RULE 1 - Bills of Lading
Always obtain the original b/l
An Irish liner agent delivered a container of woodpulp against an original bill of lading which had been mailed to him. The bill of lading was consigned "to order" of the shipper who had apparently endorsed and dated it on the reverse. The cargo was released and it was only when the unpaid shipper in the United States enquired about its whereabouts that the words "copy not negotiable" were found in identical typeface amongst the typed description of the goods on the face of the bill of lading. The consignee who had forged the shipper's endorsement subsequently went bankrupt. The agent had to reimburse the amount paid to the US shipper by his principal.
A French port agent released two consignments of sawn timber covered by two separate bills of lading. It subsequently transpired that he had been given one original and one copy of the same bill of lading, instead of two different originals.
The shipper claimed US$ 150,000 from the shipowner, who in turn obtained reimbursement from his agent.
Shippers or banks often send a photocopy of the original bill of lading with the sale documents to the consignee. The fact that a consignee is in a position to fax what is apparently an original bill of lading to the ship agent should therefore never be taken as evidence that the consignee is in possession of an original bill of lading.