What is Sea Waybill? | Difference between Bill of Lading & Sea Waybill

What is Sea Waybill? | Difference between Bill of Lading & Sea Waybill

(Last Updated On: December 18, 2023)

Sea Waybill is an essential transport document (Like Bill of Lading, BoL). It acknowledges the receipt of goods and outlines the terms of the contract between the shipper and the carrier. Both documents (Sea Waybill & BoL) contain essential details such as names, address of the shipper, consignee, carrier, description of goods, shipping route, and terms of shipment.

Considering this, one may wonder when to use a sea waybill instead of a Bill of Lading, and vice versa. Strangely, despite the highlighted similarities, both these documents differ in their purpose, goals, form. Let’s learn how:

What is a Sea Waybill?

A Sea Waybill (SWB) is a transport document used in international shipping, specifically for sea transport. Unlike a Bill of Lading (B/L), it is a non-negotiable document. Meaning, it is not a document of title, and ownership of the goods is not transferable by endorsing or delivering the document.

Sea Waybill Template Image

Image Source: Example of a Sea Waybill

Difference between Bill of Lading and Sea Waybill (SWB)

The key difference between a Bill of Lading and a Sea Waybill is the negotiability aspect. A Bill of Lading is typically negotiable, allowing the holder to transfer ownership of the goods by endorsing and delivering the document. In contrast, a Sea Waybill is non-negotiable, and the goods can be released to the consignee without the physical presentation of the document.

Due to this non-negotiable nature, it simplifies procedures—making the cargo release process more straightforward.

Who Issues a Sea Waybill?

A Sea Waybill is typically issued by the shipping carrier or its agent. The decision to issue it is influenced by the nature of the shipment and the preferences of the parties involved in the transaction.

While a Sea Waybill offers simplicity, it may not be suitable for transactions where the negotiability and transferability of a Bill of Lading are crucial. The decision to issue a Sea Waybill is often influenced by the preferences and agreements between the parties involved in the international shipment.

If you’re a shipping carrier, then you must ask yourself the following questions to decide between a sea waybill or a Bill of Lading:

  1. Does the nature of the shipment and trade agreement favor a non-negotiable document to simplify the transfer of ownership?
  2. Is there a preference for expediting cargo release without the need for consignees to present an original document, aligning with a streamlined process?
  3. Do we have a well-established and direct relationship with the consignee, where confidence in their ability to claim goods without physical document presentation exists?

The Need for Sea Waybill Tracking

As the Sea Waybill (SWB) is non-negotiable, tracking helps verify the status of documentation, ensuring that the consignee can receive the goods without presenting the physical document. It provides assurance about the progress of the shipment, estimated arrival times, and overall visibility into the shipping process.

Sea Waybill tracking provides real-time visibility into the location and status of the shipped goods. Tracking allows for prompt identification and resolution of any issues that may arise during transportation, such as delays, route deviations, or documentation discrepancies.

Often, you get to choose between tracking by container or by booking. There are several vessel trackers specifically designed to let you do just that. In addition, you can subscribe to your container tracking which allows you to get timely updates right on your email or mobile phone.

Sea Waybill tracking lets you track the following information:

  • Data for your desired container
  • Planned movements
  • Container status and movement
  • Ports of call, arrival and departure of specific containers.

Following are the people involved in using sea waybill tracking for the highlighted purposes:

  1. Exporters: To monitor shipments and ensure timely international deliveries.
  2. Importers: To stay informed about shipment status for effective receipt planning.
  3. Logistics Managers: To optimize routes, manage inventory, and address logistical challenges.
  4. Freight Forwarders: To oversee goods’ movement and coordinate with carriers for efficient shipping.
  5. Customs Authorities: To monitor incoming shipments, verify documentation, and ensure regulatory compliance.
  6. End Customers: To receive accurate and up-to-date information about the expected delivery of purchased goods.

