When it comes to the documents required for freight forwarding, there is a significant amount
of paperwork that needs to be handled. Without the right documentation, your goods are not
going to make it to their intended destination.If you are looking to start exporting or importing around the world, read on to learn about the
eight crucial documents that must be on your shipping documents list.
1. Commercial Invoice
A bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer, a commercial invoice is utilized by the
government to ascertain the real value of goods when imposing customs duties. Usually, if a
commercial invoice is used to control imports, then the form, content, quantity, and other
characteristics will need to be specified.
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2. Airway Bill
If you are sending shipments by air freight, then an airway bill will be required. Keep in mind
that airway bills are shipper-specific.
3. Generic Certification of Origin
Depending on the country, you will need to produce a Certificate of Origin (CO) for all or
specific products. Usually, including a statement of origin printed on the company letterhead is
satisfactory; however, it is highly recommended that you first verify whether or not a CO is
needed. Speaking with an experienced freight forwarder is the best way to ensure you are
producing the right documents.
4. Shipper's Letter of Instruction
This document is distributed by the exporter to the forwarding agent and comprises the
shipping instructions for the air or ocean shipment.
5. Packing List
One of the most important things to understand is that an international packing list needs to
be far more detailed and informative than a standard domestic packing list. When you are
exporting a shipment, the packing list must include the details of the seller, buyer, shipper, as
well as the invoice number, shipment date, transportation mode, and transmitter. You will also
need to describe the type of package, the number of units, total weight, package
characteristics, and measurements.
If you opt to work with a freight forwarder, they will have the necessary packing list forms.
These are not substitutes for commercial invoices and are often used to check the cargo.
6. Bill of Lading
This document is a settlement between the owner and the shipper. If you are sending your
shipments by ship freight, then there are two kinds of bills of lading. Some are non-negotiable,
while others can be purchased or exchanged while the goods are in transit. However, usually,
the customer will need to have an original for proof of ownership when taking possession of
7. Dangerous Goods Certificate
Exports being handled by air carriers and air freight forwarders that are also classified as
hazardous goods must be shipped with a filled-out copy of the Shipper’s Declaration for
Dangerous Goods. This is ordained by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The
exporter is accountable for the accuracy of the form and for guaranteeing that provisions
associated with packaging, marking, and other requirements by IATA have been satisfied.
8. Pro Forma Invoice
This document must be prepared by the exporter prior to shipping the goods. It should inform
the buyer of the products that are being sent, their value, and other vital specifications.
Moreover, a pro forma invoice can also be employed as an offering of sale or price quotation.
To ensure that you are providing the necessary documentation for your shipment, it is highly
recommended that you book freight online. That way, you can ensure that your shipping
processes are efficient and accurate.
Has your company ever exported freight around the world? If so, do you have any tips to share
with other readers? Let us know in the comments below!
Shipping Documents List
Paul Rehmet is the Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight. He is responsible for translating the
company's vision into an easy-to-use online freight platform for its customers. In his 25-year
career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and
Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways.