If an original bill of lading is lost, destroyed, or stolen, a new bill generally cannot be obtained unless the original has been found. In the case of lost bills of lading, there are several steps that will likely be needed by the shipper, importer, or exporter.

Key Takeaways

  • If an original bill of lading is lost, destroyed, or stolen, a new bill generally cannot be obtained unless the original has been found.
  • A lost bill of lading requires several steps by the shipper, importer, or exporter.
  • A letter from the shipper should be prepared detailing that the bill of lading was lost.
  • The transporter will need a letter of indemnity from the shipper, which releases the transporter from liability.
  • A bank guarantee financially protects the transporter for costs and liability of shipping without a bill of lading.

Understanding the Lost Bill of Lading Procedures

A bill of lading (BL) is a legal document that states the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being transported. A bill of lading is signed by the shipper and the transporter–or carrier. The BL becomes the shipment receipt when the goods are delivered by the transporter to the predetermined destination. The BL document must accompany the shipped products and upon receipt, is signed by an authorized representative of the receiver, which documents that they took possession of the goods.

If the bill of lading is lost or destroyed, the following procedures may be required:

Letter from Shipper

A statement or letter from the shipper–on company letterhead–outlining in detail that the bill of lading was lost.

Court Order

The shipper may need to obtain an order by the court that directs the transport line or carrier to make delivery to the holder of the title of the merchandise. This legal order is based on the issuance of a surety bond that is initiated by the entity claiming the goods for a court-approved amount.

Letter of Indemnity

The transporter should also receive a letter of indemnity from the shipper, which releases the transporter from liability under the terms of the original outstanding bill. In some instances, the court may also order the shipper to pay reasonable costs as well as attorney's fees to the transport line.

Bank Guarantee

Certain carriers accept letters of indemnity only if the document has also been signed by a bank that has promised to accept joint liability if the original bills of lading are found. Although the letter of indemnity releases the liability for the transporter, it doesn't guarantee that the shipper has enough funds to comply with the indemnity.

The bank guarantee is a financial instrument that guarantees the protection for the transporter from all costs and liabilities of shipping the goods without the bill of lading. Typically, the transporter could be held liable if another company claimed the goods. The bank guarantee ensures that the financial liability is covered for the transporter.

Commercial Invoice and Packing List

A commercial invoice and packing list that outlines the details and items within the shipment should be prepared by the shipper. The commercial invoice is needed for the goods to clear customs in the U.S. The commercial invoice contains the:

  • Quantity and value of the goods being shipped
  • Name and address of the manufacturer and shipper
  • Name and address of the buyer or receiver
  • Country of origin and destination
  • Description of goods being shipped for the custom agents

A packing list is also part of the customs clearing process and outlines the details of the items, including the weight, dimensions, quantity, and the number of containers that hold the goods.

Besides the aforementioned measures, an advertisement should be placed in the press notifying the public of the nullification or loss of the original bill of lading.