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Guide to Trade Documents
 

Documents play a key role in international transactions. Both buyers and sellers need documents for bookkeeping, accounting, taxa­tion, export and import formalities, as well as making payment using letters of credit and other documentary payment methods.

This section gives examples of the most common documents used in international trade. It is not an exhaustive listing. Specialized trades, special circumstances and different countries of origin and destination may require additional documentation. For more information contact your local logistics company representative or refer to A Short Course in International Trade Documentation, also by World Trade Press..

Following a general discussion of a) document categories, b) transport documents and c) documents and international payments; sample documents will be presented and defined, key elements listed, and cautions offered concerning important issues and common problems. Emphasis will be given to issues regarding letters of credit.

 
Document Categories

Documents for international trade fall into several overlapping categories.

 
Transaction Document(s)

The key transaction document is the invoice or commercial invoice. This document is used by all parties to the transaction for accounting and bookkeeping purposes. It is also required for export and import formalities as well as most banking and payment procedures.

 
Export Documents

These are documents required by the customs or national export authority of the country of export and vary greatly from country to country. Included are licenses, permits, export declara­tions, inspection certificates, commercial invoice and sometimes transport documents.

 

Transport Documents

These are documents issued by a shipping line, air cargo carrier, trucking company or freight forwarder that detail the terms of transport for cargo. The key transport document is the bill of lading.

 

Inspection Documents

These documents are generally issued by third party inspection firms at the request of the buyer to certify the quality and quantities of a shipment. Inspection documents are also issued to satisfy country export and import requirements
 
Insurance Documents

These documents evidence insurance cover­age of a shipment and can be in the form of a policy or a certificate.

 

Banking / Payment Documents

Banking and payment documents include letters of credit, amendments to letters of credit, various advices, plus virtually all the other documents used in trade (bills of lading, commercial invoice, insurance document, inspec­tion certificates, etc.).

 

Import Documents

These are documents required by the customs authority of the country of import and vary greatly from country to country. The minimum documen­tation requirement is an entry form and a commercial invoice. However, many other forms may be required, especially if the imported merchandise is sensitive (e.g., animals, weapons, drugs, food), if the importer is requesting special tariff treatment under an import program (e.g., GSP, NAFTA) or if the import comes from certain countries.

 
Transport Documents

Bills of lading

A bill of lading is a document issued by a carrier to a shipper, signed by the captain, agent, or owner of a vessel, furnishing written evidence regarding receipt of the goods (cargo), the conditions on which transportation is made (contract of carriage), and the engagement to deliver goods at the prescribed port of destination to the lawful holder of the bill of lading.

A bill of lading is, therefore, both a receipt for merchandise and a contract to deliver it as freight. There are a number of different types of bills of lading and a number of issues that relate to them as a group of documents.
 

Straight bill of lading (non-negotiable)

A straight bill of lading indicates that the shipper will deliver the goods to the consignee. The document itself does not give title to the goods (making it “non-negotiable”). The consign­ee need only identify himself to claim the goods. A straight bill of lading is often used when payment for the goods has already been made in advance or in cases where the goods are shipped on open account. A straight bill of lading, therefore, cannot be transferred by endorsement.

 
Shipperís order bill of lading (negotiable)

A shipper’s order bill of lading is a title document to the goods, issued “to the order of” a party, usually the shipper, whose endorsement is required to effect its negotiation. Because it is negotiable, it can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit. These are highly favored for documentary credit transactions. The buyer usually needs the original or a copy as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.

 

Blank endorsed negotiable bill of lading

A blank endorsed negotiable bill of lading is one that has been endorsed without naming an endorsee. In simple terms, the person in possession of the document may claim possession of the goods.

 

Air waybill

An air waybill is a form of bill of lading used for the air transport of goods and is not negotiable.

 

Clean bill of lading

A clean bill of lading is one where the carrier has noted that the merchandise has been received in apparent good condition (no apparent damage, loss, etc.) and that does not bear such notations as “Shipper’s Load and Count,” etc.

