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HomeBill of LadingHelp, shipping line won't pre-date or back date my bill of lading

Help, shipping line won’t pre-date or back date my bill of lading

back dating bill of ladingAs everyone probably knows by now, a bill of lading is one of the most important commercial documents in the business of trade and shipping..

If you don’t know, I would suggest you read up on what is a bill of lading and its functions and why it is important..

One of the most important information in a bill of lading is the shipped on board date.. What is this date..??

Shipped on board = Confirmation from the entity issuing the bill of lading that the cargo has been loaded on board and the ship has sailed..

Image for shipped

When issued with a shipped on board date, it indicates that the cargo described on the bill of lading has been loaded on board the ship and the ship has sailed on the date mentioned..

If no date is mentioned, the bill of lading date will be deemed to be the date of shipment..

This could be different from Laden on Board..

Laden on board = Confirmation from the entity issuing the bill of lading that the cargo has been loaded on board..

image for laden

When issued with a laden on board date, it means that the cargo described on the bill of lading has been loaded on board the ship on the date mentioned..

If no date is mentioned, the bill of lading date will be deemed to be the date that the cargo was loaded on board..

Laden on board only means that the cargo has been loaded on board and should not be construed as the ship having sailed with the cargo..

This specific notation however is not very widely used as compared to a shipped on board notation..


Ok, so what is pre-dating or back-dating..??

Pre-Dating or Back Dating is when the shipper requests the shipping line to show the Shipped on Board date on the bill of lading as a date before the actual sailing of the vessel.. For example : the vessel actually sails on the 2nd of March but shipper wants the line to show the shipped on board date on the bill of lading as 28th of February..

Why would a shipper want his bill of lading to be pre-dated or back dated..??

This request is generally made to the shipping line when :

  • There is a  Letter of Credit involved and the L/C stipulates the last date by which the shipment must be effected, means the shipment should have sailed on or before that date ;
  • The last date of shipment may be stipulated on the L/C for various reasons by the receiver including the fact that they want the cargo to reach them by a certain period and they have calculated their arrival date based on the intended date of departure of the container from the port of load and the transit time ;
  • If for some reason, the shipper is not able to carry out the shipment within the stipulated time, he stands to lose his order and could be subjected to penalties and default ;
  • When the party (generally the receiver of the cargo) that opened the L/C rejects the shipper’s request for an extension to the letter of credit

In this case, since the shipper cannot afford to miss the deadline, he requests the shipping line for the bill of lading be pre-dated..


Implications for the shipping line due to back dating

If this pre-dating or back dating is done, then the bill of lading will show the shipped on board date in accordance with the L/C deadline as required by the shipper, although the cargo was actually loaded and the ship sailed AFTER the deadline..

This constitutes fraud and willful misrepresentation of the facts to the receiver who is under the impression that the shipment has been effected within the stipulated time frame..

Remember the consignee has a written confirmation (bill of lading) from the shipping line that shows the date of shipment..

Also remember, that the banks which are party to the letter of credit do not verify whether the goods were actually shipped as per the requirements of the L/C.. They only check whether the documentary information matches the requirements of the L/C..

Under normal circumstances, shipping lines will not back date a bill of lading (even if there is a Letter of Indemnity from the shipper) as they do not want to be part of this fraudulent activity..

Moreover, the practice of actioning requests based on LOIs for activities such as below are viewed by most P&I clubs as a form of documentary fraud and a fundamental breach of P&I Club cover and underwriters will not entertain any claim, costs or damages arising out of this fraudulent activity, should the defrauded receiver place a claim against the shipping line..

They might give you a Received for Shipment bill of lading but that too only provided that the containers/cargo has been delivered to the possession of the shipping line on or before the date that is required to be shown on the bill of lading..

So, now you know why shipping lines may refuse to pre-date or back date your bill of lading..


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. Good day , I have a question please.
    Must a bill of lading indicate a shipped onboard date?
    Is there a law/gazette indicating that every single bill of lading issued must container the actual shipped onboard date?

    • Hi Samantha.. Shipped on Board date is optional.. Date of Issue of the bill of lading is mandatory and no line will issue a bill without date of issue.. These two dates could be different..

  2. In order to avoid all shipping /sailing dates complications/misunderstanding , ,I always recommended to our clients to use the “FCR” certificate issued by the receiving freight forwarder confirming that the goods have been delivered in good apparent condition within the LC terms & condition. The FCR certificate eliminates all sailing or shipped on board issues , free the shipping lines for all these terms and allow the appointed freight forwarder to book and ship without all these complications and according to the LC terms & conditions

  3. Hariesh, the actual sailing date is completely irrelevant. “On boarx”, “shipped on board”, “laden on board” and similar expressions simply mean only that the goods have been placed on board. See also ISBP745 on this. Whether the vessel slips its moorings or not, whether the vessel leaves the port or sinks then and there is not at all relevant, the goods were on board. These days for expediency the shipping lines tend to issue their BLs after departure on the basis that if there are no containers left behind on the wharf then they are all on the vessel.

  4. If the shipper really needs to show the date before the actual date of sailing, should we show the date as per shipper’s request or not as NVOCC , not carrier line .

  5. Sorry to enter the frame so late. I agree with Anant Sharma. And by that count, your opening sentence is ambiguous, if not incorrect. The date for “actual sailing of the vessel” is of no concern to LC operations. What we are concerned with is the “date of shipment” as per the UCP. Secondly, “the Shipped on Board date on the bill of lading” would always be “as a date before (or ON) the actual sailing of the vessel”. The on board notation can never show a date AFTER the date when the ship sets sail – but is that fact evident anywhere on the BL? Hardly! So, there is no conflict. It is unfortunate that we often mix up the UCP definition of the “date of shipment” with the actual date on which the ship sets sail. The issue date of the BL is not necessarily the date when the ship sets sail, either.

  6. Can I requests the shipping line to show the Shipped on Board date on the bill of lading as a date After the actual sailing of the vessel ?

  7. HI Mannadiar, i think there is one more reason why the shipper wants to pre-date the B/L is because even if there is no LC involved they want to include that particular shipment in their current month sale and they request to oblige this.

  8. There are too many risks for both LINE and CLIENT – Best option get client to amend the letter of Credit. Yes there is a fee but its worth the price should anything go wrong. Nowadays everything goes wrong with the Delays of vessels due to Congestion at various ports. This is going to be more of an issue. To Avoid these unconfortable situations I would recomend that Clients who are governed by LC to make be pro-active and to book as early a possible.

  9. The practise of issuing back dated or pre dated bill of lading is fraud and need to be avoided. As the bill of lading issuer have the authority to insert the place of issue and date of issue. If wrong date put on the bill of lading will be considered as shipping line or agent either done by mistake or deliberately. This act can create serious legal problems if challenged by buyer for delayed of goods.

  10. Master lines are not involved in this activitiy but LCL forwarders can do much more like this rather than back dating.

  11. Shipped on board date means when the containers are actually loaded on board and does not necessarily mean sailing date of the vessel. The shipped on board date and Sailing Date can be different.There may be lot of revisions and upgradation required in the UCP for Shipped on board date. Some carriers take advantage of the situation and put the shipper at great risk in fulfilling their contractual obligation..

  12. This is also committing fraud i.t.o. the Customs and Excise Act in respect of the Customs value of the goods. The shipped on board date is used for the purposes of rates of exchange.


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