Blank indorsed bills of lading. This covers contract of carriage under bills of lading containing the details of shipment and of carriage but not containing the name of a consignee or endorsee.
The shipper or seller of the goods has not named the person to whom the goods are consigned under the contract of sale of the goods. Perhaps the goods have not yet been sold, nor paid for, when they are shipped and a bill of lading is issued. When a bill of lading contains a statement that the goods are consigned or destined to a specific person, it is a “Straight bill of lading”. A “Straight bill of lading” may be the name given in the United States to a “waybill” and makes the document non-negotiable. A bill of lading in which it is stated that the goods are consigned to the order of any person named in the bill is more negotiable and this “Order bill of lading” is usually made to the order of the shipper or seller in order that the seller can retain property in the goods (“ownership”) as security against payment. The seller may also use such an “Order bill of lading” to obtain payment by a bank which acts on behalf of an eventual buyer. A bill of lading may also be made out to order of the buyer or consignee.
The shipper or seller may transfer the property in the goods to another person by endorsement but may not name the person to whom the bill is indorsed for reasons of negotiability by the endorsee and subsequent endorsees. The bill is indorsed by signing across the back. If the endorsement does not contain the endorsee’s name, the bill of lading is “indorsed in blank”. The bill of lading is indorsed and then “delivered” to the endorsee after which any person who holds such a bill of lading can claim delivery of the cargo from the vessel.