There are two main types of contract which are in wide use when we speak about transportation of goods by sea: a charterparty contract and a bill of lading contract. Speaking of bill of lading contract, however, one shall bear in mind that in some cases the bill of lading can be no more than a receipt for goods loaded on board, in some it may serve as an evidence to the charterparty contract and, finally, it imposes contractual obligations for safe custody of the cargo on the carrier before the person taking delivery of the goods.
Leduc & Co v Ward (1888) 20 QBD 475 per Lord Esher M.R. at p.481:
The object of the carriage of the goods from port to port is that they may be sold or otherwise dealt with at the place destination; and the person who wants them at that place for sale or use there acts under assumption that they will arrive there at or about a certain time in the ordinary course of a voyage there from the port of shipment. If the argument for the defendants were correct, he could not tell at what time he could calculate on having them. The indorsee of a bill of lading could not tell when he was likely to receive the goods. Business could not be carried on upon those terms.