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International Forwarding Association Blog » International freight services » 4 Most Common Documents for International Shipping

4 Most Common Documents for International Shipping

International shipping offers businesses the chance to enter new markets and reach more customers. However, it is important to understand the regulations and procedures for importing and exporting, and it is equally important to secure the right shipping documents. You should be prepared to provide details about your business, shipment, country of origin and destination, and the reasons for shipping. In some cases, you will also need to obtain permits and proper licensing for your shipment.

There is a wide variety of documents that you might need to present to comply with legal requirements and import and export regulations. Some documents are required by the custom’s authorities at the destination country while others may be needed by shipping couriers and logistics companies facilitating the movement of cargo and small shipments. The five most common documents for international shipping you should be aware of are bill of lading, purchase order, air waybill, and export packaging list.

Bill of Lading

In the simplest terms, a bill of lading is a formal contract between the owner of cargo and a freight forwarder, which confirms the receipt of goods to be shipped. Aa bill of lading should share where cargo is headed to, where it is coming from, and what is being shipped. It should include detailed information such as cargo description, type of commodity, weight, notify party, consignee, and shipper.

Purchase Order

A purchase order is an official document which confirms the receiving of an order. This document includes detailed information about the products shipped, parties involved, and the transaction itself. The three types of formats you should know about are purchase order request and non-electronic and electronic. Also known as E-purchasing and E-procurement, the electronic format is used by customers for products and services that are bought online. Non-electronic purchase orders are created by customers on paper when purchasing services, stock, or consumption materials. The bulk of purchase orders are still on paper because many customers require paper-based documentation for recordkeeping purposes. The third type, a purchase requisition or order request is a document sent internally when a business purchases products or services. It tells the manager or accounting department what goods are being purchased, in what quantities, when, and what the payment terms are.

Export Packaging List

This is a type of document that includes detailed information about the goods being shipped, including packaging type, safety measures, dimensions, and weight. It is typically used by couriers and freight forwarders to create a bill of lading. Also known as customer receipt, delivery docket, packing slip, and unpacking note, export packing lists include important details such as the weight and volume of each package and the entire shipment, the total number of packages, destination and origin address, and consignee, exporter, and shipper contact information.

Other shipping documents that are commonly used for international orders include certificate of origin, letter of credit, export license, and insurance certificate.