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HomeBill of LadingArticle 2 - Shipping Documents

Article 2 – Shipping Documents

In this article we will cover the various Shipping Documents used, especially in South Africa’s shipping process..

Here we will take a look at the main documents that are used in the process.. In all below, please read “port” as either seaport (Durban, Cape Town etc) or inland port (Johannesburg, Pretoria etc).. Certain other terms that are not clear to some will be explained clearly by the time this blog is completed (will it ever be complete………………)..

If you at any time have any queries, please do not hesitate to drop me a comment..

CTO – expanded to read Container Terminal Order – is the prime document that is used by the port (Transnet Port Terminals – TPT) to accept export containers into the terminal or release import containers out of the terminal.. This document is passed at the port of loading/discharging by the client (if it is merchant haulage) or by the agent of the shipping line (if it is carrier haulage).. Only once this is passed and accepted by port, the container will be allowed in or out of port.. In general CTO’s can be passed only once the ship is nominated with the port..

In the case of exports, it has to be passed within the stack period (time allocated by the port within which all export containers for a particular ship should enter the port) failing which a Late Arrival will have to be passed based on the discretion and acceptance of the port authority..

In the case of imports, in general the cto’s have to be passed before expiry of the three free days allowed at the port failing which the shipping line might move the container on overstay..

CTO’s are passed for containers moving on rail or road – basically anything moving in or out of the terminal other than via ship has to be covered by a CTO..


Bill of Entry – abbreviated to read B/E is basically the SAD500 document that is passed by a customs clearing agent on behalf of the importer or exporter.. This is the document on which customs stamps and confirms that the cargo is allowed to be exported or imported.. For exports this should be passed before the container goes into the terminal and for imports this should be passed before the container is moved out of the terminal..

Shipping lines will not stamp the CTO in the case of imports or release the bill of lading in the case of exports if this B/E is not processed and a copy stamped by customs is produced.. There maybe cases where the B/E is processed for a specific ship but that container did not make that ship, in that case a VOC (Voucher of Correction) needs to be passed amending the name of the ship..

Any shipping line that ships a container without the relevant B/E being passed will be liable for a customs penalty and plus customs has the authority to recall that particular container to SA at the expense of the defaulter..


Cargo Dues Order – abbreviated to read CDO is the document that is passed by a client with Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA).. They pay the CDO fees which is as per the tariff set out by TNPA every April.. This is basically the exporter or importers contribution to the TNPA for using their facilities for movement of the cargo through it..

Shipping lines will not release their bill of lading to their clients unless a copy of the CDO stamped by TNPA is received.. If for some reason the client has not paid the CDO fees to TNPA, then the same is in general invoiced by TNPA to the shipping line involved..


Bill of Lading – abbreviated to read B/L is a document that serves as

  1. document of title,
  2. an evidence of contract of carriage and
  3. an evidence of receipt of goods by the carrier

This is issued by the shipping line after ascertaining and confirming that :

  • – the container(s) covered in the bill of lading are infact physically shipped on board the specific ship/voyage
  • – the relevant freight and other charges have been paid by the shipper or his agent
  • – the relevant authenicated docs – B/E and CDO have been submitted by the shipper or his agent

