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Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading

Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading

July 13, 2023
Last Updated:
July 23, 2023
5 min read

Dive into our comprehensive comparison of Master vs. House Bill of Lading. Understand their differences, uses, and which one is right for your shipping needs.

Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading

Table of Contents

If you are in the logistics or shipping industry, you have surely heard of the Bill of Lading (BOL).

But to those who are unfamiliar, a BOL is a legal document that acts as a receipt of goods being transported. It not only outlines the type and quantity of goods being transported but also contains important information regarding the origin and destination of the shipment.

The BOL plays an extremely important role in the shipping process, acting as evidence of a contract between the shipper, receiver, and carrier.

In this article, we will delve specifically into the differences between a master and a house bill of lading, so stick around if you're looking to expand your knowledge on the subject.

What is a Master Bill of Lading?

A master bill of lading (MBL) is a document issued by the carrier that outlines the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage for your goods. It serves as proof that the carrier has received your shipment and is responsible for its safe and timely delivery. Typically, the MBL is issued to the freight forwarder or shipper who booked the freight.

The MBL is especially important in cases where there are multiple shipments or goods being transported together. It’s used to consolidate all other bills of lading into one master document to simplify the delivery process and avoid the additional costs associated with processing individual bills of lading.

What is a House Bill of Lading?

A house bill of lading (HBL) is a document that serves as a vital receipt for your shipment, providing acknowledgment that your items have been received by a freight forwarder or non-vessel operating company (NVOCC).

It's important to note that the HBL isn't the same as a Bill of Lading (BL), as the latter is a document issued by the shipping carrier itself. Nevertheless, an HBL is just as essential as it acknowledges the specifics of your shipment and serves as a legal contract between the shipper and the carrier.

Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading

Similarities of Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading

Although they have different purposes, there are some similarities between these two documents.

Both bills of lading serve as legal evidence of the transportation contract between the shipper and the carrier. They also contain important information such as the names of the consignor and consignee, the description of the goods being shipped, and the terms of the shipment.

Finally, any changes made to either document must be authorized by the shipper or consignee.

Differences in Use, Features, & Implications

Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading differences

#1 Issuer

The MBL is issued by the main carrier or the shipping line (think big international shipping companies). On the other hand, the HBL is issued by a freight forwarder or Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC), who are intermediaries that organize shipments for individuals or corporations.

#2 Contractual Parties

In an MBL, the parties involved are the shipping line and the freight forwarder or NVOCC. For an HBL, the contractual parties are the shipper (the person or company shipping the goods) and the consignee (the person or company receiving the goods), with the freight forwarder acting as an intermediary.

#3 Details Covered

The MBL covers the terms of the contract between the main carrier and the freight forwarder or NVOCC and includes the total quantity of goods being shipped. The HBL, however, details the specific goods being shipped for a particular shipper and consignee.

#4 Use in Shipment Consolidation

Both documents play crucial roles in shipment consolidation. When various smaller shipments are consolidated into one large shipment, the MBL covers the entire consolidated shipment, while separate HBLs are issued for each smaller shipment within the consolidation.

Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading Example

Let's say we have three small businesses: Alice's Apples in New York, Bob's Books in Boston, and Charlie's Chocolates in Chicago. All three want to export their products to David's Department Store in Dublin, Ireland.

Individually, they don't have enough goods to fill a whole shipping container. So, they each hire the same freight forwarder to consolidate their goods into one container for the journey overseas.

Here's where the two types of bills of lading come into play:

House Bill of Lading: The freight forwarder will issue a separate HBL for each business. Each HBL will detail the specific goods being shipped, their quantity, their destination, and their shipper and consignee. For example, Alice's HBL will state that the freight forwarder received a certain quantity of apples from Alice's Apples to be delivered to David's Department Store in Dublin.

Master Bill of Lading: The shipping line—the company that owns the ship that will carry the container—will issue an MBL to the freight forwarder. This MBL will cover the entire consolidated shipment. It will list the freight forwarder as the shipper, David's Department Store as the consignee, and will include the total quantity of goods in the container—that is, all the apples, books, and chocolates combined.

Example of Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading

In this way, both types of bills of lading work together to ensure that the goods are properly accounted for at every step of their journey, from the individual suppliers in the US to the department store in Ireland.

Streamline the Process with Our BoL Template

By now you should have a good understanding of the differences between the master and house bill of lading.

Whether you're a seasoned logistics veteran or just starting out in the import/export game, it's essential that you have an excellent grasp on all aspects of your supply chain — including which document types you will need to properly move goods internationally. Rest assured, if you understand the nuances of the master vs. house bill of lading discussed here, you'll be off to a great start.

Staying organized is key, and having an accurate record of all imports and exports ensures that operations run smoothly. Download our Bill of Lading template today and take important steps towards ensuring that your business runs as efficiently as possible — making both yourself and your customers happy in the process.

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