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Difference between House Bill of Lading and Master Bill of Lading

Updated: Oct 27, 2019



A Bill of Lading maybe issued as a House Bill of Lading or a Master Bill of Lading..

A House Bill of Lading (HBL) is issued by an NVOCC operator, or a Freight Forwarder to their customers..A Master Bill of Lading (MBL) is issued by the Shipping Line (Carrier) to the NVOCC Operator, or Freight Forwarder..


When issued for a FCL shipment (non-groupage), a HBL should always be issued on a back to back basis with a MBL which means that the HBL should be an EXACT replica of the MBL issued by the actual Shipping line in respect of all details except the shipper, consignee and notify party details which will be different in the HBL and MBL..


In the HBL

the Shipper will usually be the actual shipper/exporter of the cargo (or as dictated by the L/C)the Consignee will usually be the actual receiver/importer of the cargo (or as dictated by the L/C)the Notify could be the same as Consignee (or any other party as dictated by the L/C)


In the MBL

the Shipper will usually be the NVOCC operator, or their agent or the Freight Forwarder..the Consignee will usually be the destination agent or counterpart or office of the NVOCC operator, or the Freight Forwarderthe Notify could be the same as Consignee or any other party..


In the interest of the NVOCC operator and their insurance coverage/exposure, it is recommended that all the details on the HBL and MBL like vessel/voyage information, cargo description, number of containers, seal numbers, weight, measurements should remain the same.. The only difference should be in the shipper, consignee and notify details..

Unless disallowed by the L/C, the HBL is also used/treated as a negotiable document and can be considered to fulfill the roles of a bill of lading.. But due care must be taken when using HBL as a negotiable document as I have come across a counter-productive and dangerous practice of consigning the HBL and MBL exactly the same which means that there are two sets of bills of lading issued by two different entities for the same cargo..!!!!!!



Such issues have happened due to the ignorance of the NVOCC or Freight Forwarder..



Have you come across such instances..?? If so, maybe you can share them as Case Studies for this blog..

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