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HomeBill of LadingWhich weight should be declared in a container bill of lading..??

Which weight should be declared in a container bill of lading..??

Which weight should be declared in a container bill of lading..??

A question that puts a doubt in many heads within the shipping and freight industry..

One of the readers (Munuswamy) has below question

Today one of my client was arguing about the gross weight to be declared in the B/L of lading (FCL) shipment. From my point of view I have informed client to mention the gross weight (product weight + packing weight) where as customer says the gross weight should be (product weight + packing weight + container weight).

I need to clarify who is correct.

Bill of LadingOne of the main components that is shown in a bill of lading is the Weight.. This is a very important component for the exporter, importer and also the shipping line..

Why is it important..??

Well, there are certain commodities that are priced and sold on weight, so it is important for the shipper to show the right weight in order for him to be paid by the consignee..

For the ship and shipping line the weight is important to know how much of cargo has been loaded on board the ship in order to operate it safely and within its allowed carrying capacity (DWCC)..

In a containerised shipment, several weights are used..

Cargo Net Weight –  is the weight of just the raw cargo (say for example – Peppadews)

which weight should be declared on a bill of ladingCargo Gross Weight – is the weight of the raw cargo (example – Peppadews) + the weight of bottles or cans that it is packed in.. If the bottles and cans are further packed into cartons which are placed on a pallet, then the weight of the peppadews + bottles + cartons + pallets = Cargo Gross Weight

Container Net Weight – is the Cargo Gross Weight after it has been packed into a container – but excluding the tare weight of the container

Container Gross Weight – is the Container Net Weight + the tare weight of the container

Tare Weight – is the weight of the empty container (for general internal dimensions and tare weight refer to

The discussion is Which weight should be declared in a container bill of lading..??

The weight shown in the bill of lading should be the Cargo Gross Weight which is also the same as the Container Net Weight..

Why do I say this..??

If you look at the evolution of cargo movement and the bill of lading, it started off as bulk and break-bulk where only the weight of the cargo was taken into consideration as there was no universal packaging to carry it.. A container as a package of transport was developed much later.. You can view a bit of its history here..

This practice has continued and in a containerised shipment, the same principle has been carried forward and the Cargo Gross Weight as defined above is the weight that is shown in the bill of lading..

Various shipping lines however seem to have various headings shown on their relevant bills of lading for weights..

bill of lading weight

If you look at the heading of the weight column on the bill of lading of some of the top shipping lines in the world, we can see why some of the people might be confused as there seems to be no uniformity in the way the lines have defined their headings or what weight is expected to be declared..

BIMCO and FIATA show below heading on their bills of lading

  • BIMCO (Lineway and Conline Bill) – Gross Weight
  • FIATA – Gross Weight

Although the headings on the bills of lading (except MSC & CMA-CGM from above list) doesn’t say conclusively that Weight and Gross Weight is same as Cargo Gross Weight, in practice it is always the Cargo Gross Weight (as defined above) that is shown on the bill of lading..

Image for opinionWhat do YOU say..??

Have you had a different experience or any other point to add to this discussion..??

Also read

  1. Parts of a bill of lading – Part 1
  2. Parts of a bill of lading – Part 2
  3. Parts of a bill of lading – Part 3
  4. Parts of a bill of lading – Part 4



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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. Dear Readers,
    in all of the containers you can see at the right door as follows (example) :
    It’s for 40 FCL Hi Cube Refer ctntr :
    GROSS WT : 34,000 Kgs
    PAYLOAD : 29,700 Kgs
    TARE WT : 4,300 Kgs

    Tare weight is Empty ctnr weight
    Payload is : maximum Cargo gross weight ( Net weight of the product loaded + packaging + pallet if any) = 29,700 Kgs maximum
    Gross weight = Cargo gross weight + tare weight = 34,000 Kgs maximum.

    The terms of “WEIGHT” that will be appear on the BL is NETT WEIGHT and GROSS WEIGHT of our cargo, NOT included weight of the empty container.

    If any restriction of container weight at destination country, we can adjust the gross weight of the product that will be loaded.

    thank you,

  2. Shipping Lines issue Delivery Orders as per the gross weight mentioned on the B/L and the same has to be strictly declared to Customs.

    So for example if the B/L shows the “gross weight” including the tare weight of the container:

    A unit weighs 1000 Kg.
    Tare weight of container 2000

    I get the Delivery Order form Shipping line showing “gross weight as 3000 Kg.
    I clear shipment from port and Customs as per Delivery Order and B/L
    Later I export the shipment
    So I have to declare 3000 Kg on export declaration for tax refund purpose but the shipping line says the gross weight should include tare weight of container, they again add 2000
    Shipment now becomes 5000 Kg??!

  3. I can not thank you enough for all the help I received trough this blog.
    Being hired last July as Foreign trade agent (no previous experience nor related education) and STILL learning from you, we might say you own 80% of the credit for my succes.
    Best wishes , it is so comforting knowing there is people so generous around the globe 🙂

  4. Actually BL should read Net cargo + packing weight + Tare weight as Gross weight, this should reflect on the BL. The importance of the Gross weight is due to weight restriction in European and US destination.

  5. Well, I did come across a shipment from Germany and the HBL unfortunately showed the Container Gross Wt, instead of the cargo gross wt. In Doha, all docs have to show the gross wt and they all must tally. Unfortunately, the weight manifested with the customs, was the Container gross wt(based on what was declared on the BL) and it had to be amended before clearance could commence.

    Normally, we insist that the cargo gross wt be shown. And that it tally with the weight declared on the Comm Inv, PL & COO.


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