There is no restriction on the number of bills of lading that can be issued, but the number issued must be stated on the bill. Three bills are standard – one for the shipper, one for the consignee, and one for the banker, broker or third party. For security purposes, it's advisable to only request as many bills of lading as you actually need. If more bills of lading are issued, there is an increased risk of fraud, theft, an unauthorized release or release to the wrong person.

There are two types of bills of lading: the ocean bill of lading and the airway bill. The determining factor as to which is most applicable comes down to time. Air travel is reserved for shipments that are time-sensitive or on a tight deadline, and it is usually a bit more expensive. Travel by ocean is more economical, which is why it is more frequently utilized.

There are many different types of ocean bills of lading, but the most common are a straight, shipper's order, clean and onboard bills of lading. The straight bill of lading is non-negotiable and must be marked as such. It can only be released to the person named on the bill.

A shipper's order bill of lading outlines any conditions that have been imposed by the shipper. A common example is when payment has been secured by a letter of credit, and the terms must met before the delivery is accepted.

The clean bill of lading is when everything in the shipment is in perfect order. Should any shortages of product or damages occur, a clean bill is not issued.

An onboard bill of lading is issued when the goods are loaded onto the ship and is signed by the ship's master. This type of ocean bill of lading is rendered when payment is contingent on a letter of credit.