Everyday millions of tonnes of freight are shipped around the world. All these consignments, whether going by road, sea, or air, have one thing in common. They require paperwork.

Here we take a closer look at the different types of paperwork involved in transporting goods around the globe.

It’s important to work with a freight forwarder that is experienced in delivering to your chosen destination. Getting the paperwork wrong can mean that your goods aren’t delivered on time or, in some circumstances, aren’t delivered at all.

Proforma and Commerical Invoice

The first piece of paperwork you will probably become familiar with is the proforma invoice. This is often used so that your customer can put together the finances and apply for import licenses if they are needed.

Once you have got the order, you will produce a further commercial invoice that you are going to use as you prepare to send your delivery. In many cases, it will look similar to the proforma invoice.

Transportation Documentation

Whether you are transporting by air, sea or land, your consignment will need a specific type of documentation.

  • For airfreight, the primary piece of paperwork is the Air Waybill which confirms the arrangement between the carrier and the business. It also acts as an invoice and a customs document.
  • Goods that are transported by sea are accompanied by a Bill of Lading which includes details of the content of the shipment, where it is going and the quantity of freight.
  • Goods that travel overland are accompanied by a Road Consignment Note that serves a similar purpose.

A more detailed packing list may also be included. This can, for example, be used to create the Bill of Lading and can be included on instructions from a bank. It is sometimes used by customs officials to check freight, for example in the US.

Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

This is the paperwork that you give to your freight forwarder and which details the information they require to move your goods from one country to another. This contains some legal agreement that the freight forwarder can act for you as they transport the goods.

Official Certificate of Origin

Some countries require a certificate of origin to be included in the paperwork. This is usually signed by an official organisation such as the Chamber of Commerce. More often nowadays, this is done electronically.

Other Certification

Where you are exporting goods to will also influence any additional certification needed. Some countries require extra paperwork. For example, if you are sending goods to the USA and want to take advantage of tariff-free trade, you will need certification confirming you are eligible.

Other paperwork depends on the type of freight you are transporting. For example, if you are moving hazardous materials or goods, you should include a dangerous goods form with your consignment.

Paperwork can be confusing when transporting goods from one country to another. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced freight forwarding company like Equator that understands what is needed and advise on best practice.