To read this content please select one of the options below:

The bill of lading as a document of title

Torsten Schmitz (German American Chamber of Commerce, Inc., New York, USA)

Journal of International Trade Law and Policy

ISSN: 1477-0024

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




This paper seeks to analyse the different characteristics a bill of lading holds as a document of title, including the proprietary effects a transfer of goods in transit can have and the bill's use as a means of security as well as its limitations in mo6dern international commerce.


The paper examines the document's nature and the evolution of its traditional legal functions. The analysis includes, among other things, the implications different types of bills have as an instrument in commercial trade. Special attention is given to the attributes that are likely to limit the bill's application in modern international trade, concerning both its scope and value. Finally, the paper offers a set of conclusions and suggests reform measures.


The paper shows how technological innovations in recent years have resulted in the emergence of new forms of transport documentation that might challenge the bill's role in the future. The paper provides a clear understanding of the problems associated with the bill's current form and outlines the main approaches proposed to meet its need for reform.

Practical implications

The paper offers a conceptual analysis of the bill's weak points and discusses how simplification and standardisation, a central registry system and electronic transmission of information may be able to increase efficiency.


Critical assessment undertaken may pave the way for an open discussion on the subject. Legal culture and mercantile customs should be taken into consideration if a successful and sustainable reform is to be achieved.



Schmitz, T. (2011), "The bill of lading as a document of title", Journal of International Trade Law and Policy, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 255-280.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles