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The Countryman & McDaniel

Guide To

"Parties To The Shipping Contract"



1. Shipper/Beneficial Cargo Owner

2. Pick Up/Delivery Carriers - Truckers

4. Warehouses

5. Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier - NVOCC / Indirect Air Carrier - IAC

6. Co-loader/Consolidator/Neutral NVOCC - Wholesale

7. General Sales Agents - GSA

8. Custodial Carriers

a. Vessel Operators / Steamship Lines - VOC

b. Airlines

c. Air Truckers

9. Customs Brokers

SEE ALSO: The Logistics Chain -- How Does International Transport Work?


Shipper/Beneficial Cargo Owner

A shipper is the party tendering the goods to the carrier for the purpose of accomplishing the contract for carriage. The shippers name and address is identified on the air waybill and is deemed to be bound to the conditions of carriage found on the face and reverse side of the air waybill / ocean bill of lading. The beneficial owner of the goods is the party who has title to the goods. The shipper may also be the beneficial owner of the goods; however, not always. In cases where an Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) or Indirect Air Carrier (ICA) issued a house air waybill (HAW) or a house bill of lading (HBL), the NVOCC/IAC may appear as the shipper on the face of the master air waybill (MAW) or master ocean bill of lading (MBL). From the perspective of the custodial carrier and the MBL/MAW, the NVOCC/ICA is the shipper. From the prospective of the NVOCC/ICA and the HBL/HAW, the beneficial owner of the goods is the shipper.

Pick Up/Delivery Carriers (Truckers)

In order to get ocean or airfreight shipments to and from the airport, airlines, NVOCC's/IAC's and freight forwarders commonly employ truckers to pick up the freight. The trucker generally issues its own domestic bills of lading or the domestic air waybill / ocean bill of lading of the NVOCC's / ICA's, generally with liability limits of $0.50 per lb. In the case of an international shipment, the trucker generally issues its own domestic bills of lading or will pick up the freight based on a shipper's letter of instruction or an international air waybill / ocean bill of lading. In these cases, damage limits are generally limited to either $0.50 per lb. or $9.07 lb. by contract, as Warsaw does not extend by force of law beyond the airport boundaries.


Warehouses perform three basic functions: (1) the consolidation of cargo; (2) the de-consolidation or break bulk of cargo; and (3) the storage of cargo for future shipment. Because of the high cost of land adjacent to most ports/airports, these types of warehouses are smaller and discourage long term storage of cargo. Warehouses performing break bulk or consolidation of cargo for domestic or international shipment generally issue warehouse receipts (contracts) which limit their liability to $1.00 per lb.

Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) / Indirect Air Carrier (IAC)

An FMC Ocean Intermediary a.k.a. NVOCC (non vessel operating common carrier) / IAC (indirect air carrier) performs the same function as an vessel operator or airline or a custodial carrier of the goods, except they do not generally own, operate or lease aircraft. Instead IAC contract with vessel operators / airlines for space on board and because NVOCC's / ICA's are high volume shippers they can generally contract for lower rates than beneficial cargo owners or retail shippers. NVOCC's /ICA's, like traditional airlines or custodial carriers, issue air waybill / ocean bill of ladings and are held to the same standards, in many cases, as airlines or custodial carriers.

If the NVOCC/IAC does not have a company office at destination, it will use and "Arrival Agent" (also know as a "Destination Agent") to issue an Arrival Notice, collect any destination charge and coordinate cargo release with the Custodial Carrier (see below). These agents are not carriers, have no liability except for their own acts and have no contract relationship with either the shipper or the consignee.

Co-loader/Consolidator/Neutral NVOCC (Wholesale)

A Co-loader/Consolidator is a neutral Ocean Intermediary or NVOCC / ICA who does not service the retail market, but offers wholesale rates to smaller NVOCC / ICAs and freight forwarders who may not have sufficient cargo volume to command competitive rates. Like other NVOCC's / ICAs, airlines or custodial carriers, Co-loader/Consolidators issue air waybill / ocean bill of ladings and are held to the same standards, in many cases, as airlines or custodial carriers.

In other words, a co-loader is an NVOCC (ocean) or IAC (air) which loads its freight with another consolidator ( another NVOCC or IAC) who holds higher volume to a particular destination or who is in a position to ship faster. The co-loader relationship envisions one NVOCC/IAC dealing with another &endash; both have carrier responsibility.


General Sales Agents (GSA) provide sales and customer service support for airlines that may not operate out of a particular airport. For example, GSAs may coordinate the consolidation of freight from Los Angeles to Miami for airlines that service Miami and the Caribbean. Cargo is tendered at LAX and either trucked or flown to Miami for the flight.

Custodial Carriers

Vessel Operators / Steamship Lines (VOC)
Traditional vessel operators, such as APL, SeaLand, NOL, OOCL, etc., issue bills of lading and are responsible for the physical movement of the cargo from airport to airport. They have contract liability according the air waybill / ocean bill of lading, their tariff, or Warsaw.


Traditional aircraft operators, such as UA, BA, TWA, Delta, etc., issue bills of lading and are responsible for the physical movement of the cargo from airport to airport. They have contract liability according the air waybill, their tariff, or Warsaw.

Air Truckers

Under the current scheme of deregulation, air carriers are permitted to use substitute or alternative modes of carriage such as surface truckers. Many air truckers merely issue air waybills and only use less than trailer load (LTL) or full trailer load (FTL) contract carriage to accomplish airport to airport shipments.

Customs Brokers

Facilitates filing of US Customs documentation, Customs entry and Customs clearance. Customs brokers may, with a separate agreement be responsible for classification, drawback and compliance with US Customs regulations.

SEE ALSO: The Logistics Chain -- How Does International Transport Work?



Purchase quality air cargo insurance from your air forwarder professional and avoid uncertainty.

* The Cargo Letter does not provide legal advice applicable to specific situations. The information provided is believed generally reliable, but should be confirmed through the current text of cited laws and authorities. It is understood that all laws & authorities are subject to change without notice to the public. Where specific situations or the conduct of your busniess are concerned, it is important to consult your company attorney or advisor directly. The Cargo Letter cannnot be responsible for failure to follow these instructions.


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