Bill of lading (B/L). This is a document used in carriage of goods by sea. It possesses three characteristics or “functions”:
(a) It is a receipt for the goods, issued by the carrier;
(b) It is a “document of title” to the goods, the proof of ownership; and,
(c) It is evidence of the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage.
In charterparties, a number of clauses refer to bills of lading. For example, in the GENCON charterparty, cl. 9 states:
“Bills of Lading The Captain to sign Bills of Lading at such rate of freight as presented without prejudice to this Charterparty, but should the freight by Bills of Lading amount to less than the total chartered freight the difference to be paid to the Captain in cash on signing Bills of Lading.”
In other charterparties another clause may refer to bills of lading. This is the “Clause Paramount”. For example, cl. 34 in MULTIFORM makes the charter subject to the Hague-Visby Rules and also provides that all bills of lading issued under the charterparty should be subject to these Rules.
In time charterparties, for example in the ASBATIME charterparty, a clause which is known as the “Employment and Indemnity Clause” requires the master to sign bills of lading as presented to him in accordance with the mate’s receipts, and also to delegate authority to the charterers or their agents to do the same and, charterers undertake “. . . to indemnify the owners against all consequences or liabilities which may arise from any inconsistency between . . .” the charter and “. . . any Bills of Lading or waybills by the charterers or their agents or by the Captain at their request.