Over the past 5-10 years, the ICC Banking Commission has responded to numerous requests seeking clarification as to the circumstances in which an on board notation is required and, where so required, the data that should form the basis for that notation. Unfortunately, this issue, like so many other requests for ICC opinions, often stems from the initiator being unaware of the existence of official ICC opinions that cover the subject matter.

To remedy this situation, and to bring issues involving on board notations under one document, the Drafting Group responsible for the revision of UCP 500 came together one more time to draft a recommendation paper that is to be followed by all concerned parties. This paper, entitled "Recommendations of the Banking Commission in respect of the requirements for an On Board Notation" was accepted by the ICC national committees by a majority vote and became an official ICC publication as of 27 July. By now, the Drafting Group hopes that its contents are being applied on a global basis. This article gives a brief summary of the contents and thinking behind the recommendation paper, the full text of which can be found online at

Focus and application

Before getting into the details of the paper, it should be noted that it does not amend UCP 600 or ISBP 681. It is also not a position paper in the context of those that were issued under UCP 500. The conclusions drawn in the recommendation paper will be included in the new ISBP publication currently under review. In trade finance transactions handled today, there are a large number of different transport document formats used by carriers or their agents. This paper does not, and cannot, seek to cover every transport document format involving an element of sea carriage, a task that would be well nigh impossible, since each carrier and agent has its own style and layout for the data. However, the principles established in the paper should be capable of being applied across different formats.

Whilst the paper focuses on the information that will normally appear on a bill of lading (subject to UCP 600 article 20), its contents equally apply to sea waybills, charter party bills of lading and multimodal or combined transport documents (where the first leg of the carriage is by sea).

A number of comments associated with previous requests for opinions indicated that "shipped on board" could only relate to a named vessel and, if the bill of lading indicates there had been pre-carriage from a place of receipt to the port of loading, by road or rail, then a bank should not be looking for anything more than a dated on board notation, as the notation can only refer to "on board" a vessel.

I think it's fair to say that a number of trade finance practitioners would have the same view. When preparing the contents of the paper, the Drafting Group examined various B/L formats to identify if there were any statements made by carriers that could affect the status of any on board notation and support this view. It was while completing this exercise that wording was noted that gave a totally different perspective. A number of these B/Ls contained wording such as "when the place of receipt box has been completed, any notation on this bill of lading of 'on board', 'loaded on board' or words of like effect, shall be deemed to be on board the means of transportation performing the carriage from the place of receipt to the port of loading." Clearly, shipped on board does not always mean on board a vessel.

As a result, the Drafting Group needed to look at this solely from the perspective of the UCP (see the section on Background).

Bank and applicant responsibility

From enquiries received by ICC, it is evident that a number of the issues relating to when a notation is required and what form it should take are caused by the routing information in a credit that does not match the transport document called for.

For example, a credit will require shipment from Rotterdam port to Hong Kong port, and require the presentation of a bill of lading. What is presented is a multimodal transport document showing place of receipt Paris, port of loading Rotterdam and port of discharge Hong Kong. Some banks examined such a document according to article 19, whereas the paper makes it clear that article 20 is the applicable article when a bill of lading is required covering a port-to-port shipment.

It's surprising that a number of banks have not incorporated the four options that now exist under field 44 of the SWIFT MT700, 710 and 720 messages into their documentary credit application forms. Allowing the applicant to fully incorporate their requirements concerning the routing of the goods not only facilitates the correct identification of the transport document that should be requested, but also identifies the need for any on board notation and in respect of which port or vessel that notation may be required. It is important that the applicant be allowed to complete the information that matches that agreed with the beneficiary in the contract or proforma invoice.

It is also clear that some banks only allow the option of bills of lading or air waybills for the choice of transport document, whereas a multimodal or combined transport document option should also have been made available for selection by the applicant.


UCP 600 sub-article 20 (a) (ii) refers to the need for a bill of lading to indicate that the goods have been shipped on board a named vessel at the port of loading on stated in the credit. Whilst article 20 does not contain the full wording that appeared in UCP 500 sub-article 23 (a) (ii), the requirement is quite clear: a document examiner must be satisfied that any indication of the goods being loaded on board a vessel applies only to the vessel (named in the bill of lading) departing from the port of loading stated in the credit (or a port within any given range or geographical area). UCP 600, in sub-article 14 (a), also states that a nominated bank acting on its nomination, a confirming bank, if any, and the issuing bank must examine a presentation to determine, the basis of the documents alone, whether or not the documents appear on their face to constituet a complying presentation. It is with these sub-articles in mind that the paper was drafted.

Clearly, if a bill of lading shows the port of loading and port of discharge as stated in the credit, and makes no reference to any form of pre-carriage, any on board notation or statement can only apply in respect of the named vessel.

But what if the face of the document indicates pre-carriage by road from an inland place to the port of loading stated in the credit, and the bill of lading (which is to cover a port-to-port shipment) indicates that the goods are shipped on board (with a date) and a vessel is named in the ocean vessel field? Can the document examiner reasonably determine that the on board notation refers to the named vessel and the port of loading, as required by sub-article 20 (a) (ii), or does it refer to loading on board the truck from the place of receipt to the port of loading?

Similarly, if the B/L indicates a place of receipt, but there is no indication of a means of pre-carriage from that place to the port of loading, can the document examiner reasonably determine that the on board notation applies to the vessel and port of loading stated and not to the mode of transport used - but not stated - from the place of receipt to the port of loading?

These were the questions that the Drafting Group sought to answer.

In order to determine the scope of any shipped on board statement, the document examiner is required to read beyond an opening (pre-printed) wording such as "shipped on board in apparent good order and condition ... " to ascertain any limitations that may be attached to this wording. As seen above, some carriers make reference to the fact that shipped on board means on board the means of conveyance from the place of receipt to the port of loading. But even if the bill of lading does not so state, can the document examiner be reasonably assured that the on board notation applies to the named vessel and port of loading?

Conclusions drawn

The paper's conclusions can be reviewed in the paper's point 5. In addition, the document contains a flow chart to assist in determining the requirements. It is expected that once document preparers and examiners have made themselves aware of the reasoning behind the conclusions, the flow chart (point 6 of the paper) will become the main working aid.

The essence of the conclusions is that if there is a place of receipt that is the same as the port of loading or one different from the port of loading, but there is NO indication of a means of pre-carriage (in the designated field or as part of the place of receipt field), then either a dated pre-printed shipped on board bill of lading or a received for shipment bill of lading with a dated on board notation is all that is required. However, when a bill of lading indicates a means of pre-carriage (in the designated field or as part of the place of receipt field), then a dated on board notation is required that ALSO includes the name of the vessel and the port of loading (even if this is the same information that appears in the respective fields on the bill of lading).

The Drafting Group hopes that by the widespread dissemination of this paper - including reference on the ICC website and publications such as DCInsight - the recommendations will filter through to all those banks and organizations not privy to seeing the ICC opinions as approved and published, and thereby will remove one more area of contention from document examination.

Gary Collyer is Technical Adviser to the ICC Banking Commission and President of Collyer Consulting. He was the Chair of the Drafting Group on UCP 600. His e-mail is