There are many types of bills of lading in use :-

  • Amended B/L: B/L requiring updates that do not change financial status. this is slightly different from corrected B/L.
  • B/L Terms & Conditions: the fine print on B/L. defines what the carrier can and cannot do, including the carrier’s liabilities and contractual agreements.
  • B/L’s Status: represents whether the bill of lading has been input, rated, reconciled, printed, or released to the customer.
  • B/L’s Type: refers to the type of B/L being issued. Some examples are: a Memo (ME), Original (OBL), Non.negotiable, Corrected (CBL) or Amended (AM) B/L.
  • Canceled B/L: B/L status. used to cancel a processed B/L. usually per shipper’s request. different from voided B/L.
  • Clean B/L: A B/L which bears no superimposed clause or notation which declares a defective condition of the goods and/or the packaging.
  • Combined B/L: B/L that covers cargo moving over various transports.
  • Consolidated B/L: B/L combined or consolidated from two or more B/L’s.
  • Corrected B/L: B/L requiring any update which results in money . or other financially related changes.
  • Domestic B/L: Non-Negotiable B/L primarily containing routing details. usually used by truckers and freight forwarders.
  • Duplicate B/L: Another original Bill of Lading set if first set is lost. also known as reissued B/L.
  • Express B/L: Non-Negotiable B/L where there are no hard copies of originals printed.
  • Freight B/L: A contract of carriage between a shipper and forwarder (who is usually a NVOCC). a Non-Negotiable document.
  • Hitchment B/L: B/L covering parts of a shipment which are loaded at more than one location. Hitchment B/L usually consists of two parts, hitchment and hitchment memo. The hitchment portion usually covers the majority of a divided shipment and carries the entire revenue.
  • House B/L: B/L issued by a freight forwarder or consolidator covering a single shipment containing the names, addresses and specific description of the goods shipped.
  • Intermodal B/L: B/L covering cargo moving via multimodal means. Also known as Combined Transport B/L, or Multimodal B/L.
  • Long Form B/L: B/L form with all Terms & Conditions written on it. Most B/L’s are short form which incorporate the long form clauses by reference.
  • Memo B/L: Unfreighted B/L with no charges listed.
  • Negotiable B/L: The B/L is a title document to the goods, issued “to the order of” a party, usually the shipper, whose endorsement is required to effect is negotiation. Thus, a shipper’s order (negotiable) B/L can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit and is commonly used for letterofcredit transactions. The buyer must submit the original B/L to the carrier in order to take possession of the goods.
  • Non-Negotiable B/L: See Straight B/L. Sometimes means a file copy of a B/L.
  • “Onboard” B/L: B/L validated at the time of loading to transport. Onboard Air, Boxcar, Container, Rail, Truck and Vessel are the most common types.
  • Optional Discharge B/L: B/L covering cargo with more than one discharge point option possibility.
  • “Order” B/L: See Negotiable B/L.
  • Original B/L: The part of the B/L set that has value, especially when negotiable. rest of set are only informational file copies. Abbreviated as OBL.
  • Received for Shipment B/L: Validated at time cargo is received by ocean carrier to commence movement but before being validated as “Onboard”.
  • Reconciled B/L: B/L set which has completed a prescribed number of edits between the shippers instructions and the actual shipment received. This produces a very accurate B/L.
  • Short Term B/L: Opposite of Long Form B/L, a B/L without the Terms & Conditions written on it. Also known as a Short Form B/L. The terms are incorporated by reference to the long form B/L.
  • Split B/L: One of two or more B/L’s which have been split from a single B/L.
  • Stale B/L: A late B/L in banking, a B/L which has passed the time deadline of the L/C and is void.
  • Straight (Consignment) B/L: Indicates the shipper will deliver the goods to the consignee. It does not convey title (Non-Negotiable). Most often used when the goods have been prepaid.
  • “To Order” B/L: See Negotiable B/L.
  • Voided B/L: Related to Consolidated B/L. those B/L’s absorbed in the combining process. Different from Canceled B/L.

Negotiable Instruments : A document of title (such as a draft, promissory note, cheque, or bill of lading) transferable from one person to another in good faith for a consideration. Non-Negotiable bills of lading are known as “straight consignment.” Negotiable bills are known as “order b/l’s.”


