Questions about Original Bill of Lading

Image of Switch Bill of LadingHere’s another basic question from a new entrant to shipping : 

  1. Does the shipping company provides the OB/L number or does the freight forwarder provide it
  2. Is OB/L number given for a shipment or is it given per container

Before answering the question, let me jog your memory about what an Original Bill of Lading is and what it does..

An Original Bill of Lading is a Negotiable document which serves as an

  1. Evidence of Contract of Carriage
  2. Receipt of Goods and
  3. Document of Title

Now for the answers :

Answer to Question 1 : Bill of Lading Number – is a unique number allocated by the shipping line and is the main number used for the tracking of the status of the shipment..

The bill of lading number is generated and issued by the entity that is issuing the bill of lading – whether it is a shipping line or a freight forwarder..

For the same shipment, there can be two back to back bills of lading issued by the shipping line and by the freight forwarder or NVOCC..

The bill of lading issued by the shipping line is known as the Master Bill of Lading and the bill of lading issued by a registered freight forwarder or NVOCC is known as the House Bill of Lading..

You can read more about the difference between a Master Bill of Lading and House Bill of Lading here..

Answer to Question 2 : Depending upon the requirement of the client (exporter or shipper or forwarder), a bill of lading can be issued per shipment or per container..

There maybe cases where there is 1 container – 3 bills of lading (Part Bill of Lading) or 3 containers – 1 bill of lading..

The number of bill of lading for the shipment or container can be dictated by the contract, purchase order or letter of credit alongwith the type of bill of lading and the number of originals/copies to be issued..

Subbu – hope the above answer is clear to you..


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12 comments on “Questions about Original Bill of Lading”

  1. By sankar Reply

    Let me know the procedure for FMC, do you have any consultant in USA. is there any possible to register foreign company like if we have any company in india, can we get FMC registere. or we need to open SAME COMPANY IN usa.. if you have any consultant in USA , please share their contacts.

  2. By Ajit Reply

    Hi sir

    Can Bill of lading number can be repeated .

    Will it create issues in POD manifest.


    Issued on april : vagjeabnd0066
    Issued on june : vagjeabnd0066

  3. By kkss Reply

    First, thank you for your kind reply. According to my supervisor said “One PO No. per one B/L is principal – This is shipping principle and uncontroversial. From time to time using duplicated PO in multiple B/L has been brought up in discharge port” In other words, I am not allow to have same Purchase Order Number applied on different BL because stevedores at discharging port sorting cargo based on PO first. Having same Purchase Order Number on different BL will be time-consuming and a bit confusing. I think what I’m trying to ask is –> Is One PO No. per one B/L principal and uncontroversial? Hope you don’t lost me by what I said. Haha…

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Not necessarily.. I have seen several PO under 1 bill of lading.. It may also happen that several bill of lading under one PO but same shipper/consignee maybe because consignee wants to clear cargoes in part.. As far as I have seen there is no hard and fast rule..

    • By frodo

      Thank you for your kind explanation ~ I’ll try my best to explain to my supervisor. 🙂

  4. By kkss Reply

    Hi~ I have a question my teamleader asked me : “Please make sure that Duplicate P.O. No. per B/L is NOT accepted for shipping documents, which means same P.O. No. CANNOT be shared with different Bs/L. => One PO No. per one B/L in principal.”…..I’m not sure if there is a rule like that for the shipping document ~by the way~ we will have label on the cargoes to prevent stevedore at discharging port will be confused that why different BLs will show same P.O. No.

    • By Hariesh Manaadiar

      Hello Frodo, if by P.O you mean Purchase Order, then it doesn’t matter in shipping as neither the shipping line, or shipping agent or stevedore or port are concerned with this.. A P.O. is between the seller and buyer and has no impact on the cargo operations..

  5. By sami Reply

    hi, hariesh . I know there is HBL (house bill of lading ) under L/C (Letter of Credit) but recently I came across an MBL issued by UASC where the cnee is a bank and notify is the importer. Is this MBL under L/c ?
    can you tell in detail ,please ?

  6. By Biju Johnson Paulose Reply

    1) The bill of lading is used as a receipt issued by the carrier once the goods have been loaded onto the vessel. This receipt can be used as proof of shipment for customs and insurance purposes, and also as commercial proof of completing a contractual obligation.

    2) OBL can be issued based on the customers requirement, it can be per shipment / per container.

  7. By Mahesh Reply


    This reminds me the first time I was required to upload shipping instructions (BL Instructions) on the liner’s portal for two separate Marine BLs for the cargo sealed in one container.

    When you need separate Marine BLs you need to request “Split BL” on most of the liner portals.

    Hope the information helps, as I nearly lost half a day getting this information.

    With regards,


    • By John O Reilly

      I am importing from 4 X suppliers on one container
      I have 4x invoices and 4 X packing lists.
      Ii Have 1 BOL
      Is 1 bill of lading ok