Shippers and other maritime parties suffered for a while as a result of a Brazilian rule which allowed consignees to take delivery of cargo without the presentation of an original Bill of Lading. However, a development in Brazilian customs regulations brought relief to this situation, in the form of the Federal Revenue's Normative Instruction nº 1759/2017, which entered into force on 14 November 2017.

This regulation reinstated the long-standing rule which requires the presentation of the original Bill of Lading by the consignee/importer in order to take delivery of cargo in Brazilian ports. The traditional rule had been suspended from 2013 until November 2017, during which time it became possible for a consignee/importer to clear goods without presenting the original Bill of Lading.

The process of custom clearance in Brazil is traditionally governed by several laws and regulations, some of which are not clear and/or are slightly contradictory. As a general statutory rule, Article 754 of the Brazilian Civil Code states that the goods shall be delivered to the consignee or whoever presents the endorsed Bill of Lading.

By the same token, Article 519 of the Brazilian Commercial Code provides that the Master shall be regarded as the Bailee of the cargo, and shall be responsible for its safe keeping until delivery to the consignee, upon presentation of the Bill of Lading.

The Federal Revenue's Normative Instruction nº 680 of 2006 is the most important administrative regulation governing the process of clearance of goods which arrive in Brazil. Pursuant to Article 54, the consignee/importer must present the original Bill of Lading as a condition for delivery.

In 2013, however, as mentioned previously, another Normative Instruction was issued by the Federal Revenue (nº. 1356/2013) which expressly revoked the provision under Article 54.

As this caused surprise and concern in the Brazilian and International shipping community, the Federal Revenue decided to reintroduce the above mentioned traditional requirement on 14 November 2017, through the issuance of Normative Instruction nº 1759/2017.

Accordingly, the requirement for the presentation of the original Bill of Lading by the consignee/importer for customs clearance was reinstated on 14 November 2017.

This has alleviated the concern of carriers, who were exposed to claims for wrongful delivery of cargo during the period in which this requirement was suspended. It has also assuaged the worries of unpaid shippers, who saw their cargo delivered without receiving payment.

The reintroduction of the long-standing rule has also served to put Brazil in line with the international practice and rules on customs clearance of goods carried by sea.