A bill of lading (B/L or BOL) is a legal document issued by a carrier to a shipper. It covers three major functions: as a receipt that verifies the loading and condition of the goods intended for shipment; as a contract that specifies the terms and conditions governing the transportation process; and also, as a document of title that establishes the ownership of the goods.
Depending on the type of bill of lading, it may be negotiable or nonnegotiable, allowing or restricting the transfer of ownership by handing over the bill of lading to another party. It is signed by the carrier, shipper, or their agents and typically contains details about the shipment, such as the origin, destination, description, freight charges, and special instructions.
Initially limited to maritime transportation, the application of a Bill of Lading (BOL) has expanded to various modes of transport. Its significance lies in facilitating tracking, enabling payment through Letters of Credit, and supporting insurance claims.