Sometimes written as BOL or BoL, although at Panalpina we like to use B/L, the bill of lading is used for three things:
Panalpina will normally issue a "house bill of lading" (sometimes abbreviated to HB/L). These are referenced with the format ABC 123456.
Panalpina charges the bill of lading fee to cover our costs for preparing the bill of lading. It is included in the origin charges, which you can see by toggling "view price details" when looking at a quotation:
Goods shipped on a non-negotiable bill of lading (sometimes known as a "straight bill of lading" or "consigned to bill of lading") will be released only to the named consignee upon presentation of proper identification, in some cases the original bill of lading. To release the cargo to someone other than the named consignee a contract of assignment from the named consignee is required.
However, goods shipped on a negotiable bill of lading (also known as an "order bill of lading") can have their title transferred to another party by an endorsement for the currently named party, or if no party is named, by the shipper.
In some legislation, such as the UK's "Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992" (see section 1(2)), only negotiable bills of lading are recognised as bills of lading. Others are considered sea waybills (see below).
A bill of lading represents not only the contract of carriage but also the title (i.e. ownership) on the goods. On the other hand, a sea waybill is a contract only for the carriage of the goods by sea; it does not represent a title on the goods. Shipments under a sea waybill are automatically released at the destination by the agent of the ocean carrier to the named consignee.