What is Seaway Bill: Why do exporters need it?

Seaway Bill and Bill of Lading are two important documents required at the time of exporting goods by ocean. Learn more about its advantages and uses.
seaway bill
While exporting from India, it is important to have an organized and documented logistics process, monitored at every step to ensure a secure exchange of goods. Seaway Bill and Bill of Lading are two primary transport documents for international shipping through the ocean. These documents work as proof of export in the case of any legal issues between two parties.

What is a Seaway Bill (SWB)?

A Seaway Bill is a contract of carriage between a shipper and a carrier (cargo company). While a Bill of Lading also includes ownership title, a Seaway Bill is a transport document that acts as a receipt against the shipment. Here, an ocean carrier issues a SWB to a consignor (shipper). The carrier has flexibility to produce a soft or hard copy of this non-negotiable document1.

When is a Seaway Bill used?

Following are some of the conditions under which a SWB is used2:

Known recipients are involved:

SWB doesn’t transfer ownership of the goods. If the consignor and consignee have a high degree of trust, then there might not be a need to transfer ownership legally.

To prevent sale in-transit:

If the carrier issues a SWB against a consignment, they cannot trade it to another party when it is in transit. It provides a degree of security for the shipper when the cargo is out for transport.

Immediate clearance needed:

SWB comes in handy when a shipper wants to immediately clear goods from the customs without presenting a BOL (Bill of Lading). When trusted parties are involved, one can remove this option. That’s also why a Seaway Bill is also known as ‘Express Release Bill of Lading’.

Transactions under the same business group:

A SWB can be issued when a transaction is between companies under the same business group.

Format of a Seaway Bill

Following are some of the contents of a Seaway Bill3:

• Shipper’s information (sender’s information)
• Importer’s information (receiver’s information)
• Destination port
• Boarding port
• Contact details of the shipper and receiver
• Name of the vessel/ship
• Place of delivery
• Description of the cargo
• Number of packages in transit

Seaway Bill: Advantages and disadvantages

A Seaway Bill is a flexible option for transporting goods across borders. The receiver can easily access the cargo because, with this bill, they can easily clear goods as soon as they arrive at the port.

Advantages Of SWB

No need to present BOL physically: The importer does not have to show the original Bill of Lading if the owner has mentioned Seaway Bill as a transport document.

Fast release of cargo: The receiver saves time by quickly procuring goods at the port. So, SWBs are useful when the goods have arrived before the documents.

Easy clearance: The document does not transfer ownership of the shipment. The receiver will immediately clear customs, as the freight payment has already been made.

Increase in trade volume: It saves cost and allows one container vessel to travel globally in a shorter time.


Non- acceptance from banks: Since Seaway Bills do not offer ownership of the consignment, banks do not accept it in the payment process.

No control over release: The owner does not have control over dispatching of goods. Once the carrier receives freight payment, the owner loses the right over the release of the goods.

Replacement is not an option: Once the shipper issues a Seaway Bill, there is no possibility of changing it.

A Seaway Bill is a key document required to export from India. With e-commerce exports programs, Indian exporters can grow their businesses and take their local products across the world with ease.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who issues a Seaway Bill?
The shipper, also known as a consignor and ocean carrier, issues a Seaway Bill.
What is the difference between a Seaway Bill and a Bill of Lading?
A Seaway Bill is a document regarding the carriage and transport receipt of goods. However, a Bill of Lading also offers ownership title.
Is Seaway Bill the same as a Telex release?
A Telex Release is issued for a physical set of Original Bill(s) of Lading which is printed, released and surrendered. Whereas, Express Release is issued for a Seaway Bill of Lading.
Published on September 20, 2022.


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