Most forms of documentary payment require a “clean” bill of lading in order for the seller to obtain payment. There are, however, some circumstances in some trades, in which transport documents with special clauses are acceptable.

 

Claused bill of lading

A claused bill of lading is one which contains notations that specify a shortfall in quantity or deficient condition of the goods and/or packaging. Opposite of clean bill of lading.

 

Originals

Some bills of lading are issued in “sets of originals.” In documentary credit transactions the “full set” of original transport documents (one or more) must usually be presented for payment (especially if they are negotiable documents).

 

On board

An “on board” notation on a bill of lading means that the goods have in fact been loaded on board or shipped on a named vessel. This notation may be made by the carrier, his agent, the master of the ship, or his agent. Unless expressly authorized, the transport document issued by the carrier must reflect that it is “on board” in order for the seller to obtain payment under a documentary credit.

 

On deck

An “on deck” notation means that the goods have been secured on the deck of the vessel rather than in its hold, and therefore subject to wind and weather. Such a notation is generally not acceptable in documentary credit transactions unless specifically authorized. If the transport document shows that the goods are loaded on deck, any accompanying insurance document must show cover against “on deck” risks. Bear in mind, however, that certain dangerous cargo (including certain chemicals and live animals) are often carried on deck.

 
Documents and International Payments

Documents are an integral part of all international payment methods, including docu­mentary letters of credit, documents against payment, and documents against acceptance.

The documents called for by a payment type will differ somewhat according to the nature of the goods and the countries of export and import. Some documents, however, such as the commer­cial invoice and a bill of lading, are specified in all transactions.

Consistency Among Documents
One of the major issues in the preparation, presentation, and verification of documentation by sellers, buyers, and banks in payment situations is consistency among the documents.

Example: In examining the documentation for a letter of credit transaction involving the sale of five pieces of machinery, the buyer noticed that the commercial invoice listed the net weight as 12,140 kilograms and the gross weight as 12,860 kilograms. The bill of lading, however, listed the gross weight as 9,612 kilograms. What happened to the other 3,248 kilograms? Did the seller make a mistake in preparing the commercial invoice? Did the shipping company make a mistake in preparing the bill of lading? Did the seller forget to ship one or more pieces of machinery? Did the shipping company misplace some machinery? Did someone steal the machinery?

In the above example, the seller should have noticed the inconsistency before forwarding the documents to the advising bank. The advising bank should have noticed the inconsistency before forwarding the documents to the issuing bank. The issuing bank should have noticed the inconsistency before forwarding the documents to the buyer. The buyer will most certainly reject this documentation.

Documentation Consistency Checklist
The following is a list of points of consistency buyers, sellers, and banks should all be aware of when preparing, presenting, and checking documents for documentary payment transac­tions:

  • Name and address of shipper
  • Name and address of buyer/consignee
  • Issuer name and address
  • Description of the goods, quantities, units
  • Country of origin of the goods
  • Country of destination of the goods
  • Invoice numbers, documentary credit numbers
  • Certifications
  • Legalizations
  • Shipping marks and numbers
  • Net weight, gross weight, volume
  • Number of crates, cartons, or containers

Ambiguity as to issuers of documents
If terms such as “first class,” “well-known,” “qualified,” “independent,” “official,” “compe­tent,” or “local” are used in a documentary credit to refer to the issuer of a required document (e.g., inspection certificate or certificate of origin), banks are authorized to accept whatever documents are presented, provided that on their face they appear to be in compliance with the credit and were not issued and signed by the seller (beneficiary).

Originals
The originals of specified documents should be provided unless copies are called for or allowed. If more than one set of originals is required, the buyer should specify in the credit how many are necessary.
Unless otherwise noted in the documentary credit, banks are authorized to accept documents as originals, even if they were produced or appear to have been produced on a copy machine, by a computerized system, or are carbon copies, provided they have the notation “Original” and are, when necessary, signed.

Named carrier
A transport document must appear on its face to have been issued by a named carrier, or his agent. This does not mean that the applicant must name the carrier in the documentary credit application. It merely means that the transport document must indicate the name of the carrier.

Authentication
Unless otherwise noted in the documentary credit, banks are authorized to accept documents that are authenticated, validated, legalized, visaed, or certified so long as the document appears on its face to satisfy the requirement. This means that the banks are not responsible for the verification of the certification or authorized signature. Certificates must usually bear the signature of the issuer.

Signature
Banks are authorized to accept documents that have been signed by facsimile, perforated signature, stamp, symbol, or any other mechanical or electronic method.

Unspecified issuers or contents of documents
If the credit does not name a specific issuer or specific contents of a document (other than transport documents, insurance documents, and the commercial invoice), banks are authorized to accept documents as presented so long as the data contained in the documents are consistent with the credit and other stipulated documents.

Issuance date vs. documentary credit date
Unless otherwise noted in the documentary credit, banks are authorized to accept documents dated prior to the issuance date of the credit, so long as all other terms of the credit have been satisfied.

 
Commercial Invoice

Definition
The commercial invoice is the key accounting document describing the commercial transaction between the buyer and the seller.

Key Elements
The commercial invoice includes the following elements:

  • Name and address of seller
  • Name and address of buyer
  • Date of issuance
  • Invoice number
  • Order or contract number
  • Quantity and description of the goods
  • Unit price, total price, other agreed upon charges, and total invoice amount stated in the currency of the contract or letter of credit (e.g., US$, DM, ¥, etc.)
  • Shipping details including: weight of the goods, number of packages, and shipping marks and numbers
  • Terms of delivery and payment
  • Any other information as required in the sales contract or letter of credit (e.g., country of origin)

Cautions & Notes for Documentary Letters of Credit
In transactions involving a documentary letter of credit it is vitally important that the description of the goods in the commercial invoice correspond precisely to the description of goods in the credit.

The invoice amount should match exactly (or at least should not exceed) the amount specified in the credit. Banks have the right to refuse invoices issued for amounts in excess of the amount stated in the credit. For this, as well as other reasons, the invoice should be made out in the same currency as the credit.

The exception: when a documentary credit specifies “about” in relation to the currency amount and quantity of merchandise, in which case the invoice may specify an amount equal to plus or minus 10 percent of the stipulated amount of the credit.

Unless otherwise stipulated in the documentary credit, the commercial invoice must be made out in the name of the applicant (buyer). The exception: In a transferable documentary credit the invoice may be made out to a third party.
The buyer, seller, and bank(s) should all carefully check for discrepancies in the invoice. The details specified therein should not be inconsistent with those of any other documents, and should exactly conform to the specifications of the credit.

 
Marine/Ocean/Port-to-Port Bill of Lading

Definition
A marine bill of lading is a transport document covering port-to-port shipments of goods (for carriage of goods solely by sea).

Key Elements
A completed marine bill of lading contains the following elements:

  • Name of carrier with a signature identified as that of carrier, or ship’s master, or agent for or on behalf of either the carrier or ship’s master
  • An indication or notation that the goods have been loaded “on board” or shipped on a named vessel. Also, the date of issuance or date of loading
  • An indication of the port of loading and the port of discharge
  • A sole original, or if issued in multiple originals, the full set of originals
  • The terms and conditions of carriage or a reference to the terms and conditions of carriage in another source or document
  • In a documentary letter of credit, no indication that the document is subject to a charter party and/ or an indication that the named vessel is propelled by sail only
  • Meets any other stipulations of the sales contract or documentary letter of credit

Cautions & Notes for Documentary Letters of Credits
If the document includes the notation “intended vessel” it must also contain an “on board” notation of a named vessel along with the date of loading, even if the named vessel is the same as the intended vessel.

If the document indicates a place where the goods were received by the carrier different from the port of loading, the document must also contain an “on-board” notation indicating the port of loading as named in the credit and the named vessel, along with the date.

