NVOC/Freight Forwarders’ Bill of Lading: An Anathema to Carriage of Goods by Sea?

Author: Arun KASI

Type: Article

ref: 52021707-712

N0:5 of 2021

Pages: 707-712

Bills of lading have conventionally been issued by shipowners. However, the last century has seen a growing practice of non-vehicle owning carriers (NVOCs) like freight forwarders issuing shipping documents labelled as ‘bill of lading’. Traders, and even lawyers and courts, frequently fail to differentiate between a bill of lading issued by a shipowner and that issued by an NVOC. Views on the status of NVOC bills have been divided and unsettled. This paper will bring light onto the issue and show that it is a legal impossibility for such bills to have that status, irrespective of any commercial practice or contractual recognition. It will also show that, it follows, such bills are not transferable to confer on the transferee any constructive possession or contractual rights against the shipowner. This paper will suggest that NVOC bills are an anathema to carriage of goods by sea and should be statutorily prohibited.