Signing of Charter Party Bills of Lading


CPBL's are bills of lading that are issued subject to the terms and conditions of a charter party.

UCP 600 sub-article 22 (a) (i) states that a CPBL must appear to have been signed by:

  • The master or a named agent for or on behalf of the master, or.
  • The owner or a named agent for or on behalf of the owner, or,
  • The charterer or a named agent for or on behalf of the charterer.

A noted difference is that the carrier or a named agent for or on behalf of the carrier can sign most other transport documents. This was queried as a possible anomaly within ICC Opinion TA.793rev.

The rationale behind the absence of ‘carrier' in sub-article 22 (a) (i) had been based upon the fact that it was not commonplace for CPBL's to be signed by a carrier or by an agent for or on behalf of the carrier.

However, the initiators of the referenced Opinion had indicated that such forms of signing were appearing with increased frequency and that it could no longer be considered as an infrequent practice.

Looking closely at the Opinion, it reveals that feedback had been received from the ICC Commercial Law and Practice Commission in respect of an earlier Opinion stating that the exclusion of a carrier as a signing party was to assist document examiners. If not excluded, a document examiner could face the potential problem of trying to determine, out of a number of different entities ranging from the owner to charterers and sub-charterers, who exactly might be the contractual carrier. It is not for a document examiner to look at the terms of the contract of carriage.

In order to allow for what appears to be a growing practice in some regions, the answer would be for the credit to specifically allow for a carrier (or agent) to sign the CPBL.

In any future revision of UCP 600, it is quite possible that this issue could be addressed if it is identified that existing practice is changing.

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