Article based on a question from a reader about how long to store original bills of lading after completion of shipment..
Oksana wants to know
- How long should the original bill of lading be stored after the completion of the shipment
- Is there any International Law that says how many years the original bills of lading must be stored
- How long should the consignee keep the original bills in the company’s archives
Remember that the function of a Bill of Lading is three-fold
- Evidence of Contract of Carriage
- Receipt of Goods and
- Document of Title
As I have mentioned in my previous article What happens to the original bill of lading after a shipment has been completed, if the bill of lading is negotiable and one of originals issued is duly discharged, the others are null and void.. Therefore whether you maintain the other originals or destroy them, it doesn’t matter..
A clause like below is generally stated on the bill of lading which covers the legality..
” If this is a negotiable (To Order / of) Bill of Lading, one original Bill of Lading, duly endorsed must be surrendered by the Merchant to the Carrier (together with outstanding Freight) in exchange for the Goods or a Delivery Order.
If this is a non-negotiable (straight) Bill of Lading, the Carrier shall deliver the Goods or issue a Delivery Order (after payment of outstanding Freight) against the surrender of one original Bill of Lading or in accordance with the national law at the Port of Discharge or Place of Delivery whichever is applicable.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF the Carrier or their Agent has signed the number of Bills of Lading stated at the top, all of this tenor and date, and wherever one original Bill of Lading has been surrendered all other Bills of Lading shall be void. “
” One Original Bill of Lading, duly endorsed, must be surrendered by the Merchant to the Carrier in exchange for the Goods or a delivery order. In accepting this Bill of Lading the Merchant expressly accepts and agrees to all its terms and conditions whether printed, stamped or written, or otherwise incorporated, notwithstanding the non-signing of this Bill of Lading by the Merchant.
IN WITNESS THEREOF the number of original Bills of Lading stated below all of this tenor and date has been signed, one of which being accomplished the others to stand void. “
As far as I know, there is no International and Common Law that states how long the bills of lading have to be maintained/stored..
HOWEVER, each country has some statutory requirements of how long certain documents needs to be maintained..
If you are the shipping line or shipping lines agent, you would maintain the duly discharged original bill of lading in your vessel file and deal with the storage of the vessel file as per your company’s archival policy..