If a documentary credit calls for a port-to-port shipment but does not call specifically for a marine bill of lading, the banks will accept a transport document, however named, that contains the above information. Banks will normally accept the following documents under this title: ocean bill of lading, combined transport bill of lading, short form bill of lading, or received for shipment bill of lading, provided it carries the notation “on board.”

If the documents are drawn up “to the order of” the exporter or “to order” they must be endorsed.

If the documentary credit prohibits transshipment this document will be rejected if it specifically states that the goods will be transshipped.

Since this is a negotiable instrument, it may be endorsed and transferred to a third party while the goods are in transit.

 
Non-Negotiable Sea Waybill

Definition
A non-negotiable sea waybill is a transport document covering port-to-port shipments. It is not a title document, is not negotiable and cannot be endorsed.

Key Elements
A completed non-negotiable sea waybill contains the following elements:

  • Name of carrier with a signature identified as that of carrier, or ship’s master, or agent for or on behalf of either the carrier or ship’s master
  • An indication or notation that the goods have been loaded “on board” or shipped on a named vessel. Also, the date of issuance or date of loading
  • An indication of the port of loading and the port of discharge as specified in the original sales contract or documentary credit
  • A sole original, or if issued in multiple originals, the full set of originals
  • The terms and conditions of carriage or a reference to the terms and conditions of carriage in another source or document
  • In a documentary letter of credit, no indication that the document is subject to a charter party and/ or an indication that the named vessel is propelled by sail only
  • Meets any other stipulations of the sales contract or documentary credit

Cautions & Notes for Documentary Letters of Credit
If the document includes the notation “intended vessel” it must also contain an “on board” notation of a named vessel along with the date of loading, even if the named vessel is the same as the intended vessel.

If the document indicates a place where the goods were received by the carrier different from the port of loading, the document must also contain an “on-board” notation indicating the port of loading as named in the documentary letter of credit and the named vessel, along with the date.

If the documentary credit calls for a port-to-port shipment but does not call specifically for a marine bill of lading, the banks will accept a transport document, however named, that contains the above information. Banks will normally accept the following documents under this title: ocean bill of lading, combined transport bill of lading, short form bill of lading, or received for shipment bill of lading, provided it carries the notation “on board.”

Because they are not title documents, sea waybills eliminate many of the inconveniences of a bill of lading and offer advantages in situations where the rigid security of a bill of lading is not required. Waybills reduce the opportunity for fraud—although they do by no means eliminate it—and they remove the problems of goods arriving ahead of documents (because they travel with the goods).

Sea waybills are appropriate for shipments between associated companies, for shipments to an agent for sale at destination on an open account basis, and for shipments between companies that have established mutual trust.

 
Multimodal (Combined) Transport Document

Definition
A multimodal transport document is a bill of lading covering two or more modes of transport, such as shipping by rail and by sea.

Key Elements
A completed multimodal transport document contains the following elements:

  • Name of carrier or multimodal transport operator with a signature identified as that of carrier, transport operator, or ship’s master, or agent for or on behalf of either the carrier, transport operator, or ship’s master
  • An indication that the shipment has been “dispatched,” “taken in charge,” or “loaded on board,” along with a date
  • Indication of the place of receipt of the shipment that may be different from the place of actual loading “on board” and the place of delivery of the shipment, which may be different from the place of discharge
  • A sole original, or if issued in multiple originals, the full set of originals
  • The terms and conditions of carriage or a reference to the terms and conditions of carriage in another source or document other than the multimodal transport document
  • In a documentary letter of credit, no indication that the document is subject to a charter party and/ or an indication that the named vessel is propelled by sail only
  • Meets any other stipulations of the sales contract or documentary letter of credit

Cautions & Notes for Documentary Letters of Credit
In multimodal situations the contract of carriage and liability is for a combined transport from the place of shipment to the place of delivery. Thus, the document evidences receipt of goods and not shipment on board.

