Tera Logistics

Type of Transport Document: Sea Waybill

Posted in Transport Document - 4 Jan 2021, 10:23 AM

With strict regulations in the ocean exporting and importing industry, it’s definitely important to prepare and submit legal documents for any shipments on board. Such documents include a Sea Waybill, which will be further detailed down below. Here, you’ll also discover the function posed by this document as well as its differences to a Bill of Lading (BOL).

What is Sea Waybill?

In the most basic sense, a Sea Waybill (SWB) is the same as a Bill of Lading, which is a transport contract. What makes these two different is that SWB isn’t necessary for cargo delivery. It will only be issued as a cargo receipt in either soft copy or hard copy (or both) and authorized automatically to be released by the cargo owners once the goods arrive, unlike BOL. Henceforth, the handling officer will have to verify their identity to claim the freight.

In place of a BOL, SWB received by the shipper will act as a reference upon the loading of the shipment. SWB is issued when there’s no sale of goods, which makes it suitable for regular shipments not requiring settlements through banks or third parties.

Some may know SWB as the “Straight Bill of Lading” or “Express Release Bill of Lading” instead. Regardless, this document is non-negotiable—in the sense that it doesn’t provide a title to the goods or only plays an evidential function. It’s also non-transferrable to a third party.

What are the Functions of Sea Waybill?

With the opening explanation above, simply said, there are two main functions posed by a Sea Waybill:

1.      Receipt of the Goods

An SWB will present detailed identification on the goods inside and later serve as the receipt of shipped goods.

2.      Contract of Carriage

Also referred to as a transport contract, an SWB also presents this function between the goods carrier and consignor/shipper.

Which One Should I Use: The Bill of Lading or Sea Waybill?

With so many questions surrounding the usage of BOL or SWB, it’s always highly suggested to consult such legal matters to the experts first. However, a Sea Waybill can be commonly used in these situations:

  • Cargo isn’t for sale during transport.
  • If there’s any payment of goods, such transactions should be executed under an open account or any other means to show a high degree of trust between the carrier and shipper. Otherwise, the transaction should prove that under no letter of credit is a negotiable transport document required.
  • The cargo recipient is known—for instance, shipments conducted between two related companies.

BOL is used outside these situations. Therefore, it’s not possible to use a BOL and SWB simultaneously for the same shipment. In essence, there can only be one transport document detailing the process.


We hope the explanations on the Sea Waybill above give you sufficient information. Considering its legal purpose, issuing an SWB on your own is not advisable. We suggest you contact an expert or specialized company regarding this document.

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