mate's receipt shipping document

What Is a Mate’s Receipt & What Is it Used For?

Over the last decades, the shipping industry has transformed due to a rapid influx of new technology, larger vessels, more advanced freight equipment, and digitized logistics management systems. 

Due to the increasing demands of global trade, documentation has also gotten more complex. One of the most misunderstood documents in the industry is the mate’s receipt. 

A mate’s receipt is a shipping document issued by the first mate or commanding officer of a cargo vessel to the Port Trust Authorities, acknowledging that cargo has been loaded onto their vessel. It is not a contract of carriage, nor is it a document of title – it’s an acknowledgment in form of a receipt. 

Today, most carriers use the mate’s receipt as a basis for a Bill of Lading or Sea Waybill, which ultimately serve as a contract of carriage. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about this type of shipping document, which we aim to address.

In this article, we’ll discuss mate receipts in detail and share everything you need to know about this shipping document, including its types, the information it contains, and issuance details. 

Types of Mates Receipts

While the mate’s receipt is often referred to as a singular document, there are two different versions, a clean mate’s receipt, and a qualified mate’s receipt. Refer to the below definitions for more information.

Clean Mate’s Receipt

A clean mate’s receipt is a document of acknowledgment issued by a cargo vessel’s commanding officer certifying there’s no visible damage to the cargo or defect in the packing. In other words, it indicates that the officer is satisfied with the state of the cargo and that it has been loaded onto the vessel. 

Qualified Mate’s Receipt

A qualified mate’s receipt is a document of acknowledgment issued by a cargo vessel’s commanding officer that the cargo or its packing was received in a non-satisfactory condition. More importantly, it contains adverse remarks about the cargo and also certifies that the shipping company is not responsible for any damage caused to the cargo during transit. 

What Information Is Found on a Mate’s Receipt?

A mate’s receipt contains vital shipping information that includes port, shipper, vessel, cargo, and equipment details. Here’s a detailed look at what can be found:

  • Shipping Line Details – The shipping line is the nominated carrier or company operating the cargo vessel on which a shipment is to be transported from the port of loading to the port of discharge. The shipping line details include the carrier’s name, address, and contact information. 
  • Shipper Details – A shipper is a person or company who owns the cargo and bears the cost of freight. Their details include their name (company name), contact information, address, and more.  
  • Shipping Date – The shipping information on a mate’s receipt specifies the date cargo is to be transported to its destination. However, it’s not to be confused with the arrival date, which estimates the date on which the shipment will arrive at the port of discharge.
  • Vessel Name – Every vessel has its name registered on the Maritime database. It’s one of the most important pieces of information mentioned on the Bill of Lading, mate’s receipts, and other shipping journals or receipts. 
  • Voyage Number – A vessel’s voyage number is the numeric identification given to it when making a round shipping trip on a fixed trade lane. It’s one of the most important details found on mate’s receipts used to enter and exit ports. 
  • Port of Loading – Port of Loading refers to the port through which a shipper’s cargo is loaded onto a seagoing vessel for transport to its end location. 
  • Port of Discharge – Conversely, the Port of Discharge refers to the port where a shipment is dropped off for pick-up or further transportation to its final destination. 
  • Place of Delivery – The place of delivery on a mate’s receipt is a shipment’s final destination (local address, city, state, and country). This location is where the shipping process ends. 
  • Container Number(s) – A cargo vessel typically transports thousands of containers during a single trip. Therefore each container has an identification number carriers use to track shipments. 
  • Container Details – Along with a container number, a mate’s receipt also contains other details related to the container, such as its weight, type (dry/flat/refrigerated), size (cubic meters), and more. 
  • Condition of Cargo – As mentioned earlier, a commanding officer can issue two types of mate’s receipts based on the cargo’s condition. A qualified mate’s receipt will show the condition as damaged, leaking, exposed, etc. Similarly, a clean mate’s receipt will show the condition as good or secure.
  • Cargo Description – A typical mate’s receipt contains information describing the cargo, including its gross weight, dimensions, number of packages, type of goods, and more. It also contains additional information, such as the Automated Export System (AES) number for export declaration and payment information. 
  • Seal Number(s) – Most shippers use container seals to secure shipping containers and track their locations. Hence, a seal number is an important piece of information used for container identification.  
  • Signatories – As the name suggests, a mate’s receipt is issued by a vessel’s commanding officer or mate. Hence, the document needs to be signed by them. 
  • Receipt Date – Finally, the last piece of information on a mate’s receipt is the receipt date indicating when the receipt was issued (DD/MM/YY).

Who Issues a Mate’s Receipt & When Is it Submitted? 

As mentioned earlier, a mate’s receipt can only be issued by a vessel’s commanding officer or first mate since they’re tasked with receiving and loading cargo onto the vessel. Once the mate’s receipt has been filled and signed, it’s handed over to the Port Trust Authorities as collateral until the port dues have been cleared before exit. 

After being handed over to the Port Trust Authorities, the mate’s receipt is passed on to the carrier (shipping company) who will prepare the draft Bill of Lading, which is subsequently handed over to the shipper for verification, before the final Bill of Lading is issued. 

Mates Receipt vs. Bill of Lading

A mate’s receipt is often mistaken to have the same purpose as a Bill of Lading (or even a Sea Waybill), as both are issued by the shipping line and contain relevant shipping and cargo information. 

However, there are some distinct differences between both shipping documents. A Bill of Lading is a legally-binding document outlining a shipment’s quantity, type, and destination. Moreover, it’s a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier (either a shipping line or freight forwarder). 

In contrast, a mate’s receipt is issued by the officer responsible for cargo handling and only serves as an acknowledgment that the cargo is received onto the vessel. While it also assesses cargo and packing quality, a mate’s receipt is not a legally-binding document, nor is it a contract of carriage or a document of title. 

In essence, the party in possession of a Bill of Lading has rights to the cargo, whereby a mate’s receipt is only a document verifying loading. As you can see, both documents contain shipping and cargo information, yet have very different purposes. 

We’ve created a table that illustrates the fundamental differences so that you’re able to easily distinguish them.

Key DifferencesMates ReceiptBill of Lading
Legality– Not legally binding
– Does not guarantee the carriage of cargo
– Legally binding
– Evidence of contract
– Document of title 
Issuance– Issued by first mate or chief officer
– Can be disposed of upon fulfilling its function
– Issued by the master, agent, owner of the ship, or by the charterer
Cargo Details– General description
– Condition of cargo
– General description
– Hazard description
ComplianceProcedural onlyComplies to section 3 & 4 of Hague-Visby rules & US-COGSA
Functionality– To acknowledge cargo receipt
– To check the cargo condition
– Acts as the basis for the Bill of Lading
– Legally binding contract of carriage
– Can be used to transfer ownership of goods
– Document of title (ownership of goods)