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Sea Waybill

Extensive Reading – Sea Waybill
Sea Waybill – Introduction
The first thing to note about a Sea Waybill is that it is a document issued by the
carrier. The carrier will issue EITHER a Bill of Lading OR a Sea Waybill.
The SWB looks almost identical to the B/L and works much in the same way, but
there are a few fundamentally different points that we must be aware of, in
particular that the SWB is not a document of title.
Sea Waybill – Issuing Party
The SWB is issued by an ocean carrier, also known as a VOCC (vessel-operating
common carrier) or shipping line.
Maersk Sealand, being a VOCC, issues SWBs.
Sea Waybill - Functions
Basically, a Sea Waybill has following functions:
1. A receipt for the cargo
2. Evidence of a contract of carriage
The Sea Waybill is NOT a document of title.
1. Receipt for cargo
A sea waybill is a document issued to a shipper in exchange for his cargo. It is a
confirmation by the carrier that they have taken the customer’s goods into their
custody and take on the responsibility to care for the goods.
The shipper will nominate the consignee and the carrier will only release the cargo
to the named consignee at destination.
The shipper can amend his release instructions up until such time as the cargo has
been physically released to the consignee.
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2. Evidence of contract of carriage
Just as the B/L, the SWB is evidence of a contract of carriage, but the actual
contract of carriage is always the underlying agreement between the carrier and
the customer to carry his goods. The SWB is merely evidence of this.
The SWB evidences a contract of carriage between the ocean carrier and the
shipper/consignee in the SWB.
Also see: Evidence of contract of carriage in the Glossary.
3. The SWB is not a document of title
The SWB is not a Document of Title. It cannot be consigned “to order” and it
cannot be endorsed and transferred to another consignee.
The carrier will only release the goods to the party named as consignee on the Sea
Waybill. The consignee does not have to present an original SWB at destination to
obtain release of the goods. He just needs to be able to identify himself as a
representative of the consignee in the WB.
The shipper can amend his release instructions up until such time as the cargo has
been physically released to the consignee.
Sea Waybills - Originals and copies
Because the SWB is not a document of title and is not required to effect release of
the goods at destination, Sea Waybills are not issued in “originals” and “copies”.
Whether the SWB form says “copy” or “non-negotiable” or does not have a notation
at all, does not matter. It is always a copy document which is not transferable.
The shipper or consignee may ask to obtain printed copies of the SWB and the
carrier will issue a reasonable number of copies. Copies of the SWB may be used
for purposes such as proof of shipment, customs, payment, bank or Letter of Credit
requirement and so on.
Sea Waybill – Carrier’s responsibility
The three main areas of responsibility of the carrier under a SWB are more or less
the same as for the B/L:
1. Responsibility for correct description of the goods
2. Responsibility to care for the goods while they are in the carrier’s custody
3. Responsibility to ensure that the party to whom goods are released is in fact a
representative of the consignee
1. Responsibility for correct description of the goods
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Any third party buyer may purchase goods by relying on the description of the
goods in the SWB (quantity, condition, etc.).
The description of the goods on the SWB is usually supplied by the shipper or his
agent. (The carrier will not know what is inside a container or carton packed by the
shipper). It is however essential that if the carrier knows that the description of the
goods supplied by the shipper is not correct (for example that cartons are
damaged), the carrier clearly notes the discrepancy on the SWB or refuses to
accept the cargo and issue the SWB.
If the carrier does not note the discrepancy on the SWB, the carrier “steps into the
shoes” of the shipper and assumes responsibility, on behalf of the shipper, to the
buyer of the goods. This means that if there was a dispute between the carrier and
the buyer of the goods, the buyer could file a claim against the carrier. The carrier
would need to file claim against the shipper but may not be able to prove that the
goods were not received as stated in the SWB.
2. Responsibility to care for the cargo while in the carrier’s custody
The duty of care of the goods is both regulated in law and is based on common
sense. If the goods arrive damaged at destination and no note has been made on
the SWB regarding the condition of the cargo, it is the carrier’s responsibility.
