Sea Waybill: What is it and how does it work?

A transport agreement or paperwork between the shipper and the marine company is called a sea waybill. Separately employed as a receipt for cargo accepted for transportation and a title of ownership of commodities, the Bill of Lading (BL) is not to be confused with the SWB.

The SWB is regarded as further evidence of the goods’ receipt. Although it is less formal than a bill of lading, it nonetheless allows for exchanges, particularly when there hasn’t been a formal business transaction involving the commodities. The International Transport Contract for Goods by Road (CMR) and the International Transport Contract for Goods by Air (LTA) are comparable to the Sea Waybill.

International trade has increased as a result of globalization, and seaport activity has been steadily increasing over time. As a result of this development, creating a lading bill has become more challenging because it now needs to include a wide range of essential signals that adhere to the 1924 standard and that the carrier can only verify.

When shipping by the sea doesn’t always depend on business transactions, such as when partners have built trust, when one group loads and receives products, or when no other documents are necessary, the Sea Waybill is the best choice. It does enable a quicker import-export customs clearance procedure while lowering the possibility of incurring penalties for various delays encountered while awaiting approval of the more formal Bill of Lading.

But the primary distinction between a bill of lading and a seaway bill is that the latter is negotiable, whereas the former is not.

A bill of lading that is made to the “order of” one party indicates that another party may acquire ownership of the items delivered under it.

A party may assert title and receipt of the goods if the bill of lading is endorsed in their name and they own the original endorsed bill.

Documents That Are Negotiable vs Non-Negotiable

Documents That Are Negotiable vs Non-Negotiable
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The proprietor of a negotiable document or instrument may assign the ownership of the commodities to a third party. The endorser and the endorsee are typically the two parties involved in such a transfer.

Through endorsement, the original owner of the cargo (the endorser) can give ownership of the cargo to the endorsee (the new owner as agreed upon by both parties), changing the original bill of lading.

The party in possession of the original, endorsed bill of lading is the one to whom the cargo is shipped and delivered.

An agreement that is not negotiable designates a single party as the owner, and this ownership cannot be transferred to another person. In this instance, the shipment is transported to the party that was initially designated.

The holder or endorser must sign the bill on both the front and back in order for it to be considered valid. When the instrument is given to the endorsee—the person to whose ownership has been transferred—the transaction is considered to be finished.

The Seaway Bill’s release

Typically, a seaway bill is produced in triplicate; the consignee receives the third copy, while the shipper or consignor receives the first two. In order for the consignee to approve and receive the shipment into his warehouse, the consignor mails the original to him.

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A non-negotiable document known as a seaway bill makes it simple and quick to clear cargo through express release or telex release.

Release of Telex

In order to expedite speedy clearance and receipt, the shipper and customer may occasionally agree to abandon the practice of swapping the original bill.

Rather, at the place of origin, the shipper will turn over the original bill to the ocean carrier or his designated agent. The carrier will confirm the surrender via electronic transmission to their office at the destination port.

The items will be given to the consignee upon the vessel arriving at its destination port and the cargo specified in the bill being offloaded. This will happen following identification and other procedures.

When the original seaway bill is turned in, the shipper usually sends the customer a confirmation note. We refer to this technique as Telex Release.

All original copies of the seaway bill must be turned in at the office of an ocean carrier. To obtain information on the cargo and its clearance, the clearing agent at the destination need just provide the required credentials and paperwork to the carrier’s office there.

One benefit of the telex release is that since the cargo has already been turned over at the port of origin, it can be released at the destination port without requiring the original seaway bill to be produced.

As a result, it prevents potential delays in the original document exchange and subsequent clearance of goods. The consignee need just clear customs, settle all outstanding debts with the relevant parties, and assume responsibility for the consignment.

Even if the instruction to release cargo without the original bill is communicated via email or other electronic methods, the term “telex release” has persisted to this day. Previously, a telex message was used to deliver this message.

Quick Release

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Following the fulfillment of all required documentation and other procedures, the carrier creates an electronic bill of lading known as the Express Bill of Lading in an Express Release. A digital replica is provided to the transporter.

After the carrier offloads the cargo at his end, this particular bill of lading is the only physical document the consignee needs to clear the goods.

All the client needs to do is provide his identification at the carrier’s office. When it comes to an express release, there is no original bill of lading (OBL).

Time and money are saved using telex and rapid release. In transit, an original bill of lading could get misplaced or delayed. By now, the cargo-carrying vessel may have arrived at the discharge port; if it is not cleared within the allotted time, storage or demurrage fees may be incurred by the port and the ocean carrier.

Seaway bills are typically used with telex and express release. Stated differently, bills of lading that are negotiable documents cannot be used with these two methods of releasing cargo to the consignee.

There might be some exceptions to this rule, in which case a bill of lading no longer qualifies as a “negotiable document” if a telex or express release is needed. In certain situations, the consignment cannot be endorsed to a different party and is only delivered to the consignee specified in the bill of lading.

