Shipping goods by air requires you to fill out and provide several important freight shipping forms. Depending on where the goods are being sent and what classification of goods you’re exporting, you may need some or all of the different forms discussed below.


Commercial Invoice

Your shipping documentation should include a commercial invoice. This type of invoice includes a detailed line-by-line description of every item in the shipment. It also lists the value of each item as well as the total value of the shipment. Some countries may require the use of their own specialized invoices.

The commercial invoice also includes basic information about the transaction, such as the name and address of the shipper and seller and the delivery and payment terms. The buyer can use the commercial invoice to prove ownership, and some governments use this document to assess custom duties.


Consular Invoice

Certain nations require a consular invoice to control and identify the imported goods. The invoice must be purchased from the consulate of the country to which the goods are being shipped and usually must be prepared in the language of that country.


Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin is used to declare which country the shipment originated in. This is very important for customs clearance purposes because every international location carries distinct rules and regulations based on where the goods originated. The Certificate of Origin is usually certified by an authorized semiofficial organization. The Certificate of Origin may be required even if the commercial invoice contains the same information.


Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED)

If any single commodity has a value in excess of $2,500, then a Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) is required when exporting goods from the United States. The US Census Bureau is collecting this information for statistical purposes. The Census Bureau is currently undergoing a transition which will eventually lead to mandated electronic filing for SEDs. This is all the more reason to use electronic shipping document management within your company.


Bill of Lading

The Bill of Lading identifies the shipper, consignee, and the types and quantity of the goods. The Bill of Lading is essentially the contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. This is also the case with domestic shipments. There are two types of Bills of Lading. A straight Bill of Lading is nonnegotiable. On the other hand, a negotiable or shipper’s order Bill of Lading can be bought, sold, or traded while the goods are in transit. It’s often used for letter-of-credit transactions. In order to prove ownership and take possession of the goods, the customer usually needs the original Bill of Lading or a copy of it.


Export Packing List

An export packing list is usually more detailed than packing lists used for domestic shipments.

Here are some examples of what an export packing list includes:

  • Freight cost in US dollars (exchange rate on the day of shipment)
  • Full name and address of shipper
  • ID number of the company
  • Full name and address of consignee
  • Detailed specification of the goods
  • Quantity of cargo
  • Weight of the load
  • Place of origin of goods

The shipper generally uses the packing list to verify the weight and volume of the goods. Custom officials in the US and in foreign countries may also use this list to check the cargo.


Inspection Certification

Some purchasers and countries require an Inspection Certificate. This certificate attests to the specification of the goods shipped. The inspection is usually performed by a third party. You will have to obtain an Inspection Certificate from an independent testing organization.


Destination Control Statement

The Destination Control Statement usually appears on the commercial invoices, airway Bill of Lading, and Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED). This statement notifies the carrier and all foreign parties that the item may be exported only to certain destinations.


Additional Documentation

Your shipment may require additional documentation depending on the type of goods being shipped and the destination country.

Here are other documents you may need:

  • Dock receipt
  • Warehouse receipt
  • Insurance certificate
  • Export license
  • Certificate of Handling (Fumigation Certificate)
  • Dangerous Goods Declaration
  • NAFTA Certificate of Origin (for shipment between Canada, United States, and Mexico)


The Importance of Proper Documentation

While it may be cumbersome to ensure the accuracy and completeness of your freight documentation, it’s important to get it done right.

Even small errors and omissions can result in severe consequences, such as:

  • Delayed shipment of your goods
  • Non-shipment of your goods
  • Cost of extended storage (until appropriate documentation is received)
  • Fines for missing or incorrect documentation
  • Nonpayment from the recipient

Managing shipping forms is a critical aspect of exporting freight. Therefore, you may want to revise your current documentation process. To make things easier for your company, you can take advantage of eFileCabinet’s document solutions. With eFileCabinet, you can view your documents from anywhere and find what you’re looking for quickly. Let us make managing your shipping documentation easier for you. Simply fill out the form on this page to start your free demo right now.