top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoseph O'Donnell

House Bill of Lading vs. Master Bill of Lading

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

What would the world of logistics be if there was only one kind of Bill of Lading? The answer to that question is "less exciting".

Here at Outer Seaways our customers often ask us... What is the difference between the House Bill of Lading (HBL) and the Master Bill of Lading (MBL)?

What is the HBL?

Arranging the transportation of a shipment can become very complex between all of the documentation, regulations, parties involved, terminology, etc. Therefore, a shipper will often use an NVOCC or freight forwarder to arrange the transportation of their cargo.

The NVOCC or freight forwarder will book their customers' shipment with a carrier. After the cargo is loaded onto the vessel and ready to be transported internationally, the HBL is issued by the NVOCC to the shipper who initiated the shipment. On an HBL the actual shipper and consignee of the shipment are usually listed.

If you are using a freight forwarder or booking directly with the mainline carrier instead of an NVOCC, then you will receive an MBL.

So, what is an MBL?

The MBL is the Bill of Lading that is issued to the NVOCC or shipper by the mainline carrier transporting the freight. Unlike an HBL, an MBL will usually list the NVOCC as the shipper and the receiving agent as the consignee.

The only time that the actual shipper will receive an MBL is if they are booking freight directly with a mainline carrier, or they are booking through a freight forwarder. As mentioned, freight forwarders are not licensed as carriers like NVOCCs. Thus, when working with a freight forwarder the actual shipper of the cargo will receive an MBL.

In Short...

The main difference is that an HBL is issued by an NVOCC and usually lists the actual shipper and consignee. Whereas an MBL is issued by the mainline carrier and usually lists the NVOCC and receiving agents as the shipper and consignee.

Also, the actual shipper of the cargo will only receive an MBL if they are working directly with a mainline carrier or a freight forwarder. If the shipper is working with an NVOCC then they will receive a HBL instead.

Bills of Lading are rather complicated. There are many more nuances and details regarding MBLs and HBLs. But hopefully this helps give you a better general understanding of their differences.

Still have questions about the differences between an MBL and HBL? Sign-up to comment them below!

1,727 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page