Items Included in a Seaway Bill

Items Included in a Seaway Bill

What is displayed on the Seaway Bill? The answer is straightforward: essentially everything that is displayed on a bill of lading.

A seaway bill, however, will always be headed “SEAWAY BILL NON-NEGOTIABLE,” which is a significant distinction between the two.

Generally, a seaway bill displays the following information in their own fields:

Number of Seaway Bill

This is a special alphanumeric identification code that the ocean carrier issues to identify the shipment. It is typically quoted on all shipping-related correspondence.


The name and address of the person who ships the products to his customer via an ocean carrier is displayed in the consignor section. This field may also be labeled “shipper” or “exporter” since the consignor is the shipper or exporter sending the goods.


The consignee in a seaway bill is the consignor’s client. It is the party who, after paying all customs fees and other obligations, receives the goods at the port of destination through his clearing agent. After selling or transferring the items to the consignee, the consignor is not allowed to transfer ownership again through endorsements or other channels.

Notify Party

This field in a seaway bill is typically left empty since the consignee is the party who will be contacted when the vessel arrives at its destination. Some shipping companies might fill in this area with the same address that appears under “consignee.”

Name of the vessel and voyage number

Here is the name of the vessel that the consignment gets loaded upon. The trip number, if any, will be included in addition to the vessel’s name.

Location of the acceptance

The point of receipt, which is often the port of loading, is where the shipper (consignor) turns over the goods to the ocean carrier. It is also possible that the products were delivered to the carrier or its agent from a location other than the load port.

Location of Loading

The port from which cargo is loaded onto an oceangoing vessel is known as the port of loading.

Location of Discharge

The destination port where the cargo is offloaded from the vessel and delivered to or picked up by the client (consignee) is known as the port of discharge.

Location of the Delivery

The “Place of Delivery” field indicates whether the ocean carrier is under contract to deliver the shipment to the customer’s address or to a different storage facility. In these situations, the carrier’s office will arrange for the goods to be delivered to the designated location either by other means or overland. From this place, the consignee accepts delivery of his products.

Reference for booking/shipping.

The shipping company may provide the booking or shipping reference numbers. These numbers appear under this field if they are available.

Details of the container, dimensions, and cargo description

A table displaying the seal numbers and the unique container number (or numbers) comes after the information seen above. This table displays the total number of parcels, along with a description of each package and the products within. Measurements and the gross cargo weight are also included. Typically, these are displayed in cubic meters (CBM) and kilograms (KG).

International Maritime Organization and Lloyds Register Numbers

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The Lloyds Register number or the IMO (International Maritime Organization) number is another significant number that appears on a seaway bill.

The ship’s IMO number, which is a permanent number, can uniquely identify it. The letters IMO appear before a unique seven-digit number. Regardless of changes to the ship’s owner, flag, or name, this number remains constant.

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The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized branch of the United Nations, oversees global maritime regulations, including those pertaining to security and safety.

Classifying maritime vessels is one of Lloyds Register’s primary responsibilities. With its headquarters in London, the company also conducts business ventures in technical and engineering domains. In addition to other assets classified by the Lloyds Register, marine vessel information is also available on the Lloyds online register.

Other Waterway Fields Bill Carrier Approvals

Endorsements pertaining to the freight payment method, such as telex or express release, etc., may be found on a seaway bill. The endorsements of the ocean carrier agent at the ports of loading and discharge will be displayed in this area.

The seaway bill is typically where you may discover information about cargo insurance, inland routing directions, and similar things.

Delivered on the scheduled date

This is the day that the items are loaded onto the carrier, as stated in the heading.

Declared Worth of the Products

The value listed on the shipper’s invoice is the declared worth of the items. This figure is used to calculate any applicable customs duty or other taxes in the regular course of business. The seaway bill may or may not include the “declared value” printed on it.

Location and Date of Publication

The ocean carrier’s office often issues the seaway bill. The shipper or his agent receives it signed. The seaway bill will indicate the location of issuance.

The “date of issue” is the day the seaway bill is created and given to the shipper or his agent.


Typically, the final field on a seaway bill is the signature field. This has the authorized signatory of the maritime carrier’s signature. It legally commits him to act as the freight carrier specified in the seaway bill. Since most invoices are now generated digitally, most of them do not have signatures on them.

The Drawbacks of a Seaway Bill

Once a seaway bill is issued, the consignee listed on the bill cannot be altered, and the ocean carrier will only deliver the goods to the consignee listed on the bill. Consequently, the seaway bill is not negotiable in any way.

Since they do not retain title to the commodities, banks and other financial institutions do not accept seaway invoices from businesses in order to provide financial guarantees. On the other hand, these institutions accept bills of lading as payment for letters of guarantee (also known as letters of credit) due to their negotiable nature.

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