Difference between House bill of lading and Master bill of lading

Difference between House Bill of Lading and Master Bill of Lading

A Bill of Lading maybe issued as a House Bill of Lading or a Master Bill of Lading..

  1. A House Bill of Lading (HBL) is issued by an NVOCC operator, or a Freight Forwarder to their customers..
  2. A Master Bill of Lading (MBL) is issued by the Shipping Line (Carrier) to the NVOCC Operator, or Freight Forwarder..

Image for MBL and HBL

When issued for a FCL shipment (non-groupage), a HBL should always be issued on a back to back basis with a MBL which means that the HBL should be an EXACT replica of the MBL issued by the actual Shipping line in respect of all details except the shipper, consignee and notify party details which will be different in the HBL and MBL..

In the HBL

  • the Shipper will usually be the actual shipper/exporter of the cargo (or as dictated by the L/C)
  • the Consignee will usually be the actual receiver/importer of the cargo (or as dictated by the L/C)
  • the Notify could be the same as Consignee (or any other party as dictated by the L/C)

In the MBL

  • the Shipper will usually be the NVOCC operator, or their agent or the Freight Forwarder..
  • the Consignee will usually be the destination agent or counterpart or office of the NVOCC operator, or the Freight Forwarder
  • the Notify could be the same as Consignee or any other party..

In the interest of the NVOCC operator and their insurance coverage/exposure, it is recommended that all the details on the HBL and MBL like vessel/voyage information, cargo description, number of containers, seal numbers, weight, measurements should remain the same.. The only difference should be in the shipper, consignee and notify details..

Unless disallowed by the L/C, the HBL is also used/treated as a negotiable document and can be considered to fulfill the roles of a bill of lading.. But due care must be taken when using HBL as a negotiable document as I have come across a counter-productive and dangerous practice of consigning the HBL and MBL exactly the same which means that there are two sets of bills of lading issued by two different entities for the same cargo..!!!!!!

Such issues have happened due to the ignorance of the NVOCC or Freight Forwarder..

Have you come across such instances..?? If so, maybe you can share them as Case Studies for this blog..

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94 comments on “Difference between House bill of lading and Master bill of lading

  1. Varun Iyer says:

    I have a query as to whether we can call for house bills of lading or house airway bills under an LC. Do they fulfill the same role of a bill of lading or airway bill?

    1. Hello Varun, as mentioned in the last para of this article “Unless disallowed by the L/C, the HBL is also used/treated as a negotiable document and can be considered to fulfill the roles of a bill of lading..”

  2. Ruth Urias says:

    I have lost my original bill of lading and I have requested to my supplier to ask to the carrier to release the ne one at destination, but my supplier says that I have to pay $1,000.00 to exonerate if reponsabilities to the carrier. IS IT CORRECT. Am I obbligated to pay this $1000.00?

    1. Hello Ruth, USD.1000/- seems very cheap.. Usually its much more in the form of a bank guarantee.. Pls read this article which will clarify.. http://shippingandfreightresource.com/what-to-do-when-the-original-bill-of-lading-is-lost/

  3. zmj@yahoo.com says:

    Hi I have questions about Master Bill of Lading. After clearing customs, which parties will have the three Original copies of M B/L? Is it possible for the actual shipper to collect these three copies of M B/L if the actual shipper needs to fix gross weight on the Master B/L and House B/L? Thank you for your answers!

    1. Hi ZMJ, once one of the Original bills of lading is surrendered, all other originals issued become null and void so you cannot do anything with it.. Please read http://shippingandfreightresource.com/duly-discharged-bill-of-lading/ and http://shippingandfreightresource.com/what-happens-to-the-original-bill-of-lading-after-a-shipment-has-been-completed/..

  4. Tim says:

    Thanks so much for this, your website has really helped me in my transition into the FF business.

    1. You are welcome Tim..

  5. Louchie says:

    Hi… I have one import cargo from USA to UAE. Now I have given the instruction for House Bill of Lading with shipper as actual shipper, same with the consignee and notify party is the one who will do the export clearance. Now, counterpart agent in USA is asking for MBL instruction. I advice to put shipper (actual), consignee (shipping line agent) and notify party same on the HBL. But I am confused, who will provide the shipping line agent details? Me or the agent in USA because obviously I dont have any idea regarding the shipping line agent..

    Second is, can I consign the MBL to the third party who will collect the DO and do the export formalities? What would be the difference then? Which one will be the easy way to collect the DO from shipping line? DO charges upon collection may differ based on the consignee details on MBL??

    Please do enlighten me.. Awaiting for your kind reply! :)

    1. Hello Louchie, general rule for HBL/MBL shipper/consignee/notify details is

      On MBL

      Shipper = Your agent in USA
      Consignee = Your details in UAE
      Notify = Your details in UAE
      Release Agent at destination = Actual shipping lines agent (example : MSC’s agent in UAE)

      On HBL

      Shipper = Actual shipper of the cargo
      Consignee = Actual importer of the cargo
      Notify = Actual importer or their clearing agent
      Release Agent at destination = Your company, so you can collect your charges and send release to the MBL agent for final release..

      Trust this assists..

