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What shipping documents should I submit to my export shipment?

The shipper should clearly understand that he/she is responsible for the description and legality of the commodity and the sufficiency of documentation submitted to an international shipment.

Carrier’s bill of lading, the final document that acts as a title to the shipped goods, as a rule, states ‘SHIPPER'S LOAD AND COUNT’ and ‘SAID BY SHIPPER TO CONTAIN’. That means that the carrier (and a freight forwarder who represents this carrier) is not responsible for information provided by the shipper on his commodity.

It is the shipper’s responsibility to provide all necessary documents related to his shipment that will be required by origin and destination country officials.

Below is the list of commonly used documents required to be submitted to an international shipment by sea:


A. Bill of Lading – Carrier's transport document. Shows cargo routing, consigner, consignee, cargo description, etc.

Bill of Lading will be issued to the shipper (consigner) upon full payment of the freight invoice and in a few days after ETD – Estimated Time of Departure.

B.1. For commercial shipments - Commercial Invoice. A complete description of a commodity being shipped.

B.2. For shipping household goods and personal belongings – Valued Packing List. An inventory list with the value assigned to each item being shipped.

Notice: some courtiers require proforma commercial invoices for personal shipments as well. However, having a complete Valued Packing List submitted at origin, upon destination customs request, you will be able easily to transfer your Valued Packing List in form of a proforma commercial invoice.

In respect of U.S. Customs, all Commercial Invoices (and Valued Packing Lists) must be in English and show:

* Value of cargo in US Dollars (exchange rate = date of export);
* Shippers full name and address (M.I.D. – manufacturer’s identification);
* Consignee full name and address;
* Detailed description of cargo/freight;
* Quantity of cargo shipped;
* Weight of cargo shipped;
* Cargo’s Country of Origin


D. Packing List – Breakdown description: pieces, weights, and packing materials. (Examples - Wood Pallets, Skids, Crates, Boxes, Dunnage, Straw Packing, etc.)

E. Fumigation Certificate– Certification that cargo and packing materials were fumigated after the cargo had been containerized and is free of Infestation.

F. Special Documents – Dependent on commodity and country of origin.

  • Visa
  • Quota
  • Visa/Quota
  • Certificate of Origin
  • North American Free Trade Agreement Certificate of Origin (N.A.F.T.A.)
  • Packing Declaration
  • Dangerous Goods Declaration – hazardous materials
  • Fish and Wildlife Declaration
  • Consular Legalized documents
  • F.D.A.
  • U.S.D.A.
  • Anti-Dumping
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