How does an express bill work and what are its advantages and disadvantages..??

This was a question one of the readers of this blog asked..

An Express bill as it name implies is used mostly in “express” situations such as :

  • when the shipper and consignee are part of the same group and there are no negotiations required between the two either directly or via bank for release of the cargo
  • the shipment doesn’t involve any bank and the shipper doesn’t really need to submit original bill of lading to secure his payment
  • when the shipper doesn’t have the time to print the original bills and courier the same to the consignee
  • the shipper is a freight forwarder and he wants to issue a house bill of lading to his customers, hence he takes an express release or a waybill instead of original master bill of lading from the shipping line

Advantages of an Express Bill :

  • the consignee doesn’t need to wait for or surrender an original bill of lading in order to secure release because if it is an Express bill, it is manifested as such – so cargo release is immediate
  • shipper saves on courier or postage costs as he can send the copy of the Express bill by electronic means (email/fax)
  • most useful for group companies who have offices at the pol and pod and among trusting business partners
  • save on bill of lading stationery

Disadvantages of an Express Bill :

  • it is not negotiable at a bank or any other institution and cannot be exchanged for money, it is just a receipt of cargo
  • release is not as secure as an original bill of lading and there could be incidences of fraud
  • from a liners perspective, the disport agent doesn’t need to look for any original bills or wait for any documentation in order to release the shipment, which in some cases is problematic if the load port for any reason wants to stop the release

If anyone has any other views,  please feel free to share..

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24 views about “How does an express bill work and what are its advantages and disadvantages..??” - why not add yours

  1. Hi Harish
    Many thanks for spending your time and efforts in writing this blog. Evertime I read your blog, I become little more enlightened. Being a novice, it has helped me understadn lot about shipping. thanks and keep Continuing the goodwork

    • Hi Austin, thanks for your kind words.. It is heartening to receive such appreciation :).. Please spread the word about this blog among your peers as well and encourage them to subscribe for free so that everyone can get regular updates..

  2. Dear Hariesh,
    Please, advise.

    Should there be any stamp on the Express Bill of Lading? Or is it normal, that Express BL goes without any stamps, signatures, etc?

    Are there any links to the international documents, regarding to the explanation of how Express Bill of Lading should be issued and fulfilled?

    • Hi Ruslan, it depends on the shipping line.. Some lines use stamps, some don’t.. But as far as I have seen, all Express Bills are issued without signatures, although there is space for the signature..

  3. Hi, Manaadiar, I am working as AGM(Shipping & Transport) in Vizag, India. Nice to see your crisp and clear answers. I am sure many emerging professionals will be benefited by your answers/explanations. Keep up the good job.



  5. Pingback: Can I get an Express Release for cargo while Original Bill of Lading is with the bank..?? | Shipping and Freight Resource

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  7. Dear Manaadiar,

    Thanks for your reply it will be a very useful message for those who deals with the express Bill of lading. In normal trade practise many of them are not following the same, they just release the cargo to someone who comes with the arrival notice. I belive legally also this point is valid.

    thanks for your prompt reply.

  8. Can the destination office issue the delivery order without any document for express release, please confirm. Do we need to check the proper identification or company seal while issuing Delivery order. .

    • Hi Munuswamy, as this is an express release, all that the discharge port needs to ensure is that they are delivering the cargo to the right company.. There is no document required for the release.. But even if it is an express release, the shipping line has the responsibility to deliver the cargo to the named consignee after verifying and ensuring that the consignee is who he says he is..

      Proper identification is absolutely necessary..

  9. If one has issued express BL instead of original and Bank is involved in clearance of the consignment then kindly reply of a telex issued by the forwarder can be of any help???
    your prompt response wiill be very helpful.

    • Hi Nikki, if a bank is involved, an express bill cannot and should not be issued.. Express bills can be issued only when consigned to direct customers.. Clearance of the consignment has nothing to do with the type of bill of lading issued.. Type of bill of lading issued is for the finalisation of trade payments and has no relation to customs in most countries (exceptions like Brazil are still there where only original bills are accepted)..

  10. i think express b/l and waybills can save time and hussles in cases of reefer cargoes,direct loading cargoes or for emmergency supplies like drugs and relieve food

  11. Hi hareish sir,

    It would be very helpful if u could post a sample of the Express bill. Coz i;ve not come across this document.

    Thanks in advance

  12. Hi Mannadiar !!!!
    Can u explain that what is the difference between Express B/L and Surrender B/L because what i have come to know t that :

    It is a document required for the express delivery of the consignment .The original bill of lading is not required in this case which is surrendered at the load port.
    Whereas the surrender bill of lading is to surrender/submitted with the load port liner at the time of clearance of goods.

    Which means both terms means the same thing. So wanted to know that if there is any difference b/w the two or both are same?

  13. Hmmmm…..seems like a good way to ship arms if you ask me.
    What do you think?
    I need to find a bill of lading for a boat that sank taking aid to Haiti.
    Aren’t all cargo ships supposed to have what they are carrying?
    I still want to find out what was on a boat to Haiti when it sand.
    How can you find out this stuff?
    I like your blogs, even if I am landbound.

    • Hi Alida, i don’t believe so.. Even though there is no original document, the description and other details of the cargo are recorded in the customs/port systems.. The process of customs/port clearance does not change whether it is an original bill of lading or express..

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