Sea Waybill

What is Sea Waybill?

The Sea Waybill: An important document in international maritime freight traffic

The Sea Waybill is a document used to accompany goods during shipment, so it is most often found in international transactions. It performs two main functions:

  • Receipt for the loaded goods
  • Proof of the contract of carriage entered into

The Sea Waybill is issued by the carrier to the seller or the buyer depending on the sale clause. This depends on who orders the shipment. The carrier can then be either a corresponding forwarder or directly a shipping company.

As soon as the goods to be loaded are stowed in a container or as general cargo on a ship, this waybill is issued. These points are then included on the Sea Waybill:

  • Details of the sender, the recipient and, if applicable. the notifying forwarder
  • If applicable Details of another party to be informed (for example, the receiving forwarder).
  • Loading port and receiving port
  • Place of receipt (if applicable) and final destination
  • Ship name with the corresponding voyage number
  • The description of the loaded goods
  • The markings of the goods or the container number in FCL traffic.
  • Weight, dimensions and number of packages
  • Date of loading

Sea Waybill and Bill of Lading: The Differences

The Bill of Lading is also a sea waybill. It is a bill of lading that is issued by the shipping company. However, this has some additional features compared to the Sea Waybill. The most important is that of the commodity paper. This means that the owner of an original bill of lading has a right to the goods with it.

In addition, the characteristic of being a commodity security makes this document negotiable. This means that the ownership of the goods mentioned on the B/L can be transferred from the seller to the buyer only with the transfer of the bill of lading. However, a Sea Waybill does not have this feature. Therefore, banks do not accept the sea waybill in letter of credit transactions.

When does a Sea Waybill make sense?

A Sea Waybill eliminates the need to ship original documents internationally. Therefore, it usually makes sense to have one issued in these cases:

  • The goods to be transported were paid in advance
  • The goods should not be resold during transportation
  • The trust between seller and buyer is great

However, sometimes sellers insist on the issuance of a bill of lading. If you still do not want to have to handle original documents, you can request a telex release. Your seller submits the issued bill of lading abroad to the shipping company, which immediately transfers ownership of the goods to you. The foreign organization of the shipping company now informs the local representative about this process and in the end you get your goods without the time-consuming process of document transfer.

The exhibition of a Sea Waybill: an example

The functions of a Sea Waybill can be explained most easily with an example.

You buy goods from a long-standing business partner in China with whom you have good relations. Because of mutual trust, you decide to use a Sea Waybill to ship these goods. Since the deal is done through the DAP clause, your seller books the container and the corresponding sea freight for the goods. At the shipping company he asks for the issuance of a Seawaybill.

After loading the container and departure of the ship, your business partner will receive the Sea Waybill by mail from the shipping company. This can now be forwarded to you and thus serves as proof of the legitimate transfer of the goods. After arrival at the receiving port, you can then dispose of the goods without further ado.

Important: Accidentally issuing the wrong bill of lading or sea waybill can have serious consequences downstream. Often the release or payment process is hindered, which can delay the delivery of the goods. Therefore, it is very important that all parties involved discuss what type of sea waybill will be issued - buyer, seller and shipping company/forwarder.


Logistik Lexikon Sea Waybill

Image: Avigator Fortuner / Shutterstock

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