If the carrier wants to claim against the shipper, it is the carrier’s responsibility to
prove that the goods were not damaged while in his custody.
3. Responsibility to ensure that the party to whom goods are released is in fact a
representative of the consignee
Although a SWB document is not needed to effect release of the goods, the carrier
is nonetheless obliged to assure himself of the identify of the party to whom cargo
is released.
If he is in doubt, he should contact the shipper.
Sea Waybill - Amendment
A shipper can amend his release instructions (consignee name) until such time as
the cargo has been physically released to the consignee.
Amendments should be made in writing and are always subject to acceptance by
the carrier.
The carrier must ensure that no changes to the description of the goods are made
that can affect his position towards the consignee.
There is no need for the carrier to have the SWBs returned in order to make an
amendment (as they are not issued as originals but only copies). But to ensure that
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no unnecessary disputes arise because of the amendment, the carrier may
confirm the amendment with both the shipper and the consignee.
Sea Waybill – Cargo Description
The procedures for SWBs are identical to those of the B/L.
Cargo description
The transport provider cannot physically verify the contents of the cartons and
packages received from the shipper. For legal reasons, the description of the
goods must therefore always include the wording “Said To Contain” or “S.T.C.” to
signify that the transport provider is relying on the description of the goods supplied
by the shipper. Example: S.T.C. 1020 cartons of CD players.
If the carrier knows that the description of the goods supplied by the shipper is not
correct (for example that cartons are damaged), the carrier should note the
discrepancy on the SWB or refuse to accept the cargo and issue the SWB.
No. of packages
If cargo is lost during transit, it is the number of units as stated in the “no. of pkgs”
field that will be used for calculation of potential compensation to the owner. For
this reason, this field should always reflect the smallest number of shipping units.
Example 1 (FCL container): “1 x 20’std” instead of “500 cartons”. Example 2 (LCL
shipment): “5 pallets” instead of “50 cartons”.
Clauses
The transport provider should insert the clause “Shipper’s load, stow and count” if
the customer is loading the container at his premises.
“Shipped onboard” must only be used when the document is issued after vessel
sailing. If the customer wants the document issued before vessel sailing, the
clause “Received for shipment” is used instead.
Most carriers will not insert the clause “Clean onboard” on the SWB. Even for LCLshipments
where they are physically handling the cartons, they cannot check the
quality and condition of the merchandise inside the cartons.
Clean Bill without notations of damages or shortcomings
The buyer or the bank (Letter of Credit) sometimes demands a so-called “clean
Bill” which means a SWB without any notes of damages or shortcomings at the
time of loading. This sometimes creates problems between the carrier and the
shipper, who in spite of damage or other discrepancy to the cargo wants the
shipping line to incorrectly issue a “Clean Bill” against a letter of indemnity from the
shipper or a bank guarantee. Such indemnities are not allowed under the
international conventions that governs Bs/L and SWBs and if brought to court will
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not be upheld. Therefore the carrier should not issue “Clean” Bills if this is not the
correct cargo description.
24-hour manifest rule (U.S. customs)
You may have heard about the 24-hour manifest rule established by U.S. Customs
and its requirements regarding description of goods – for example that “S.T.C.” is
not allowed and that the cargo description must be very specific (i.e. “general
merchandise” and other general cargo descriptions are not allowed).
For the purpose of transport documentation, you should be aware that the U.S.
Customs rules relate to the vessel manifest, not the printed Bill of Lading or Waybill
document. The vessel manifest is used for customs purposes. The printed Bill or
Waybill is used for legal and commercial purposes.
Sea Waybill – Document Date
The date of the SWB must be the date on which it is actually issued, irrespective of
the date the cargo was received or loaded, however not earlier than the date the
cargo was received or loaded respectively.
For a “Shipped on Board” SWB, the date cannot be earlier than the date the cargo
was actually loaded on board the first vessel or conveyance mentioned in the
document.
For a “Received for Shipment” SWB, the date cannot be earlier than the date the
cargo was actually received at the place of receipt or load port mentioned in the
document.
