This section will list the essential documents you will require regarding freight.
1. Commercial Invoice
The commercial invoice is one of the most important documents in international trade and ocean freight shipping.
It serves as a proof of sale and is a customs document. Think of this document as not just an invoice or a receipt, but rather a “biography” of the item.
The Commercial Invoice shall be delivered to you (along with the Bill of Lading and the Packaging List) by your supplier or freight forwarder.
2. Bill of Lading
The bill of lading is a required document to move a freight shipment. The bill of lading (BOL) works as a receipt of freight services, a contract between a freight carrier and shipper and a document of title.
The bill of lading is a legally binding document providing the driver and the carrier all the details needed to process the freight shipment and invoice it correctly.
What’s in a freight bill of lading?
- Names and addresses
- Purchase orders or special reference numbers
- Special instructions
- Description of items
- Packaging type
- NMFC freight class
- Department of Transportation hazardous material designation
3. Packing List
Packing List is a document which details the contents, and often dimensions and weight, of each package or container.
It serves to inform all parties involved with shipping, including transport agencies, government authorities, and customers, about the contents of the package. It helps them deal with the package accordingly.
4. Air Waybill AWB
An Air Waybill AWB is a document stipulating transport arrangements for cargo in between airports.
The Air Waybill must contain a consignee, whom can be the buyer, and it should not be required to be issued “to order” and/or “to be endorsed” as it is not a title of property of the merchandise.
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.
5. Inspection Certificate
The Inspection Certificate for pre shipment inspection is 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 such as SGS o Bureau Veritas).
In some cases the Inspection Certificate can come from the manufacturer or shipper, but not from the forwarder or logistics firm.
6. Country of Origin Certificate
Country of origin (COO) is an international term that indicates where a product is manufactured, produced, processed or grown.
As different duty rates apply to different origin countries, a COO determines the rate of duty (e.g., a producer or manufacturer usually completes a certificate of origin and makes sure the importer has a copy at the time the declaration is made) also whether goods can be legally imported/exported (a certificate of origin may be required by the government of an importing country).
A certificate of origin is an official document signed by the exporter certifying the country of origin for each product contained in the shipment.
With lower-value shipments (e.g., those under USD 1,000) customs officials will accept the country- of-origin information on the commercial invoice.
Shippers may want to include a certificate of origin with larger-value shipments to ensure that nothing is held up in customs as a result of insufficient documentation. You can find sample certificates of origin, including the NAFTA Certificate of Origin, on export.gov in the “International Logistics” section.
Certificates of origin certified by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or local chambers are now issued by ecertify.com for a nominal fee.
7. Delivery Note
A Delivery Note is a document accompanying the shipment of goods that list de description and quantity of goods delivered. A copy of the Delivery Note, signed by the buyer or consignee is returned to the seller or consignor as a proof of delivery.
Delivery Notes have a dual function for the exporter: justify the removal of the products from its store and proof credit delivery to the importer and therefore it is important that de importer sign the copy provided by the carrier. For the importer, Delivery Notes serve to verify that the goods received match those listed on the purchase order or contract. For the carrier is the document used as a proof of delivery of the goods.
Dangerous Goods Forms
If your products are considered dangerous goods by either the International Air Transport Association (IATA) or the International Maritime Organization (IMO), you need to include the appropriate dangerous goods form with your shipment.
Shipping dangerous goods or hazardous materials can be tricky. Before you do it, the appropriate people at your company need to be trained in the proper packaging, labeling and documentation of these shipments.
To assist you here is a link to downloadable forms for dangerous goods: Click here to choose the required form and download.