Beneficial Cargo Owner (BCO)

Who is a Beneficial Cargo Owner (BCO)?

A beneficial cargo owner is someone who imports goods and handles the shipment with his/her own logistics when it arrives, instead of using outside companies like freight forwarders, or non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs). In international trade and transportation, the BCO is typically the party that has a vested interest in the shipment, either as the manufacturer, seller, or purchaser of the goods. 

The BCO is responsible for arranging transportation services, coordinating logistics, and ensuring the safe and timely delivery of the cargo from its origin to its destination. Unlike other parties involved in the shipping process, such as freight forwarders or carriers, the BCO has direct ownership or a legal interest in the goods transported and assumes responsibility for them throughout the shipping process.

What are Some Examples of Beneficial Cargo Owners?

BCOs are typically large companies that import a high volume of merchandise. For example:

  • National retailers
  • Distributors and wholesalers
  • Automobile manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Food and beverage companies

Where Does a BCO Fit in the Supply Chain?

BCOs play a crucial role in maritime shipping at nearly every stage in the supply chain. 

  1. Origin: the BCO is typically located at the point of origin where the goods are manufactured, produced, or sourced. As the owner of the cargo, the BCO is responsible for arranging transportation and coordinating logistics to move the goods from the point of origin, to the port of departure
  2. Export processes: the BCO manages export processes, including customs clearance, documentation, and compliance with export regulations. They work closely with freight forwarders, customs brokers, and other service providers to ensure smooth and efficient export procedures
  3. Port operations: upon arrival at the port of departure, the BCO oversees port operations related to cargo handling, loading, and consolidation. They may coordinate with terminal operators, stevedores, and shipping lines to ensure the timely and secure loading of cargo onto vessels
  4. Ocean transportation: the BCO’s cargo is carried aboard ocean-going vessels operated by shipping lines or carriers. While the BCO does not own or operate the vessels, they maintain ownership or title to the cargo, and assume responsibility for it throughout the voyage
  5. Import processes: at the destination port, the BCO manages import processes, including customs clearance, documentation, and compliance with import regulations. They coordinate with customs authorities, freight forwarders, and other stakeholders to facilitate the smooth clearance and release of cargo
  6. Distribution and delivery: once the cargo is cleared for release, the BCO arranges for distribution and delivery to its final destination. This may involve coordinating with inland transportation providers, warehouses, distribution centers, and end customers to ensure the timely and efficient delivery of goods

BCO vs. NVOCC vs. Freight Forwarder

Beneficial Cargo Owner (BCO)Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC)Freight Forwarder
DefinitionThe entity that owns the cargo or holds title to the goods being transported.Acts as a carrier in the ocean freight industry, but does not own vessels. Contracts with shipping lines to transport cargo.Facilitates the shipment of goods on behalf of shippers, coordinating transportation and logistics services.
RoleOwns the cargo and is responsible for arranging transportation and logistics services.Acts as a carrier, issuing bills of lading and assuming liability for cargo, even though it does not own vessels.Coordinates the movement of goods on behalf of shippers, managing documentation, customs clearance, and transportation logistics.
Responsibility for CargoHolds ownership or title to the cargo and assumes responsibility for it throughout the shipping process.Assumes responsibility for the cargo during transportation, issuing bills of lading, and ensuring its safe delivery.Acts as an intermediary between shippers and carriers, facilitating the transportation of goods and managing logistics.
Control Over TransportationHas direct control over transportation decisions and logistics arrangements for the cargo.Coordinates transportation services with shipping lines and other carriers to move cargo efficiently.Coordinates transportation services with carriers, selecting the most suitable routes and carriers for the shipment.
Legal LiabilityAssumes legal liability for the cargo and is responsible for any damages or losses incurred during transportation.Assumes liability for the cargo while it is in its possession and under its control, even though it does not own vessels.Assumes liability for the cargo during transportation, acting as a contractual party to the shipment.