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..

What did you think of the above article..?? Comment below..

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

  1. John says:

    Hi Hariesh,

    Thank you for maintaining an open forum for Logistics related enquiries. My question is , for a start up Freight forwarding company , all the shipments dispatched the actual shipper will be the client of the FF company. I would like to know what Is the actual registration required to make the shipper same as the FF company instead of the our client company on the MBL. We are planning to pitch into LCL business, for this do we need to do NVOCC registration, OFAC and Marine. Could you pls advise. I am sorry if I am a bit confusing , but I don’t know how o put forward my question in a better way.

  2. Lillian says:

    Hi so how is the MBL and the HBL handled at the port of discharge. Kind run me through the procedure of attaining the delivery order from the shippingline.

  3. jason says:

    Can the HDL be used to get duty exemptions or only with the MBL.

    1. Jason, that depends if the HBL is accepted by customs..

    2. Jayson says:

      Hi Hariesh, but for LCL option, only HBL is issued. how in this case if customs only asks for MBL for duty exemption

    3. In the case of LCL, the groupage operator files their manifest with customs so the HBL will be considered..

  4. ffitrianto says:

    Can I arrange import shipment by FCL if use forwarder agent in shipper and use my own custom (not agent )in consignee

  5. ARSALAN WAHID says:

    this article is really helpful to understand the difference between the two i.e. MBL & HBL. but, what if the consignment is unloaded on the Port of Discharge, and the similar container is required to move onward. Then who would be responsible if the container is lost, freight forwarder or shipping.

    1. Hello Arsalan, the responsibility of pre and on-carriage will depend on how the bill of lading has been issued.. Depending on whether the bill of lading issued is a Port to Port Bill of Lading or a Combined Transport Bill of Lading the responsibility will vary..

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