Difference between an Express and Negotiable B/L's

When importing or exporting international cargo shipping containers there are two types of bills of lading: express and negotiable. It is important to know the difference since it will determine what the consignee will need when picking up the cargo from the port. An express bill of lading is a non-negotiable bill of lading that the consignee will not need to have with them upon picking up the cargo. In the past, this type of bill of lading would be used for companies that are shipping with a division of the same company, through a forwarder with a house bill or another time when there is nothing to negotiate before releasing the cargo. It would also be used if the shipper did not have enough time to print the original and have it couriered in time for arrival. Now with new technologies and better understandings, the express bills are becoming a more frequent choice since they allow for a smoother transition of the goods. On the other hand, the negotiable bill of lading is when surrendering the original bill of lading is required before the consignee or agent will be allowed to pick up the goods from the steamship line. In this situation, there are usually 3 original copies made of the bill of lading to prevent complications upon pickup. While this may be the safest for the transaction, it can be more time consuming and can be a big problem if the original documents are lost in transit. In this case, the shipper will need to contact the steamship line for a telex release in order to have the cargo released to the consignee. This is not only a lengthy process, but it can also cause the container to go into demurrage if not handled immediately. As a result, the express bill of lading is increasingly becoming a more popular choice when shipping cargo abroad.