International Shipping Documents for Shipments

If you are looking to send shipments internationally, then you need to be aware that certain international shipping documents are needed to ensure that customs clearance occurs without a hitch. These includes the likes of the Commercial Invoice(CI), Certificate of Origin (CO), Bill of Lading, and  Proforma Invoice,  to name a few.

Proforma Invoice

A proforma invoice is essentially used when handling international trade transactions, whereby a quote is drawn up in the format of a Proforma Invoice which allows parties to arrange for financing or to open up a line of credit to facilitate the transaction, or even apply for an import license.  The necessary specifications of a Proforma Invoice as part of international shipping documents for shipment include information on the buyer and seller, detailed description of the goods being traded, the Harmonized System of classification for said goods, price, payment terms (expressed as an IncoTerm), delivery details and relevant costs, and currency quoted. It’s vital that the proforma invoice be dated and an expiry date is also included to reduce risk.

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is raised once a Proforma Invoice is sent and the order has been received and goods need to be prepared. A Commercial Invoice will include the details of the entire export and is one of the necessary international shipping documents. The commercial invoice will often have the same information as a proforma invoice with additions such as the order number, purchase order number, or customer reference, and banking/payment information. If you are opting for shipping insurance, that should also be included.

Bill of Lading

There are three bill of lading documents for the different forms of freight; inland, ocean and airway.  An Inland Bill of Lading can be raised by the inland carriers which is essentially a contract of carriage between the export and shipper as well as where its destination is. Often, it also acts as a form of receipt of goods. When it comes to international shipping, the inland bill of lading is consigned to the carrier or forwarder who will consign the goods when ready. An ocean Bill of lading is required in the event of ocean freight which acts as a contract of carriage and a title for the cargo. There are two types; a straight bill of lading and negotiable bill of lading (which we will discuss in the coming weeks). An Air Waybill is when goods are shipped internationally by air freight whereby it acts as the contract of carriage between the shipper and carrier.