The date of issuance of the document is deemed to be the date of dispatch unless there is a specific date of dispatch, taking in charge, or loading on board, in which case the latter date is deemed to be the date of dispatch.

Even if a documentary letter of credit prohibits transshipment, banks will accept a multimodal transport document that indicates that transshipment will or may take place, provided that the entire carriage is covered by one transport document.

A combined transport document issued by a freight forwarder is acceptable unless the documentary letter of credit stipulates otherwise or unless the credit specifically calls for a “marine bill of lading.” The issuing freight forwarder accepts carrier responsibility for performance of the entire contract of carriage and liability for loss or damage wherever and however it occurs.

As a rule, multimodal transport documents are not negotiable instruments.

 
Air Transport Document (Air Waybill)

Definition
An air waybill is a non-negotiable transport document covering transport of cargo from airport to airport.

Key Elements
A completed air waybill contains the following elements:

  • Name of carrier with a signature identified as that of carrier or named agent for or on behalf of the carrier
  • An indication that the goods have been accepted for carriage. Also, the date of issuance or date of loading
  • In a documentary letter of credit, an indication of the actual date of dispatch if required by the documentary letter of credit, or, if the actual date of dispatch is not required by the credit, the issuance date of the document is deemed to be the date of shipment
  • An indication of the airport of departure and airport of destination
  • Appears on its face to be the original for consignor/shipper
  • The terms and conditions of carriage or a reference to the terms and conditions of carriage in another source or document
  • Meets any other stipulations of the sales contract or documentary letter of credit

Cautions & Notes for Documentary Letters of Credit
Information contained in the “for carrier use only” box concerning flight number and date are not considered to be the actual flight number and date.

Since air waybills are issued in three originals—one for the issuing carrier, one for the consignee (buyer), and one for the shipper (seller)—a documentary credit should not require presentation in more than one original. Nor should it call for a “full set of original air waybills.”

The air waybill is not a negotiable document. It indicates only acceptance of goods for carriage.

The air waybill must name a consignee (who can be the buyer), and it should not be required to be issued “to order” and/or “to be endorsed.” Since it is not negotiable, and it does not evidence title to the goods, in order to maintain some control of goods not paid for by cash in advance, sellers often consign air shipments to their sales agents, or freight forwarders’ agents in the buyer’s country.

The air waybill should not be required to indicate an “actual flight date” since IATA regulations specify that reservations requested by the shipper shall not be inserted under “Flight/Date.”

Definitions
Master Air Waybill A shipper’s contract of carriage with an airline.
House Air Waybill A shipper’s contract of carriage with the logistics firm.

 
Insurance Document (or Certificate)

Definition
A document indicating the type and amount of insurance coverage in force on a particular shipment. In documentary credit transactions the insurance document is used to assure the consignee that insurance is provided to cover loss of or damage to cargo while in transit.

Key Elements
A completed insurance document includes the following elements:

  • The name of the insurance company
  • Policy number
  • Description of the merchandise insured
  • Points of origin and destination of the shipment. Coverage is indicated by the terms of sale. For example, for goods sold “FOB,” coverage commences once the cargo, is on board the vessel and continues until the consignee takes possession at either the seaport or in-land port of destination.
  • Conditions of coverage, exclusions, and deductible, if applicable.
  • A signature by the insurance carrier, underwriter or agent for same
  • Indication that the cover is effective at the latest from the date of loading of the goods on board a transport vessel or the taking in charge of the goods by the carrier, as indicated by the transport document (bill of lading, etc.)
  • Statement of the sum insured
  • In a documentary letter of credit, specifies coverage for at least 110 percent of either: (a) the CIF or CIP value of the shipment, if such can be determined from the various documents on their face, otherwise, (b) the amount of the payment, acceptance or negotiation specified in the documentary credit, or (c) the gross amount of the commercial invoice
  • Is presented as the sole original, or if issued in more than one original, all the originals

Cautions & Notes
In documentary credit transactions the insurance currency should be consistent with the currency of the documentary credit.

