House bill of lading. A freight forwarder can act as agent for a group of exporters of smaller consignments.
The small shipments are “Less than Containerload” (LCL). When the freight forwarder “consolidates” the consignments, he is called a “consolidator” or “gtoupage contractor” and may issue to each customer a cerificate of receipt that may contain the terms of the contract of carriage between him and the customer. Such a document is known as a “house bill of lading”. It can also be known as a “groupage certificate”. The freight forwarder will then enter into separate contracts of carriage with the actual carrier or carriers for a “Full Containerload” (FCL) and as far as they are concerned, the freight forwarder is the “shipper”. He will obtain from them a bill of lading. The document that he issues to his customers may not really be a “bill of lading”. Therefore it may not possess the characteristic of a document of title and may be rejected by banks unless the credit precisely permits their acceptance for payment. Indeed, Art. 26(c)(iv) of the UCP 1983 states:
“Unless otherwise stipulated in the credit, banks will reject a document which:
is issued by a freight forwarder, unless it indicates that it is issued by such freight forwarder acting as a carrier, or as the agent of a named carrier.”
If the freight forwarder is acting as a “Non-vessel owning carrier” (NVOC) or even as a NVOCC (“Non-vessel owning common carrier”), depending on the circumstance of carriage and jurisdiction in which disputes may be brought, the document issued as a “bill of lading” may be accepted by banks as a document of title. The carriage will be by combined transport, and the document may be a “combined transport document” as referred to in the UCP 1983, Arts. 25 and 26(b)(i), and which is acceptable to banks. However, para. (d) of the Articles provides that:
“Unless otherwise stipulated in the credit, banks will reject a transport document issued by a freight forwarder unless it is a FIATA Combined Transport Bill of Lading approved by the International Chamber of Commerce or otherwise indicates that it is issued by a freight forwarder acting as a carrier or agent of a named carrier.”
The phrase “house to house bill of lading” is different from a “house bill of lading”. The former covers carriage from door-to-door, i.e., in combined transport for the entire journey. The issuer is likely to be the “carrier” for the complete transport and therefore likely to carry the full burden of liability for loss or damage or delay. The latter is a document (or “receipt”) issued by a freight forwarder to his customer whose goods are consolidated with other customers’ goods for onward carriage by another “carrier”.
The “house bill of lading” may contain terms and conditions but may also be subject to “standard trading conditions” of the freight forwarder or the Association he may belong to.