Express Bill of Lading Vs Telex Release - What's the Difference?


Close up of an express bill of lading shipping document

Shipping is complex and the documents that go with it can be even more difficult to understand. You may be familiar with Bill of Lading but Telex Release may sound like something that was superseded years ago. While the process has changed, the name has stuck. Let us explain the documents and their relationship to each other.    

What is an Express Bill of Lading?

A Bill of Lading (BOL) is a legal document used to detail all the particulars of the cargo – the buyer, description of goods, container number, port of origin, and port of destination. The BOL is usually produced in triplicate so there is one for the shipper, one for the consignee, and one for the broker or third party but there may be more than three copies. The exporter must send the Bill of Lading to the importer/buyer for them to collect the goods.   

An Express Release Bill of Lading means an electronic copy is sufficient for the carrier at the final destination to release the cargo to the final consignee stated in the Bill of Lading. If the BOL isn’t Express Release then the original documents must be mailed/couriered to the buyer so they can present at the time of collection. Using Express Release saves time and money. After import custom clearance, the buyer shows the necessary identification and the cargo is provided to them.

A Bill of Lading may be used for any kind of carriage, not just sea. It may be called an Airway Bill when goods are sent by air.  

What is a Telex Release?

A Telex Release is the document used to authorise the release of cargo at one port after the bill of lading document has been surrendered at the other port. The carrier is required to collect the original bill of lading before any cargo is released. The bills are usually surrendered by the shipper or forwarder to a port agent (often at the port of loading). The bill includes instructions on releasing the goods to the consignee or named party. 

The agent then sends a telex release to the discharge port agent to advise they have received the full set of three original bill of lading documents. The telex release is also confirmation that freight and all other charges have been paid at the port of loading. The release should include all cargo details such as name and address of consignee or named party, the container number and a detailed description of the goods.

If the telex release is complete and unambiguous then the goods may be released to the consignee or named party. Despite the name, the release is usually sent by email not telex. 

Positives and Negatives of Electronic Communication

A Express Bill of Lading and Telex of Release are ideal because it can speed up the customs clearance process and eliminates the cost of sending hard copy documentation to the buyer. But it does come with some risks. There have been cases where a fake telex release was sent allowing goods to be collected unlawfully. Ports are advised to check the authenticity of a telex release or express release bill of lading by entering the port’s email address and returning a copy of the documents back to them asking for verification that they sent the original communication.

Instructions for the goods should also be clear so the receiving port knows whether the goods are due to be collected or they’re continuing on to another port. Language differences between ports can cause communications problems. If there are any doubts about the instructions, the port should check before releasing the goods. 

If you have any queries about manufacturing in China and shipping goods to Australia, please contact Vara Allied online.