International Shipping Documents

An Overview of Most Common International Shipping Documents

Are you an eCommerce owner looking to ship internationally? Documentation is a critical step and an integral part of international trade transactions. One misstep is all it takes to experience shipping delays, or even worse, confiscations.

Here is a simple guide on the most common documentation you need for international shipping.

Commercial and Proforma Invoices

Commercial and Proforma invoices are important international shipping documents in international trade transactions. A commercial invoice is a simple document that is issued to a buyer on delivery of goods. It contains information on the exact quantity of products that have been shipped to the buyer, the shipping terms accepted between a seller and buyer, and the official proof of purchase or transaction.

A Pro forma invoice on the other hand, is a preliminary invoice that is given to the buyer before the actual sale. This includes a description of the goods in the transaction, the total amount to be paid, and the shipping terms expected between the seller and buyer.

Bill of Lading

The Bill of Lading is quite possibly the most important shipping document in a trade transaction. It is a document that acts as a contract between a shipper and carrier to confirm the receipt of goods in a shipment. The bill of lading is issued after a vessel’s departure from the port of loading and contains important information about the contents of the shipment, the shipping destination and handling terms.

Packing List

A packing list is a shipping document that contains a detailed and itemised list of the goods being shipped. Shippers or sellers must create a packing list document that is shared with freight forwarders and other parties of the supply chain. This document must include information on the weight, dimensions, and can be used to create a bill of lading or be utilised to get a letter of credit from the bank.

Shipper’s Letter of Instructions (SLI)

A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction or the SLI is a document issued to the freight forwarder detailing the exact way the goods have to be shipped via the air or ocean along with documentation instructions. The SLI is typically issued by a shipper/exporter and authorises a forwarder to act on their behalf. This is also used by the forwarder to transmit EEI or Electronic Export Information to the AES or Automated Export System.

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Automated Export System (AES) Filing

The Automated Export System or AES is a nationwide system used by exporters to declare international exports to US Customs and Border Protection. This system files shipment related information electronically and detects errors for correction at the time of filing. The AES is operable at all ports in the United States and used for all modes of transportation. Since implementing the AES, we have been able to reduce instances of duplicate reporting and improve trade records over time.

Certificate of Origin (CO)

A Certificate of Origin is a simple document that declares the country in which a commodity or product was manufactured. The CO or certificate of origin contains important information regarding the product, its manufacturing destination, and/or country of export. Treaty agreements worldwide require the CO for cross-border trade transactions and helps ascertain where duties are applicable for said good.

Incoterms

Incoterms are a set of internationally recognized terms used in domestic and cross-border trade transactions to clarify the roles of various parties involved in the contract. Incoterms are used to help understand the terms of the contract easily and define who does what in each transaction, the costs, and risks to be assumed by each party. The Incoterms will lay out information, such as insurance, customs clearance, and other logistical information related to the transaction.

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

A Safety Data Sheet or SDS is a comprehensive document prepared by a manufacturer, exporter, or importer of a hazardous chemical. It describes in detail the various chemical properties, toxicity, risks, guidelines, and exposure control related to the product. These documents are particularly critical and a prerequisite when exporting products made using hazardous substances.

Operational or Additional Instructions

It is acceptable to provide additional operational instructions to ensure your cargo is handled in an appropriate manner. What are the equipment that are required to load and unload your cargo? Does it need specialised equipment? Does it need weather-proofing? These are some questions that you can address using this document.

Shipping Under a Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is a banking instrument that guarantees payment from a buyer to the seller. An LC or Letter of Credit is usually issued by a bank chosen by a buyer. This guarantees full payment if a buyer fails to make the payment as per the terms of the contract. Some documents that may be required by the bank to issue a letter of credit include bill of lading, invoice, packing list, certificate of origin, insurance, etc.

Keep your documents in order

International shipping opens up new audiences and expands your business into world markets. By preparing and ensuring you have the right documentation for international shipping, you are guaranteed a smooth and safe delivery to your customers.

SFL Worldwide offers customs clearance services with every booking. Our dedicated shipping advisors and in-house customs experts provide you with all the necessary information you need to prepare the customs documentation and help you in preparing them to get your shipment ready.

Keep your documents in order

International shipping opens up new audiences and expands your business into world markets. By preparing and ensuring you have the right documentation for international shipping, you are guaranteed a smooth and safe delivery to your customers.

SFL Worldwide offers customs clearance services with every booking. Our dedicated shipping advisors and in-house customs experts provide you with all the necessary information you need to prepare the customs documentation and help you in preparing them to get your shipment ready.

Why choose SFL Worldwide?

SFL Worldwide is a leading logistics company that ships everything from a single document to moving entire homes since 2005. Our services are offered with complete door-to-door pickup and delivery. We offer UPS international document shipping services and express services, from most major carriers, such as FedEx and DHL, for shipping documents internationally. Find the best way to ship documents internationally and the cheapest international document shipping at discounted rates on our “Get Quote” page or call 1-800-691-2335 to learn more about our services and exclusive shipping discounts.

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