Freight Forwarders’ House Bills of Lading - Myth, Facts and Hope
NUS Centre for Maritime Law Working Paper 19/01
32 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 28 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 1, 2019
This paper examines the commercial and legal role and capacity of freight forwarders and the status of the house bills of lading that they issue. It analyses the historical treatment of house bills of lading, investigates national legislative regimes on freight forwarding and discusses sector-specific standard terms and conditions and documents designed to produce clarity on this issue. The paper closely analyses the role of freight forwarders’ bills of lading in recent cases. It concludes that the profession of the freight forwarder has greatly developed since the notion of the freight forwarder’s house bill being only a receipt for the goods was framed. This conception was rooted in a time when forwarders traditionally acted only as agents for their customer but did not engage in the business of carriage of goods themselves. Nowadays this approach has changed, and many forwarders act as carriers. Transport documentation has developed in line with forwarders’ business activities. It is now time for law and lawyers to embrace this step instead of hindering the clarity that business practice has sought to create.
Keywords: freight forwarder, house bill of lading, agent, principal, carrier, document of title, receipt for goods
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