9 Documents to Consider when Shipping Internationally

9 Documents to Consider when Shipping Internationally

In this guide, you will learn about 9 of the most important documents used in international shipping.

International Shipping Documents

All international sales and transactions rely on two important types of papers: import and export documents. These documents set the stage for the long and often multi-level process of international trade and transportation.  

From offering accounting and fee information to the involved parties to providing transportation instructions for the carrier, these documents do it all. Follow this guideline to learn about the 9 types of common documents needed for international shipping!  

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1- Commercial Invoice 

This serves as ‘proof of sale’ and provides information required for customs clearance. 

A Commercial Invoice Contains: 

  • Seller details
  • Buyer details
  • Details about the ‘notifying parties’ or customs agents
  • HS code / classification  
  • Value of goods

   

2. Shipping Quote 

A Shipping quote is a document that explains the individual legs of a shipment and the surcharges that will be added to the bill.  

A Shipping Quote Includes: 

  • Origin and destination details
  • Mode of transport
  • Necessary equipment for transport 
  • Dimensions and weight 
  • Description of goods

*** A shipping quote has an expiration date to indicate how long the product prices will be in effect. 

 

3. Certificate of Origin (CoO)

This document proves that the goods in your export shipment were produced, manufactured, or processed in a given country. Most countries require a CoO for customs clearance and for determining fees and duties for this given shipment. 

A CoO Contains: 

  • Seller details
  • Buyer details
  • Shipment routing
  • Description of goods
  • Exporter Declaration- The exporter’s declaration made to the inspector to validate the products and the country of manufacture.
  • Inspection Certificate- A certificate issued by a state agency or a third-party certifying body to prove that the goods comply with regulations. 

  

4. Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

An MSDS document contains information regarding the physical, chemical, explosive, and radioactive data of hazardous materials included in a given shipment. This is used to determine additional costs and handling associated with hazardous materials. It is also used to make sure that the carriers take proper precautions while transporting the goods. 

An MSDS Document Contains: 

  • UN number 
  • A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI) 

*** An MSDS document is required only when a shipment includes hazardous materials. 

 

5. Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI)

A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI) is a note from an exporter to the freight forwarder or carrier which provides specific instructions on how a shipment should be handled while it is in transit. 

An SLI Document Includes 

  • Designation of consignor/consignee 
  • Seller details
  • Buyer details
  • Routing details
  • Incoterm specifications
  • Weight and dimensions
  • Description of goods
  • UN number
  • HS codes

  

6. Booking Confirmation

This is a receipt for the main shipment with a specification of the mode of transport (air, ocean, road, rail). This document is generally used as a means to track the shipment.

A Booking Confirmation Includes:

  • Booking number
  • Used equipment (pallets)
  • Plan of transport (Origin and Destination)
  • Load itinerary

   

7. Bill of Lading 

A Bill of Lading serves as a loading receipt, a contract of carriage, and a document of title. There are five types of Bill of Lading: 

  • Onboard Bill of Lading
  • Order Bill of Lading
  • Received-for-shipment Bill of Lading
  • Sea Waybill
  • Straight Bill of Lading

A Bill of Lading Includes

  • Shipment details
  • Shipper details
  • Consignee details
  • Pickup instructions
  • Delivery instructions
  • BOL number
  • Declared value of goods
  • Freight charges

  

8. Packing List

A packing list indicates how the goods were packed. This is mainly used for inspection and shipping purposes and provides information about the shipment, as well as the signature of the involved parties. 

A Packing List Includes

  • Shipper details
  • Consignee details
  • Used equipment (pallets, skid, crate)
  • Description of goods
  • Hazard information/class (MSDS) 

*** A packing list is only required when the goods are packed into large units, like containers or aircraft consoles. 

  

9. Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is an advanced instruction provided from the seller’s bank to the overseas bank to guarantee payment to the seller, once delivery conditions have been met. Your bank must pay the outstanding balance, even if you as the exporter cannot do it.