Sea way bill

Abbreviation: SWB


What is a Sea Waybill?


The Sea Waybill is a document or transport contract made between the maritime company and the shipper. The SWB is not to be confused with the Bill of Lading (BL) which is both a title of ownership of goods and is used as a receipt for cargo accepted for transportation. The SWB is also considered as proof of reception of goods. Less formal than the Bill of Lading, it facilitates exchanges, especially in the absence of a formal business transaction regarding the goods. The Sea Waybill can be compared to the international transport contract of goods by road (CMR) and the transport of goods by air contract (LTA).


With globalization, international trade has grown, and the rate of operations at seaports has continuously risen over the years. In view of this evolution, establishing a lading bill has become increasingly complicated because it must integrate a multitude of indications conform with the 1924 convention and can only be validated by the transporter. Where sea doesn’t always rely on business transactions, as is the case when partners have developed a mutual trust, or the loading of goods and their reception belong to one group, or where no other document is implicated, the Sea Waybill is the most appropriate solution. Indeed, it allows a speedier process of import-export whilst reducing the risk of paying penalties for diverse delays incurred in waiting for approval of the more formal .


The specificities of the SWB


To avoid confusing the SWB with the lading bill or (BL), it is best to specify the characteristics of each document.

As with the , the Sea Waybill is:

  • A document delivered by the sea or ocean transport agent to its clients;
  • Is transmitted once all invoices relative to the transport have been paid;
  • Is attributed following the transmission of documents.


Unlike the , the Sea Waybill:

  • Is non-negotiable;
  • Applies to non-commercial transactions, generally between companies of a same group;
  • Doesn’t require original copies;
  • Doesn’t represent ownership deeds.


Examples and practical applications


The advantages of the Sea Waybill

Being non-negotiable, the Sea Waybill offers several advantages, beginning with its greater flexibility when compared to procedures. Indeed, the person receiving the goods is not required to present an original document to be able to receive the goods. Delivery can be made simply by use of proof of identity of the recipient and mention of the person’s name as recipient on the transport contract. As a reminder, in the case of business transactions necessitating a , the recipient must be in possession of original documents. In the absence of these, the recipient will not be able to collect the goods.


Conditions for delivery of a Sea Waybill

When the exporter and importer are part of the same company or group and the goods transported do not require negotiations, a Sea Waybill is often delivered. A Sea Waybill may also be used when there is no bank involved or where the original invoice is not necessary to ensure payment. The SWB is also appropriate when no exchange or sales are planned during the transport operations, and in cases where there is mutual trust between the expediter and recipient.


The details indicated on the Sea Waybill

If the SWB is characterized as being less formal than a and cannot be used as a title deed, there are, however, several details that must be indicated in the document:

  • Identity of the sender;
  • Port of boarding;
  • Name of ship;
  • Port of destination;
  • Identity of recipient;
  • Contact details of recipient…


Maritime transport in figures


90% of world trade is carried out via .


Regulatory basis


Article 1690 of the Civil Code