Why Would Exporters Need a Sea Waybill?

In addition to shipping carriers or agents—exporters might use a sea waybill too. This is possible when they prefer a straightforward process without the need for complex negotiations or transfers of ownership during shipment. Sea Waybill’s non-negotiable nature simplifies procedures.

However, it is essential to clarify the role between an exporter and a shipping carrier. Exporters focus on producing and selling goods, while shipping carriers specialize in the logistics and transportation aspects of getting those goods from one country to another. The Sea Waybill or Bill of Lading is typically issued by the shipping carrier or its agent to document the transportation process. Exporters, on the other hand, may choose the transportation method and coordinate with carriers.

Sea Waybill Advantages

One of the key advantages for shippers to opt for Sea Waybill is its non-negotiable nature. It eliminates complexities associated with the transfer of ownership. It facilitates direct dealings between the shipping carrier and the consignee

Apart for that, there are other benefits like:

  1. I t is well-aligned with modern trade practices. It allows for electronic transmission of information, reducing paperwork and streamlining documentation processes.
  2. Reduces administrative burdens and associated costs in handling negotiable documents.
  3. Reduces fraud risks by enabling real-time tracking into the location and status of the shipped goods for all parties involved.

Sea Waybill Vs Bill of Lading: When Should You Use Sea Waybill Instead of a Bill of Lading?

Use a Sea Waybill when:

  1. The recipient of the cargo is known, especially in shipments between related companies.
  2. The cargo will not be traded or sold during transport.
  3. Payment for goods is made under an open account
  4. There is a high degree of trust between the importer and exporter,
  5. A negotiable transport document is not required under a letter of credit.

Use a Bill of Lading when:

  1. The goods are being traded or sold during transport.
  2. If the terms of the letter of credit require the use of a negotiable document.
  3. The laws and regulations of a country demand the production of a paper bill of lading.

Can both Sea Waybill and Bill of Lading be used for the same shipment?

Using both for the same shipment could create conflicts, as each document implies different terms and conditions regarding ownership, transferability, and payment methods.

The choice typically depends on the specific needs and agreements of the parties involved in the international trade transaction.

Use Sea Waybill when the transfer of ownership during shipment is not critical. It is most suitable for known recipients, non-traded cargo, and scenarios with high trust or open account payments.

Use Bill of Lading when goods are being traded or sold during transport. Required when letter of credit terms mandate a negotiable document or when legal regulations demand a paper bill of lading.

FAQs on Sea Waybill

Is Sea Waybill Same as Telax Release?

A Telex Release is a method used in shipping to release cargo without the need for a physical document. When a Telex Release is issued, it means that the original negotiable Bill of Lading is no longer required for the consignee to claim the goods. The Sea Waybill itself is non-negotiable from the outset, simplifying the process, whereas a Telex Release is a method to eliminate the need for the original negotiable Bill of Lading in certain scenarios.

What is a Sea Waybill?

A Sea Waybill is a non-negotiable transport document used in international shipping. It serves as a receipt for goods and outlines the terms of the shipping contract. Unlike a Bill of Lading, it does not confer ownership rights, allowing cargo release without presenting the physical document.

What is the difference between Original Bill of Lading and Sea Waybill?

The main difference lies in negotiability. An original Bill of Lading is negotiable and transfers ownership, while a Sea Waybill is non-negotiable, simplifying the cargo release process, especially when ownership transfer is not crucial.

Who Issues a Sea Waybill?

A Sea Waybill is typically issued by the shipping carrier or its agent at the point of shipment initiation. This non-negotiable document outlines the shipping terms and serves as a receipt for the cargo.

Ashutosh Saitwal
Ashutosh Saitwal
www.klearstack.com/

Ashutosh is the founder and director of the award winning KlearStack AI platform. You can catch him speaking at NASSCOM events around the world where he speaks and is an evangelist for RPA, AI, Machine Learning and Intelligent Document Processing.

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