Accomplished bill of lading

Accomplished bill of lading.The bill of lading is originally a receipt for cargo. To fulfil this purpose it is necessary for only one receipt to be issued by the party to whom the cargo has been entrusted for carriage. 

However, for over 200 years the delivery of a bill or lading has peen considered by the law (and by businessmen) to be part of the mechanism that transfers the ownership of the goods, that is, it is also a ‘document of title’. Because of this latter function of the document, it is for the benefit of the shipper or the consignee that the bill of lading is signed by the carrier or his representative in more than one set of “originals”, each set also having carbon copies. The originals are called “Original”, “Duplicate” and “Triplicate”. It is customary for bills of lading to be signed in sets of three although, fox negotiability, bank transactions and government formalities in some countries, more than three sets may be required by the shipper. The document of title function has caused the bill of lading to be called a “title deed” or proof of ownership.

Any person may come to the master or other agent. of the shipowner and demand delivery of the goods. The master would have to deliver the goods if the person produced a title deed and there was no clear evidence of fraud or that any other person had a better right (or title) to the goods. Because the “document of title” is issued in more than one “part”, the shipowner must protect himself from demands made by other persons each of whom may also be in possession of one of a set of bills of lading. This is usually done by inserting in the bill of lading or in a charterparty under which a bill of lading is issued a clause that states that “. . . three Bills of Lading have been signed but one of these Bills of Lading being accomplished, the others shall stand void”. In Glyn Mills Currie v. East and West India Dock, 1882, it was said in the House of Lords that such a statement would mean that if upon one of the bills the shipowner acts in good faith (without fraud or carelessness) “. . . he will have accomplished his contract, will have fulfilled it, and will not be liable or answerable upon any of the others”. Therefore the duty of a carrier, or person to whom the cargo has been entrusted (either for carriage or storage) is to deliver the goods to the first person to present a bill of lading.

Significant to the meaning of the phrase “accomplished bill of lading”, in The Delfini, 1990, it was said in the Court of Appeal:

“Finally I should mention the continued status of the bill oΒ£ lading after the goods have arrived at destination, and have been discharged from the ship. It is, I think, quite clear from Meyerstein v. Barber [1870] . .. that when the goods have been actually delivered at destination to the person entitled to them, or placed in a position where the person is entitled to immediate possession, the bill of lading is exhausted `and will not operate at all to transfer the goods to any person who has either advanced the money or has purchased the bill of lading’. It is equally clear that until the buyer has actually received delivery, the fact that the goods have actually been discharged at destination . . . does not entail that the bill is exhausted.”

Therefore, for a bill of lading to be “accomplished” the goods must be delivered to the first person holding a good bill, that is, without evidence of fraud.


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Written by Ship Inspection

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