Standard form bills of lading

Standard form bills of lading. Many carriers use pre-printed standard forms. These can be their own forms or standard forms issued under standard-form charterparties or published by certain organisations.

For example, BIMCO publishes standard form charterparties and also bills of lading. Freight forwarders use their own standard form “FIATA bills of lading”, which are approved by FIATA and which incorporate the Standard Trading Conditions of FIATA. While standard form charterparties are used but are added to and amended by rider clauses, it is unlikely that the standard form bill of lading would be amended or carry rider clauses.

The use of standard form documents saves time because of its preprinted clauses which, in any event, are encouraged by liability insurers such as P. and I. Associations because many of the terms and clauses have been tried and tested in the market and also in the courts. Indeed, the bill of lading can be considered to be one of the earliest examples of standard-form contracts of carriage of goods.

Standard form bills of lading can be issued as a long form bill of lading, with all the terms and conditions printed on it, or the short form bill of lading which merely refers to the terms of the contract of carriage being under the carrier’s long form obtainable from the carrier’s office. The short form may contain only the bare details of the contract of carriage.

It may be thought that standard form contracts may benefit the party publishing them. This may be true, for example, the FIATA bill of lading issued by freight forwarders. However, the other party has the freedom of choice to accept the terms in the document and perhaps even to add terms, for example, the shipper can insert details of the goods. Such contracts are different to others when one party has no choice about the conditions. The most obvious example of the latter is a contract in which a person drives into a car parking lot and is subject to the terms and conditions of the parking contract after he has entered. Examples of charterparty clauses requiring standard form bills of lading to be signed:

NORGRAIN 89 Clause 6:

“The Master is to sign Bills of Lading as presented on the North American Grain Bill of Lading Form without prejudice to the terms, conditions and exceptions of the Charterparty. If the Master elects to delegate the signing of Bills of Lading to his Agents he shall give them authority to do so in writing, copy of which is to be furnished to Charterers if so required.”


“Without prejudice to this Charterparty, the Master shall sign Bills of Lading for the cargo on the ‘Austwheat Bill’ Bill of Lading form (freight and all terms, conditions, clauses, and exceptions as per this charter).”


“The Master shall, upon request, sign bills of lading in the form appearing below for all cargo shipped but without prejudice to the rights of the owner and charterer under the terms of this charter. The Master shall not be required to sign bills of lading for any port which the vessel cannot enter, remain at and leave in safety and always afloat nor for any blockaded port.” 


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