Difference Between MBL and HBL

Difference between MBL and HBL, Master Bill of lading vs House Bill of Lading

When it comes to international shipping and trade, two documents can often create confusion: the Master Bill of Lading (MBL) and the House Bill of Lading (HBL). Although both are essential for transporting goods across borders, they serve different functions and involve different parties.

In this blog post, we will clarify the difference between Master Bill of Lading and House Bill of Lading in shipping. Whether you are a business owner, a shipper, or simply curious about global trade, understanding the Master Bill of Lading and House Bill of Lading is inevitable.

In shipping, understanding the difference between Master Bill of Lading (MBL) and House Bill of Lading (HBL) is crucial due to the significance of the roles played by MBL and HBL in shipping your products by Ocean. Usually, people who export products should know what is HBL?, difference between HBL and MBL in shipping, the contents of the HBL Document or Form, and HBL Transport because HBL is used only by Ocean Freights, which is created by Ocean Transport Intermediary (OTI), such as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) or a freight forwarder. Whereas MBL is a document issued by the carrier to the freight forwarder upon receiving goods. So MBL in shipping means it’s a contract for the carriage of goods.

So, let’s get down to what is HBL and MBL in shipping. In simple terms, MBL in logistics usually means a contract between the exporter and the shipping or carrier company for your goods. Now, what is HBL in shipping? It’s a contract between a freight forwarder and supplier that says goods have been received and are ready for shipment.

Lets know the difference between House Bill of Lading Vs Master Bill of Lading in details below:

What is the Master Bill Of Lading?

A master bill of lading (MBL) in shipping is a document given by the company that owns the ship (the carrier). It's like a contract for shipping goods from one place to another. If you work with a freight forwarder or a big shipping company, they will give you this document. It has all the important details about how your stuff will be moved, like who's sending it, who's getting it, and who has the goods. This paper is really important for shipping things by sea. The shipping company writes it out, signs it, and gives it to the company that booked the shipment , which clarifies the MBL meaning in shipping.

Purpose of a Master Bill of Lading

A Master Bill of Lading plays a crucial role in international trade by clarifying who owns the goods during shipment. In the complex world of global trade, it can be tricky to figure out when the goods officially belong to the importer or other parties. The Master Bill of Lading steps in to answer these questions and set the rules for who owns what and when.

What is included in a Master Bill of Lading?

The Master Bill of Lading is a crucial document that includes important details such as the shipper and consignee's information, container numbers, seals, item counts, and weights. Having accurate and clear information on the bill of lading is essential because it ensures that the goods can be unloaded or discharged anywhere in the shipping process. Essentially, the Bill of Lading serves as an instruction manual that guides the delivery of goods to their intended destination.

How to fill a Master Bill of Lading?

Filling out a Master Bill of Lading involves providing several important details. Below is a breakdown of the necessary items you should include:

1. Shipper Information: This Includes the business name, address, and contact details of the shipper or Non-Vessel Owning Common Carrier (NVOCC).

2. Consignee Details: Include the business name, address, contact information, and any required tax ID numbers for the consignee.

3. Notify Party Information: Specify the business name, address, and contact details for the notified party.

4. Forwarder Details (if applicable): If a forwarder is involved, include their business name, address, contact information, and FMC number.

5. Booking Number: Include the booking number provided by the carrier and any internal reference numbers for the shipper, consignee, or cargo.

6. Vessel and Voyage: Note the name of the vessel and the voyage reference number.

7. Ports: Mention the loading and discharging ports.

8. Container and Seal Numbers: Provide container and seal numbers for each container.

9. Package Details: Specify the piece count and package type, and describe the commodity next to the relevant container.

10. Weight and Volume: Include the weight and volume of the container to which it applies.

11. Total Cargo Information: Provide the total component count, weight, and volume for all containers in the cargo.

12. Additional Details: Include the AES/ITN number, HS Code, payment terms (such as freight prepaid, collect, DTHC prepaid, etc.), and BL Release Type (e.g., express, OBLs printed at origin or destination).

Ensuring that all these details are accurately filled out is crucial, as the Master Bill of Lading serves as a vital document in the shipment process.

