What are the differences between a multimodal bill of lading and a bill of lading?

Bill of lading and multimodal bill of lading are two important transport documents. They are frequently used in international trade.

Exporters and importers should be expecting to receive one of these transport documents from carriers, especially when they choose to use sea transportation.

Sometimes, it is not easy to distinguish a bill of lading from a multimodal bill of lading, even for experienced shippers.

Today, I will show you how to seperate a bill of lading from a multimodal bill of lading. But first of all, you need to understand the importance of the shipment coverage, such as port-to-port shipments and door-to-door shipments.

Let me start with the definition of a port-to-port shipment.

What is a Port-to-Port Shipment?

Port to port shipment can be defined as a single mode sea freight transportation, which is started at the port of loading and ended at the port of discharge.

Bill of lading is the transport document which is exclusively used in port to port shipments. It is sometimes called as ocean bill of lading or marine bill of lading.

Now it is time to define door-to-door shipments.

What is a Door-to-Door Shipment?

Any shipment arrangement, which covers the transportation of goods from exporter's factory to importer's warehouse, organized by single carrier, who issues single transport document for the whole carriage, can be defined as a door to door shipment.

If carrier of the door to door shipment uses more than one modes of transport, then these kinds of shipments are classified as multimodal shipments.



Multimodal bill of lading is the transport document which is used in door to door shipments. It is also known as combined bill of lading.

Important Note: Multimodal bill of lading not only used in door-to-door shipments, but also used in port-to-door and door-to-port shipments, as well.

After defining both bill of lading and multimodal bill of lading, now it is time to check the differences between these two transport documents.

What are the differences between a multimodal bill of lading and a bill of lading?
  • Bill of lading can be used port to port sea shipments only. Multimodal bill of lading, on the other hand, can be used with shipments covering more than one modes of transport.
  • Bill of lading is a negotiable transport document, if it is issued "to order". Multimodal bill of lading is regarded as a negotiable transport document only if it is issued "to order" and the last leg of the carriage is a sea shipment.
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