Shipping Documents

Shipping Documents


Shipping documents refer to a set of documents that must accompany a products imported or exported from one country to another country. These documents form part of a chain of obligations and responsibilities for compliance by both the consignors and consignees to have the goods cleared for export and import respectively.

The following are the most important shipping documents:

  • Bill of Lading or Air Waybill:A transportation contract between the carrier and owner of the cargo. Bill of Lading is for Ocean carriage and Air Waybill is for air freight.

There are two types of the Bill of Lading: Straight Bill of Lading, which is non-negotiable, and a negotiable or shipper’s order bill of lading. The negotiable bill of lading can be bought, sold, or traded while the goods are in transit. The customer usually needs an original as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods

  • Commercial Invoice:Describes the goods sold and the price paid for by the buyer. It’s also used mainly by government authorities to determine the value of goods when assessing customs duties payable.
  • Certificate of Origin:Official document stating the country of origin of the goods. May be required for some countries. It may be issued by ministry of trade, industrialization or finance. In some countries, it’s issued by the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Packing List:Provides more details of the shipment such as the name of the exporter (seller), importer (buyer), invoice number, date of shipment, mode of transport, carrier, quantity, products description, the type of package, such as a bag, carton, box, crate, drum, the number of packages, gross and total net weight (in kilograms).
  • Export License:

Export License is a government document that gives permission for the export of specified goods in specific quantities to a particular country or named destination. This document is required for most or all exports to some countries.


  • Dangerous Goods Certificate:Dangerous Goods Certificate is regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for air freight and the International Maritime Organization Dangerous for ocean freight.
  • Fumigation CertificateThe Fumigation Certificate provides evidence of the fumigation of exported goods especially agricultural products, used clothing, etc.
  • Health CertificateFor shipment of live animals and animal products (processed foodstuffs, poultry, meat, fish, seafood, dairy products, and eggs and egg products).
  • Pre-Shipment Inspections

These inspections are undertaken by international inspection companies to verify the quantity, quality, and price of shipments before they imported into specific countries. After Pre-Export inspection and verification is done, Certificate of Conformity is issued and it forms key a part of import clearance at destination (POD)

  • Phytosanitary Certificate
    All shipments of agricultural commodities or plant materials such as fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, flour, grains like rice, maize, barley, wheat, oats; lumber/timber and plants among others, require a phytosanitary certificate. The certificate must verify that the product is free from specified epidemics and/or agricultural diseases. Phytosanitary Certificate is mainly provided by horticulture, agriculture, food or water resources.
  • Insurance Certificate