Sometimes, a shipper will request a carrier to issue the SWB with earlier or later
dates in order to comply with time restrictions in the shipper’s Letter of Credit. The
carrier is not obliged to do so and should not do so. It would be considered an
attempt to defraud the buyer.
Sea Waybill – Freight payment
The charges payable at origin (usually by the shipper)are called “prepaid”. The
charges payable at destination (usually by the consignee) are called “collect”.
It is a commercial decision by the carrier whether they wish to grant the shipper
and/or consignee credit. If credit has been granted, the carrier will release the
goods and expect the freight and other costs to be paid within the agreed time.
The shipper is responsible for advising the carrier which charges are prepaid and
collect. If the carrier is in doubt whether the consignee will pay for the collect
charges, he may check with the consignee before accepting the shipment.
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In some areas of the world, from where there is a great risk and/or cost for the
carrier to ship cargo, the carrier may require that all charges are prepaid.
Sea Waybill – Filing
An original is not collected at destination before releasing the goods. There are no
requirements to keep SWB copies on file.
Sea Waybill – Why use this document?
A Sea Waybill is used in cases where no sale of goods is expected during transit
(no change of consignee) and where the shipper and consignee trust that payment
will take place and legal ownership of the goods can change without the use of an
original B/L document.
This trust may be built based on a long-term relationship between the seller and
buyer, the fact that a Letter of Credit covers the shipment and ensures payment
(provided the shipper fulfils the obligations set out in the L/C) or because it is an
inter-company type carriage.
The advantage of the SWB is that it allows less administration and fast release of
the goods at destination because an exchange of original documents between the
shipper and the consignee and between the consignee and the carrier does not
have to take place.
Sea Waybill – The role of Maersk Logistics
In Maersk Logistics we do not issue carrier Sea Waybills. However, we work with
the carriers either on behalf of the clients (when we are acting as agents on behalf
of the shipper or the consignee and the customer has agreed freight rates and
other terms and conditions directly with the carrier) or as customers (when we are
acting as NVOCC and have sub-contracted our shipments to the carrier).
For further details, see: Bill of Lading – The role of Maersk Logistics.
Sea Waybill – Difference between B/L and SWB
1. In which areas are the B/L and the SWB the same?
�� They both function as a Receipt for cargo and Evidence of contract of carriage
�� They both contain details about the shipment such as shipper, consignee,
vessel, place of delivery, cargo description and date
�� They must not be issued with a date different than the true issuance date /
onboard date
�� They are issued by the ocean carrier (VOCC)
�� They obligate the carrier to ensure correct description of the goods
�� They obligate the carrier to care for the cargo while in his custody
�� They obligate the carrier to ensure that he releases the goods to the correctly
entitled party at destination
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2. In which areas are the B/L and the SWB different?
�� The B/L is a document of title. The Sea Waybill is NOT.
�� A SWB cannot be consigned “to order”, it must always state a consignee.
�� The B/L is printed in sets of originals and copies (often 3 originals). A SWB is
only printed as copies.
�� The carrier does not require an original SWB in order to release the goods at
destination
Sea Waybill – Difference between SWB and HSWB
1. In which areas are the carrier SWB and the House SWB the same?
�� They have the same two functions: A receipt for cargo and Evidence of contract
of carriage
�� Neither the HSWB nor the SWB can be consigned “to order” or “to order of
[name/company]” and cannot be endorsed and transferred to a third party. The
goods are to be released at destination to the consignee named by the shipper.
They are not documents of title.
�� They must not be issued with an onboard date different than the true onboard
date
�� They are only issued in copies
�� They often have the same format and fields
�� They obligate the issuing party to ensure correct description of the goods
�� They obligate the issuing party to care for the cargo while in his custody
�� They obligate the issuing party to ensure that the goods are released to the
correctly entitled party at destination
2. In which areas are the carrier SWB and the House SWB different?
�� The HSWB is issued by the NVOCC who does not operate vessels. The SWB
is issued by an ocean carrier.
�� The HSWB evidences a contract between the NVOCC and his customer. The
carrier SWB evidences a contract between the carrier and his customer.
�� Maersk Logistics can issue HSWB. We cannot issue carrier SWB.

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