What is the House Bill of Lading (HBL)?

A House Bill of Lading (HBL) in shipping, commonly known as HBL, is a document issued by a middleman in ocean shipping, like a freight forwarder or a non-vessel operating company. It serves as proof that goods have been received and are being shipped. This HBL document is given to the suppliers when they send out their cargo for shipment.

Purpose of a House Bill of Lading

The main purpose of a House Bill of Lading (HBL) is to confirm and record the contract between the recipient (consignee) and the carrier for shipping goods, ensuring the goods are in good condition for transport.

What is included in a House Bill of Lading?

A House Bill of Lading (HBL) usually contains the following details:

1. Exporter's Details: The name and address of the exporter (the one sending the goods).

2. Importer's Details: The name and address of the importer (the one receiving the goods).

3. Total Value of Goods: The monetary value of the shipped goods

4. Transportation Details: Information about the mode of transportation used for shipping.

5. Shipment Terms and Conditions: A detailed description of the terms and conditions related to the shipment.

How to fill a House Bill of Lading?

Filling out a House Bill of Lading (HBL) involves key details:

1. Shipper : Include the name and address of the entity sending the cargo, which can be the owner, exporter, or freight forwarder. The shipper can modify this information if they book and pay for shipping

2. Consignee : Note the name and address of the cargo receiver. They're responsible for any issues at the destination, like customs clearance or claims

3. Notify Party : Specify who should be notified upon cargo arrival, which might differ from the consignee, depending on the B/L

4. Pre-Carriage : If an inland vessel is involved, mention its name

5. Place of Receipt : Indicate where the cargo was handed over to the carrier. Any damage during this transit is the carrier's responsibility

6. Port of Loading : The location where the cargo is loaded onto the ocean vessel

7. Ocean Vessel/Voyage : Include the vessel's name and voyage number

8. Port of Discharge : The place where the cargo is unloaded from the ocean vessel

9. Place of Delivery : Specify the final delivery location. The carrier must ensure safe delivery here

10. Marks and Numbers : Unique identifiers on packages

11. Number and Kinds of Packages : Quantity and type of packages (e.g., pallets, cartons)

12. Description of Packages or Goods : Describe what's inside

13. Gross weight : weight of cargo excluding container weight

14. Measurement : cargo volume (e.g., cubic meters)

15. Booking and B/L Numbers : Unique tracking numbers

16. Others : total containers and packages, freight charges, dates, issuing location, originals, and carrier's agent details

Master Bill of Lading vs House Bill of Lading Example:

Consider three small businesses: Business 1 in Pune, Business 2 in Nashik, and Business 3 in Mumbai. All three aim to export their products to Business 4 in Dubai, UAE.

Individually, these businesses cannot fill an entire shipping container. Therefore, they engage the same freight forwarder to consolidate their goods into a single container for the overseas journey.

Here's how the two types of bills of lading operate:

House Bill of Lading (HBL): The freight forwarder issues separate HBLs for each business. Each HBL specifies the goods being shipped, their quantity, destination, shipper, and consignee. For instance, Business 1's HBL indicates that the freight forwarder received a specific quantity of goods from Business 1 for delivery to Business 4 in Dubai.

Master Bill of Lading (MBL): The shipping line, which owns the ship transporting the container, issues an MBL to the freight forwarder. This MBL covers the entire consolidated shipment. It lists the freight forwarder as the shipper, Business 4 as the consignee, and includes the total quantity of goods in the container, incorporating all items from Business 1, Business 2, and Business 3 combined.


In summary, a House Bill of Lading (HBL) serves as a receipt for a shipment from a single exporter. On the other hand, a Master Bill of Lading (MBL) is a receipt that can cover multiple shipments as the carrier consolidates them into a larger cargo load.

The HBL is issued by a freight forwarder or NVOCC to a single exporter, while the MBL is issued by the carrier to a forwarding agent or the shipper, depending on who arranged the transport. The MBL represents the transfer of cargo from the forwarder to the carrier and can encompass shipments from various exporters.

If you have trouble with your logistics documentation, try Citrus Freight , we help exporters & importers of perishable cargo with seamless logistics & customs clearance support, for more details download the Citrus app .