2. Submit all 3 original BLs

    • Hi Rohan, in a To Order Bill – whether it is to consignee or bank or anyone else, that first endorsement must come from the shipper endorsing the bill over to the consignee.. Usually it is in the form of Deliver to the order of XYZ bank and the shipper signs it.. This is what the line is expecting..

    • Thanks. Just to double check, If the consignee on the BL is “TO ORDER OF STANDARD CHARTERED BANK”. The shipper still needs to endorse the BL and write deliver to the order of standard chartered bank, right ?

      Rechecking as we have never done this in the past.

  4. Dear Hariesh,

    If a bill of lading (straight bills of lading) is issued TO THE ORDER OF JOHN SMITH (Consignee).

    We can agree it’s a non-negotiable bills of lading and can only be released to JOHN SMITH.

    Though JOHN SMITH hand over the original bills of lading to his cousin JOHN JONES, whom in return will endorse the bills of lading.

    What I’ve been tought over the years, is that the holder of the bills of lading, can get the cargo released and carrier of the cargo are obliged to hand over to the holder of the original bills of lading.

    There is no harm in asking JOHN SMITH the consignee of the cargo, whether his cousin can endorse the bills of lading on his behalf, however can the carrier demand this??

    And will carrier be responsible for handing over the cargo to JOHN JONES without getting confirmation first at consignee. Since it’s a non-negotiable bills of lading, only JOHN SMITH can take delivery, so if he hand over the Original bills of lading to JOHN JONES, the carrier should not be responsible and liability should now lie at JOHN JONES?

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Thanks in advance

  5. sir,
    In the structure trade finance for Dp based payment … does the the financier or third party should hold all the 3 copies of the BL.My concern is if the financier does not demand for 3 bl copies from the exporter,the exporter might sent other copiers to the importer and the cargo will be released with out the concern of the financier.

    Secondly were can we mention that the payment from the buyer should be send to financier instead of the exporter as the financier financed the shipment .


  6. quick question, why do we even need 3 original BL?
    to my understanding consignee of BL can claim over the cargo which has arrived to the destination, but we are all insisting 3 original BL to be provided,’
    I honestly do not understand the reason for 3 originals…..
    we never had a case where shipper is going to provide the consignee with 2 original BL and wait for consignee to settle the amount and send the 3rd original… can you kindly clearify this for me?

    • In olden days, three were issued as shipper retains one, one is sent to consignee, and third one by the Master ! there were no couriers those days. and shipper retained one so that if he sent is lost in transit.
      Master retained one so that he can check at destination against what consignee produces. !!

  7. Hi Harish,

    Could it be the case when consignee mentioned on straight BL endorse the BL to his agent who then in fact will collect the cargo from terminal.

    Recently I have dealt with straight BLs which had endorsements on back side to their forwaridng agents.



    • Hi Aleks,a Straight Bill of Lading is a non-transferable bill of lading meaning it cannot be used to trade further because the title to the goods cannot be transferred.. What you are mentioning is an endorsement where the consignee is confirming to the shipping line that such and such is their forwarder and they as consignee are authorising the release of the cargo to their agent for collection.. This is possible and usually done on the consignee’s letter head but in some cases the consignee may also use the bill of lading for this purpose..

  8. Hi,
    I’m sorry but I don’t really understand the significance of the multitude of originals and the delivery order issued under them by the Carrier ?

    Can you help me ? What’s the significance of each original ?

  9. Forwarders HBL’s (3 originals/3 copies) are in transit. Shipper wants Forwarding Agent to ‘Telex Release” without surrender of HBL’s as containers have arrived. Can we Telex Release on just email request from shipper or do we need a letter of indemnity or something?

  10. Dear Mr. Raghu

    good day to you
    we arrange one shipment from Germany and our agent in Germany sent me Original Bill via courier 1 Original and 1 copy
    they did not sent any draft copy before finalizing the BL, when the Original received we noted that there is some discrepancy in weight and accordingly we ask them to request their shipping line office POL to amend, accordingly they approach POL carrier office and eventually carrier office pass message to their counter part at POD and we received a message from shipping line POD to surrender the Original BL, we submit the 1 origin and 1 copy what we received, but int he body of BL it written 3 originals and we have to submit all three copies, and immediately contacted POL and they said they kept 1 original, we sure they made a mistake, how ever they admit they kept one original, please advise do they allowed to keep Original at POL , we believe ownership of these 3 Original is exclusively goes to Consignee, I am i right?

    • house bill of lading is established by consolidated agent which it’s contain a details of cargo, shipper and consignee party and Mbl is established by shipping line (3 original+3 copy) which mention a details of container and freight forwarder .