Manifest – Simply put, manifest is a collection of bills of lading that are onboard a specific ship.. A manifest lists all the details of the cargo, the shipper, consignee, weight, measurement, packing.. There are generally different types of manifests as below :

  • Cargo Manifest – lists all information relating to the cargo excluding the freight charges..
  • Freight Manifest – lists all information relating to the cargo including the freight charges.. All charges as indicated in the manifest are either to be paid by the shipper or consignee..
  • Dangerous Cargo Manifest – a manifest that details the dangerous/hazardous cargoes on board the ship..
  • Out of Guage Manifest – a manifest that details the out of guage (abnormal sized) cargoes on board the ship..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiarhttps://www.shippingandfreightresource.com
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,

    I have been a follower of your blog for a long time now, and I would like to thank you for enriching us with the knowledge surrounding shipping. I had a few questions about these documents, from a technology standpoint.
    1) What is the mechanism of transmission for these documents to the port/terminals? EDI, Manual , Scans (etc..)?
    2) Is the data contained in these documents fed to the port systems/terminal operations systems for any sort of processing?

    Thank you,

  2. Hi Hariesh,

    Firstly many thanks for making such a comprehensive blog! I’m new to the industry so it’s a perfect starting point. I’m trying to understand the key documentation required for any global shipment. I read that in an experiment by Maersk that a “shipment of roses from Kenya to Rotterdam is generating a pile of paper 25 centimetres high – this is an impressive pile.” I know that container shipments therefore require lots of documentation for various stakeholders, but what would you say are the key notable documents always in use? Would it just be the 4 in this blog? If so, how long are they on average?

    Thank you for any help! 🙂

  3. Dear Mr Hariesh

    i think any port deal with shipping lines and shipping lines deal with clients Exports And imports so

    why the importers and exporters suppose to pay Cargo Dues Order to terminal ? are these fees paid at all world terminals or only
    South Africa ports ?


  4. As a transport, how do I go about registering and obtaining a CTO book. I understand that I need it to be able to move containers from the terminal – true??????

    Please help.



  5. Hi,

    Could someone please explain to me why a freight forwarder produce 3 original housebills and three copy housebills? Why is it a necessity? I can only understand the meaning of the original bill of lading as it is the key to the consignment.
    Please help.

  6. Hi,

    How would one go about issueing your own House Bills? I suppose you have to register with SOMEONE in order to do so, but with whom? I hope you are able to assist.


    • Hi Penny, as far as i know, there is no such requirement to REGISTER the House Bill of Lading anywhere.. It is upto you to choose the Terms and Conditions that you want to cover in the bill of lading and you are ready to go..

  7. i am working currently as a export clerk for a transport company and what to upgrade my knowledge and start a freight forwading and logistics company were and what can i learn to do so

    • Hi Munyab.. Apart from practical experience, your best option would be to find out the courses offered in your particular country or location and choose your field of interest..

  8. hi. we still make cto’s for pier 1 for some reason but if anything is to be amended the line changes it in the navis system..

    do you know what the ZONE number is used for and is it necessary to put on the cto for exports?

  9. if a export cto is passed with the incorrect pod and container is shipped or on route already who bares the responsibility?the line or the agent?

    • Hi Mitch, if the line has advised the client of the POD for which the CTO has to be passed and the client or transporter passed it incorrectly, then it is entirely the client/transporters fault.. It is the clients responsibility to check with the line the correct CTO port to be used as each line has their own routing and t/s ports.. The lines also have their check points whereby if a CTO is tried to be passed to a port that is not nominated in the port system, the same will be rejected..

  10. thanks for a very informative blog. I would like to see a cost breakdown of an import transaction. what are the costs that one incurrs when importing.

  11. Hi Manaadiar,
    My name is Abdulla from Jordan. Am working in the freight industry since 10 years. realy i thank you for your nice presenting and the way of explaining the information to readers… i thank you again and hope to stay in touch to share the information together… Goodluck

    • Hey Abdulla, thanks for your comments.. trust you would have subscribed to the blog so that you can get regular updates.. If you have anything to contribute to the blog, pls feel free.. Just send me a mail..

    • This blog has been very helpful to me as I am quite new in this field of freight forwarding, export , import. I have already subscribed to it. Thanks and keep writing.


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