Documentary credit transactions indicating CIF (Cost Insurance Freight) or CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid) pricing should list an insurance document in their required documentation.

“Cover notes” issued by insurance brokers (as opposed to insurance companies, underwriters, or their agents) are not accepted in letter of credit transactions unless authorized specifically by the credit.

In Case of Loss or Shortfall
The consignee should always note on the delivery document any damage or shortfall prior to signing for receipt of the goods. The consignee has the responsibility to make reasonable efforts to minimize loss. This includes steps to prevent further damage to the shipment. Expenses incurred in such efforts are almost universally collectible under the insurance policy. Prompt notice of loss is essential.

The original copy of the insurance certificate is a negotiable document and is required in the filing of a claim.
Copies of documents necessary to support an insurance claim include the insurance policy or certificate, bill of lading, invoice, packing list, and a survey report (usually prepared by a claims agent).

 
Certificate of Origin

Definition
A document issued by a certifying authority stating the country of origin of goods.

Key Elements
A certificate of origin should include the following elements:

  • Key details (typically consignor, consignee, and description of goods) regarding the shipment. Also, such details to be in conformity with other documents (e.g., documentary credit, commercial invoice)
  • A statement of origin of the goods
  • The name, signature and/or stamp or seal of the certifying authority

A NAFTA Certificate of Origin includes the following elements:

  • Name and address of exporter
  • Blanket period of shipment (for multiple shipments of identical goods for a specified period of up to one year)
  • Name and address of importer
  • Name and address of producer
  • Description of goods
  • Harmonized System tariff classification number up to six digits
  • Preference criteria (one of six criteria of rules of origin of the goods)
  • Indication of whether the exporter is the producer of the goods
  • Regional Value Content indication
  • Country of origin of goods
  • Exporter company name, date and authorized signature

Cautions & Notes
If you are the buyer (importer) the import authority of your country may require a certificate of origin. If so, make certain that you require it of the seller in the form and content as specified by your country’s customs authority.

A certificate of origin can be the key document required for obtaining special (reduced) tariff rates for imports from countries listed as beneficiaries to programs such as the GSP (Generalized Systems of Preferences) NAFTA (North American Free Trade Area).

In a documentary letter of credit buyers should avoid the use of such terms as “first class,” “well-known,” “qualified,” “independent,” “official,” “competent,” or “local” when referring to the certifying authority. It is preferable to name the required certifying authority. Use of vague terminology will result in the bank’s acceptance of any relevant document that appears “on its face” to be in compliance with the documentary credit, so long as it was not issued and signed by the beneficiary (seller).

In certain countries the certificate of origin is prepared by the seller (beneficiary to the documentary credit) on a standard form and then certified (with a signature, stamp or seal) by the certifying authority.

Certifying authorities most often used are city and regional chambers of commerce and chambers of commerce and industry.

 
Inspection Certificate

Definition
A document issued by an authority indicating that goods have been inspected (typically according to a set of industry, customer, government, or carrier specifications) prior to shipment and the results of the inspection.
Inspection certificates are generally obtained from neutral testing organizations (e.g., a government entity or independent service company). In some cases the inspection certificate can come from the manufacturer or shipper, but not from the forwarder or logistics firm.

Key Elements
An inspection certificate should include the following elements:

  • Key details (typically consignor, consignee, and description of goods) regarding the shipment. Also, such details to be in conformity with other documents (e.g., documentary credit, commercial invoice, etc.)
  • Date of the inspection
  • Statement of sampling methodology
  • Statement of the results of the inspection
  • The name, signature and/or stamp or seal of the inspecting entity

Cautions & Notes
In the case of certain countries and certain commodities the inspection certificate must be issued by an appropriate government entity.

In a documentary letter of credit buyers should avoid the use of such terms as “first class,” “well-known,” “qualified,” “independent,” “official,” “competent,” or “local” when referring to an acceptable inspection authority. It is preferable to agree beforehand as to a specific inspection organization or entity and for the buyer to name the required certifying organization or entity in the documentary credit.