  11. Just wanted to say I happened on to your blog by accident. I have been working in logistics for 40 years. Your blog, your explanations,and yr answers were so clear and so understandable. You are a really good teacher and it was a pleasure to read your explanations. I will direct people to your blog to learn. Your sharing is really great and thank you.

  12. Hi Sir,i am very new to import ad export and just started working as a sales executive
    i always have questions and i always look up for your answers.Thank you sir
    My question is what is the meaning of surrender 50% of BL ?

  13. Hi Hariesh,

    Can I ask whether we can surrender BL when payment method is LC? if yes, in which case?

    Appreciate your explanation.

  14. Is there any difference between the three types of bill of lading as quoted by you and the Multimodal Transport Document ? Is MTD also a type of bill of lading ?


  16. Thanks again.
    there is no Karim in the transaction, the consignee is JOHN SMITH, and the LC asks for BL to the order of applicant, which is JOHN SMITH.
    So what is the difference between TO THE ORDER OF JOHN SMITH in consignee box, and simply JOHN SMITH in consignee box, as i said the goods are for John Smith.
    the BL’s are sent to the bank of John Smith.

    • Hi Karim, let me rehash it for you..

      If it says “To the order of John Smith” it means the bill of lading is negotiable and this means John Smith can sell the goods further on to anyone else (if he wishes) through an endorsement of the bill of lading to the new buyer.. If consignee shows TO ORDER, it usually means that the applicant wants to trade the goods further and hence asks for the bill of lading to be claused accordingly..

      If it says “John Smith” that makes it a Straight Bill of Lading which means cargo release will be in the name of John Smith and only John Smith can take release..

    • Hi Hariesh
      Thank you for the explanation and i do understand.
      so basically, since JOHN SMITH is the final receiver of the goods, of course it will be to sell them on later, after cargo release, so it means there is no difference in this case between TO THE ORDER OF JOHN SMITH or simply JOHN SMITH, because JOHN SMITH will only sell the goods after cargo release, correct?

      If i understand correctly, TO THE ORDER OF only works if the consignee wants to sell the goods BEFORE cargo release, is that correct?

    • I may add, that i think TO THE ORDER OF usually is for the banks, because on some L/C it asks for BL Shipped on Board to the order of the XYZ Bank ( which is usually the bank of the applicant / importer ).
      In this case the goods belong to the bank, until the applicant gets the BL from his bank he can’t get the goods.
      Correct me if i’m wrong

      Thank you

    • Hi Karim goods never really belong to the bank, but yes your understanding is correct.. Unless the consignee gets the endorsed bill from the bank, he can’t get release of his cargo from the line..

    • Hi Hariesh
      I see many BL’s TO THE ORDER OF THE BANK.
      On the BL the consignee is the bank, and the Notify is the applicant.
      In this case the goods belong to the bank untill the applicant gets the endorsement from the bank, correct?

      So when the BL is to the order of the applicant, say JOHN SMITH, or for example the consignee is JOHN SMITH without TO THE ORDER OF, who endorses the bill? or is the endorsement not necessary ?

      Thank you

  17. Hi
    Very interesting article, as usual on your blog.
    May i ask, i normally work with letters of credit, that require BL to the order of ( sometimes that bank, sometimes a named consignee ).
    in the case on named consignee, what is the difference between BL with consignee “To the order of John Smith” and BL with consignee “John Smith” ?
    I mean sometimes on the consignee box, they don’t write “to the order of” even though on the L/C it says so.
    With these BL’s, i always get 3BL original, and 3 Copy not negotiable.


    • Thank Karim for the simple question.. Simple answer..

      If it says “To the order of John Smith” it means the bill of lading is negotiable and this means John Smith can endorse the bill to release cargo to Karim..

      If it says “John Smith” that makes it a Straight Bill of Lading which means even if Karim bought the cargo from John Smith, John Smith cannot endorse the bill of lading to release cargo to Karim.. The cargo release will be in the name of John Smith..

      An L/C instruction must ALWAYS be followed for successful negotiation with the bank..

      Trust this explains..

  18. If it is surrendered B/L no need to produce any original B/L for cargo release. just ask for telex message that B/L has been surrendered.

    • Hi Asha, there is no bill called a “Surrendered Bill”.. It is merely a Negotiable Bill of Lading or Straight Bill of Lading that has been surrendered at POL.. The question here relates to original bills where there is no surrender taking place.. 🙂

  19. Sir,

    As per your note Straight B/L is non-negotiable and non-transferable. goods to be released only to the named consignee in the bill of lading. My question here is that whether straight bill of lading can be used for High sea sale in the case of imports into India?

    Your valuable advice on this will be highly appreciated

    Thanks / Raghu


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Sign up below to receive the best and most reliable industry content for free from THE Definitive Online Resource for Shipping and Freight..


FBX - Freight Indices