Difference between House bill of lading & Master bill of lading

What is the difference between House Bill of Lading, Master Bill of Lading..

  1. House Bill of Lading (HBL) is issued by the NVOCC/Freight Forwarder to the actual customer
  2. Master Bill of Lading (MBL) is issued by the Shipping Line (Carrier) to the NVOCC/Freight Forwarder –  also known as Ocean Bill of Lading
  3. House Bill of Lading will be an EXACT replica of the Master Bill of Lading issued by the actual Shipping line in respect of cargo details.. The only difference will be that the shipper, consignee and notify party details 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..

The rest of the details like vessel/voyage information, cargo description, number of containers, seal numbers, weight, measurements etc etc will all remain the same..

Unless required otherwise by the L/C, the HBL can also be used as a negotiable document and can be considered the title of goods and receipt of cargo same as an MBL.. In the interest of the NVOCC operator and their insurance coverage/exposure, it is recommended that all the details except the shipper, consignee and notify details on the HBL remain the same on the MBL..


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Now that you have read it, why don't you share your views about it..

87 thoughts on “Difference between House bill of lading & Master bill of lading

  1. 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..

  2. 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..

  3. 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 carrier was KMTC (of Korea). They 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?

  4. asimzaman says:

    on the basis of what we will charge the client
    1) cbm basis
    2) weightae

  5. Bill says:

    Hi Harieesh,

    I really like your site, thanks for sharing, btw I need your help to give me advice on this case. This is my first time to import goods and to do transaction with this supplier, currently I have paid the 20% down payment and the supplier suggest me to finish the rest 80% payment after she gets me the HBL issued by FF, then she will give me the Original Bill of lading and arrange the Telex Release respectively. I have agreed with the terms.

    My questions, in the case where I have fulfilled the payment and this supplier intend to do fraudulence..
    - Is she able to recall the goods, will the shipping agent verify her request?

    - How long usually it takes the time difference between HBL issued vs. MBL issued?

    - Would there be a big risk for me to finish the payment before I get the MBL? Or should I change the payment term, like I give full payment after I get the MBL?

    - How these agreements are usually implemented? Any thoughts or justification?

    Thanks in advance for your help.


    1. Hi Bill, it seems from your msg, you dont now 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)

  6. Dilrukshi says:

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

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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..

  11. sami says:

    hi ,again .Mr. Hariesh I was reading about the types of master bill of lading(which is issued by shipping lines ) and came to the conclusion that they are 5 types :
    1-org. bill of lading
    2-express bill of lading
    3-seaway bill of lading
    4-way bill of lading
    5-draft bill of lading

    Am I wright with this ?
    plz answer soon.

    1. Hi Sami, there is no bill type called Original Bill of Lading and Draft Bill of Lading.. Only Straight Bill of Lading and Order Bill of Lading (also known as Negotiable bill of lading) are issued in Original.. Other bills of lading like Way bill of lading (4) (which is same as Seaway Bill of lading (3)) are issued without any originals.. Also read my article http://shippingandfreightresource.com/bill-of-lading-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-important/..

    2. sami says:

      thank you very much .that was very helpful.

  12. sami says:

    hi ,thanks for the info . I work in a freight forward company and I have a question :
    you say that hbl & mbl differ in the shipper , consignee and notify but I saw hbls and mbls for the same shipment that have the same shipper,the same consignee and the same notify party .can you please clarify this ?
    thank you very much

    1. Hi Sami, the general purpose of issuing a HBL is if the forwarder in question wants to control the cargo and not leave it under the direct control of the line, and also since there will be variation in freights between the HBL and MBL.. But there is nothing stopping a forwarder from issuing a HBL using the EXACT same details as the MBL, but its just that such an issuance would be superfluous.. Not only superfluous, but it will then mean that there are two documents of title to the same shipment which cannot be the case.. I will cover this topic in a later post..

      You can also read one of my articles – http://shippingandfreightresource.com/how-do-i-know-whether-the-bill-of-lading-issued-is-a-house-bill-of-lading-or-a-master-bill-of-lading/
      which explains it a bit further..