Use of vague terminology (as above) will result in the bank’s acceptance of any relevant document that appears “on its face” to be in compliance with the documentary credit, so long as it was not issued by the beneficiary (seller).

 
Regional Trade Pact Import/Export Declaration

Definition
A standardized export/import document used in common by members of a regional trade group containing compliance, administrative and statistical information.

Issued By
This document is typically issued by the exporter/seller.

Key Elements
The typical trade pact import/export declaration contains the following elements:

  • Name and address of exporter/seller/consignor
  • Name and address of importer/buyer/consignee
  • Description and value of the goods
  • A statement of origin of the goods
  • Country of destination of the goods
  • Carrier and means of transport
  • Other compliance, administrative and statistical information

Cautions & Notes
This document is used as an export declaration when exporting from any trade pact member country to a non-member country and as both an import and export declaration when transporting goods across country borders within the trade group.

Because of its standardized format, this document is often linked to a computer system for the electronic transfer of information to export and import authorities within the trade group.

The EU (European Union) SAD (Single Administrative Document)
This document is a prime example of a regional trade pact import/export declaration. It was established by the European Community Council in 1988 with the goal of standardizing customs documentation and simplifying international transactions.

This particular document is used as an import/export declaration and also for the declaration of goods in transit within EU and EFTA (European Free Trade Area) countries. It may be submitted by computer directly to the customs authorities in all the 15 EU member nations.

Countries outside of the EU have shown interest in using the SAD and some have already adopted the format for their import documentation (e.g., Bulgaria).

 
Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED)

Definition
A document prepared by the shipper and presented to a government authority specifying goods exported along with their quantities, weight, value, and destination.

Key Elements
Each country has its own export declaration form. Certain elements are likely to be required in the SED for all countries. The shipper’s export declaration typically includes the following elements:

  • Name and address of seller
  • Name and address of buyer
  • Date of issuance
  • Export license number (if required, based upon country of export requirements and goods exported)
  • Country of origin of the goods shipped
  • Country of final destination of the goods
  • Quantity and description of the goods
  • Country of export statistical classification number (some countries do not require this information for shipments under a certain level)
  • Shipping details including: weight of the goods, number of packages, and shipping marks and numbers

Cautions & Notes
The shipper’s export declaration is used by a nation’s customs authority to control exports and compile trade statistics.

An SED is usually not required by the buyer in a documentary letter of credit transaction unless the buyer is responsible for export formalities.

Many nations impose strict controls on exports (e.g., high technology, armaments and drugs) and use the SED as a means of export control. Because many exports can be diverted to “unfriendly” nations and individuals, it is considered the responsibility of the exporter to know his cargo, destination, customer, end-use, and end-user.

Electronic Filing
Some nations (such as the United States) are in the process of instituting new procedures that will require exporters to submit their Shipper’s Export Declarations electronically. This involves using a computer with a modem and specially designed forms software.

 
Packing List

Definition
A packing list is a document prepared by the shipper listing the kinds and quantities of merchandise in a particular shipment.

A copy of the packing list is often attached to the shipment itself and another copy sent directly to the consignee to assist in checking the shipment when received. Also called a bill of parcels.

Key Elements
The packing list includes the following elements:

  • Name and address of seller
  • Name and address of buyer
  • Date of issuance
  • Invoice number
  • Order or contract number
  • Quantity and description of the goods
  • Shipping details including: weight of the goods, number of packages, and shipping marks and numbers
  • Quantity and description of contents of each package, carton, crate or container
  • Any other information as required in the sales contract or documentary credit (e.g., country of origin)

Cautions & Notes
The packing list is a more detailed version of the commercial invoice but without price information. The type of each container is identified, as well as its individual weight and measurements. The packing list is attached to the outside of its respective container in a waterproof envelope marked “Packing List” or “Packing List Enclosed,” and is immediately available to authorities in both the countries of export and import.

Although not required in all transactions, it is required by some countries and some buyers.