  6. Sunil Jasapara says:

    I have serious questions about the legal relationship between the Carrier (Liner), MBL holder (Master Bill of Lading ) , HBL Holder (House Bill of Lading holder issued by MBL holder), and ultimate consignee as seen on HBL. I am the consignee of HBL and face the practical problem in India, where Forwarder in United States or China collude with the Destination Agent in India to extract exorbitant charges towards DO oir Delivery Order charges.

    I arranged for a shipment from China and issued a MBL to their Shipping Agent mentioning destination agent as consignee. In HBL issued by the forwarder, the ultimate consignee was us. However, destination agent was same as in MBL. The Destination Agent billed heavily towards Destination DO charges, claiming Rs 41,000 ($700) for a small LCL Shipment of just 4 cbm/260 kgs which was just 4% of full FCL by volume or 1% by weight. The CIF Value of the machine was $ 1,137 (Rs 66,600) . In short, the Destination Agent billed almost 61% of CIF Value as their charges just to issue Delivery Order.

    Now, when Destination Agent does not issue DO, we can not present the shipment to customs, and we go on incurring Demurrage charges. Since we are the True, Legal and rightful owner of the Shipment, the Liner (Carrier) is legally required to deliver the cargo/property to the True and Rightful owner, that is, we as consignee.

    The Carrier contends that they have no direct relationship with the Consignee as per HBL and they owe the liability only to MBL Consignee (who is not legal owner of the cargo or goods because it was bought by us against payment). We want to claim the cargo from the Carrier whose agent the MBL holder issued the HBL. The actions of the agents are binding on the Principal (Carrier) and in fact, the forwarder has issued the HBL as Agent for the Carrier.

    The normal charges are about $125 or about against which the Destination Agent is charging us $700. They may claim even $1 Millions which we are not supposed to pay.

    We have claimed the Cargo from the carrier under HBL issued by the Forwarder as Agent for the Carrier. So far, there is no reply. Our goods are incurring the demurrages. we are prepared to pay normal charges to the carrier as per their normal scale. If the Carrier does not oblige us, we want to Sue the Carrier for “Default on Delivery under Freight Prepaid Bill of Lading” and inform all shipping companies around the world to bring moral pressure. We can not allow ourselves to be blackmailed, and cheated by the Destination Agent.

    Are there any innovative thoughts to claim our goods under Freight Prepaid Bill of Lading without becoming victim of blackmail of the destination agent?

    1. Moazam says:

      Dear Mr. Sunil. right now we are facing the same issue with one of the freight forwarder in china and they are black mailing us as well. shipment is from china to Nhava Sheva india. please share how you got over this problem. your kind reply will be extremely appreciated. please note my contact details. : Moazam@ipchem.com; cell: +92-323-8483043.

    2. Sanup says:


      Hope you have sorted our above mentioned issue.

      For future LCL shipments you should check the Destination charges from Origin before you book the shipment.
      If you negotiate the charges from Origin then you will not be charged higher at destination.

      In this case you can only request/put pressure on your supplier to sort it out from Origin, to reduce the destination charges.
      Supplier can negotiate with origin agent & origin agent will sent instruction to destination agent to reduce the charges.

  7. Hi Bill, it seems from your msg, you dont know the supplier or have confidence in them.. In such cases, it is ALWAYS advisable to go the Letter of Credit route so you know that your payment is secure and there is less chance of fraud.. However, since you have already undertaken the journey, here is my suggestion :

    1) Insist on the Shipping lines bill of lading consigned directly to you
    2) If you are able to change the payment terms then pls arrange for the Master Bill to be issued first (but unlikely the first time supplier will agree to this – they also need their security)

  8. Dilrukshi says:

    Hi, Kindly advise me what are the benefits of issuing a House B/L more than Master B/L?.

  9. Ankesh says:

    Hello all
    I have a shipping and forwarding license operating in UAE
    Is there any specific requirement for issuing a house bill of lading for lcl and fcl shipments

  10. Nancy Hart says:

    There are 3 types of bills of lading: Ocean or Regular bill which is the PPI (principal party of Interest) or cargo shipper directly to the Ocean carrier (vessel). No NVOCC is involved. then there is Master bill which is issued by the steamship line to an NVOCC, and a House Bill which is issued by the NVOCC to the actual PPI or cargo shipper. If there is a Master bill there should always be a House bill. If there is an Ocean bill or Regular bill, no House bill is expected.

    1. CK Wong says:

      So basically any freight forwarder can issue their own HBL without any rules and regulations set by government or other government agencies?

  11. sokheng says:

    Can you tell me what does NVOCC mean?

    1. Hi Sokheng, you can search this site for NVOCC.. There are several articles on this topic..

    2. Nancy Hart says:

      Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier. In many trades it is called a Freight Forwarder as well.

    3. Sanup says:

      NVOCC stands for Non Vessel Owning Common Carrier. NVOCC operation comprises of sales, stuffing and transport of the containers to gateway ports.

  12. priyankara says:

    Dear sir, pl tell who issues delivery order “overseas counterpart of the freight forwarder or overseas counterpart of the carrier. from Priyankara

    1. Hi Priyankara, a good question.. I will post an answer to your question as an article so it can benefit others as well..