A seaway bill is a receipt for goods shipped on board :
- Is a good evidence of existence and terms of a contract between the shipper and the carrier, but not a contract by itself;
- Identifies the person to whom the delivery of goods is to be made by the carrier in accordance with the contract of carriage. In contrast to a B/L the seaway bill always bears the consignee name and address in an appropriate box.
- Is non-negotiable and usually (but not always) bear the words “non-negotiable” on their face. The condition of carriage may also bear a statement such as “This Waybill is not a bill of lading and no bill of lading will be issued” or “This Waybill is not a document of title”.
- Is not a document of title and does not give the right to possession of the goods.
- May be a receipt for the freight, if endorsed to indicate that freight is paid.
- May contain conditions of carriage.
- May be subject to Hague-Visby Rules or Hague Rules.
A seaway bill is used when a negotiated document will not be required i.e. when the goods will not be sold or credit will not be raised on the security of the goods from a bank etc. If the shipper and the buyer are well established trading partners, seaway bill is encouraged by BIMCO.
The benefits of a seaway bill as against a B/L are that :
- They can be carried on board the vessel especially on a short sea passage and the cargo along with the document for the cargo come together.
- They are subject to any documentary formalities other than a reasonable check by the carrier or his agent of the identity of the person claiming delivery of the goods.
- Since they are not documents of title, they are less likely to be used fraudulently.
Money cannot be raised against a seaway bill.
Seaway bill uses similar procedure for issuance as B/L. if the seaway bill is not carried on the ship it is sent by the shipper to the consignee, who must produce the same before taking delivery.
The carrier or his agent will normally ensure that the delivery is made to the proper party after checking his identity. A substantial proportion of international trade today is done by seaway bill.