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Bills of Lading

Understanding the complexities of bills of lading and other similar contracts of carriage is pivotal for seamless trade operations. Bills of lading have multiple functions which are relevant when there are problems during transport of goods or the cargo arrives with loss or damage.

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We provide effective and commercial advice that aims to swiftly resolve disputes when they arise.

From the initial loading of cargo to the final delivery, we offer comprehensive advice on a range of crucial areas, including:

  • Cargo Claims: Resolving disputes efficiently, from minor discrepancies to major losses.
  • Quantity and Quality Issues: Ensuring accuracy and compliance throughout the shipment process.
  • Hague/Hague-Visby Rules: Expert interpretation and application of international maritime conventions.
  • Jurisdictional Disputes: Advising how best to proceed when the Law and jurisdiction for a dispute cannot readily be determined.  Assisting clients who are threatened with anti-suit injunctions or supporting them when legal proceedings are started in a jurisdiction which contradicts a London Arbitration clause or English Court jurisdiction clause.
  • Arrest and Detention: Helping clients needing to obtain security when there is loss and damage to cargo caused by vessel owners.
  • Letters of Undertaking: Advising on suitable wordings.
  • Letters of Indemnity: Mitigating risks and liabilities effectively.
  • Inter-Club Agreement (ICA): practical advice as to the application of the ICA where cargo claims are made.
  • Liens: Negotiating between interests where a cargo has been subject to a lien.
  • Bailment: Helping clients identify where a bailment relationship may have arisen when their cargo is entrusted to another party.

Global Reach, Local Expertise

Our team is adept at handling claims which arise in any location, from minor damage to substantial cargo losses, with a focus on delivering cost-effective solutions tailored to your specific needs.


Our clientele includes cargo owners, traders, cargo insurers, brokers, voyage charterers, time charterers, receivers, consignees, shippers, sellers and buyers of cargo, or cargo interests generally, who rely on our expertise to navigate the intricacies of claims arising from bills of lading with confidence.

Bills of Lading FAQs

Cargo Law are on hand to answer any questions you may have.

What is the significance of a bill of lading as a matter of English law?

A bill of lading is significant in English maritime law as it has three functions.  It serves as a receipt for goods shipped, a document of title and it is considered prima facie evidence of the contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. 

The exact terms and conditions of the bill of lading are often not easy to ascertain and legal advice is frequently sought to determine the terms of the contract.  

A bill of lading can also act as a negotiable instrument, enabling the transfer of ownership of the goods during transit.  This feature frequently leads to disputes as to who the “lawful holder” is following transfer of the bill.

Can the terms of a bill of lading be enforced in the English Courts or via London Arbitration?

Yes, the terms of a bill of lading can be enforced in England if there is an appropriate Law and jurisdiction clause, or an London Arbitration agreement . Disputes often arise where there are discrepancies in quantity or quality of goods, delays in delivery, or breach of contractual obligations outlined in the bill of lading.

Many widely used forms of bill of lading are subject to English Law and London Arbitration or High Court jurisdiction, for example, CONGENBILL 1994 Form.

Is there liability for cargo loss or damage pursuant to a bill of lading which is subject to English Law?
English Courts and Tribunals will consider whether international conventions such as the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules apply, which set out certain rules regarding carrier liability, responsibilities, and limitations. Under these conventions, carriers are generally held liable for loss or damage to cargo unless they can prove exceptions apply, such as inherent vice of the goods or actions beyond their control. Parties seeking recourse for cargo loss or damage must adhere to the procedural requirements outlined in English law, including time limits for initiating claims and key documentation to evidence the claim.

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M: +44 (0) 7399 460 508

T: +44 (0) 330 057 1005



Cargo Law Limited. 110 Bishopsgate London EC2N 4AY

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