The process of moving a cargo from one point to another can be a confusing and involving especially when it is international in nature. But understanding the documentation required and the process involved, can help a great deal.
Here is an overview of the entire shipping process, detailing the documents necessary for each milestone and what steps both the shipper and freight forwarder must follow in order to successfully ship products.
The shipping process
- Step 1: Request quotes
Clarify details of shipment, including the ship date, detailed origin and destination addresses, and the dimensions of your freight. Once this is done, you should start getting quotes from forwarders. You can either do this by calling, emailing forwarders; waiting for few days for quotes to get back to compare.
Or more conveniently, you can get quotes for your ocean or air shipment on Fleet. By providing the key information that you’ve already prepared; with one click you will receive multiple quotes from different carriers.
Any special requirements should be enumerated – this can include shipping of hazardous goods, shipping to an Amazon warehouse, requiring a liftgate for residential delivery, and listing whether or not a customs broker will be needed.
- Step 2: Choose the quote that you prefer
With all the quotes that you’ve gathered, you can pick the one that best fit your target rate or preferred transit time.
- Step 3: Prepare necessary documents for the shipping process
Once you have finalized your sale and prepared your goods for export, you need to prepare the proper shipping documents. That typically includes three copies of the commercial invoice with these important data elements.
In addition, you would typically include a packing list, which provides the freight forwarder, carrier, and ultimate consignee with information about your shipment, the packing details, and the marks and numbers as noted on the outside of the boxes.
A packing list is also a means by which customs authorities in the importing country assess security and compliance. And it is a required document to file a claim with the carrier or insurance company in the event of cargo damage or loss.
Certificate of Origin
While some countries will accept a statement of origin on the commercial invoice, the customs authorities of other countries may require a separate document titled a certificate of origin. The certificate of origin is documentary evidence that the goods originated in the country stated in the certificate, commercial invoice, or packing list.
If the United States has negotiated a free trade trade agreement (FTA) with the country to which you are exporting—and if your goods qualify for reduced tariffs under the terms of the agreement—you may want to provide the specific form for that trade agreement. You’ll find free PDF samples of many of these FTA certificates of origin on the Shipping Solutions website.
Shipper’s Letter of Instruction
Based on the discussions you had with your buyer in step four about the type of export and who is filing through AES, you may need to prepare a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI). An SLI provides your company with a written record of who received the shipping documents, who to contact for questions, who to contact for proof of export, and who issued the export control information that was used to support the decision to export the goods.
In a routed export transaction—unless you specifically negotiate for filing—the forwarder/buyer will most likely file through AES. Otherwise, you can file through AES yourself or your agent will file through AES for you. If your agent files, you must provide an SLI as well as power of attorney to file on your behalf.
Bills of Lading
You will need at least one—but you may need several—bills of lading to accompany your export. For example, you may need an inland bill of lading to move your goods to a port or airport. For moving goods out of the United States you will need a separate bill of lading, which is usually filled out by your freight forwarder. If necessary, you will also need to complete a dangerous goods form at this point.
Step 6: Run a Restricted Party Screening (Again)
Right before the goods ship for export, run one last restricted party screening to make sure nothing’s changed on any denied or restricted party. If you use Shipping Solutions Restricted Party Screening Wizard to do this, your screenings will automatically be documented in the software, providing a paper trail evidence of your due diligence in the event of an audit.
Step 7: Miscellaneous Forms and Ship Your Goods
There may be other specific documents to prepare before you can export your goods. These may be identified in the sales contract you negotiated with your buyer, documents required under the terms of a letter of credit or other payment options, or forms requested by the freight forwarder. These additional documents may including a bank draft or, for a temporary export, an ATA carnet.
Once all your documents are accurately completed and you fulfilled the other steps of this export process, go ahead and ship your goods!
One Last Tip: Recordkeeping
Don’t forget that not only must you prepare a variety of documents for your export shipment, it is your responsibility to keep copies of all of your documents, as well as all other correspondence throughout the sale, including phone calls, emails, etc. After all, it is your job—not your buyer’s, your forwarder’s’, or anyone else’s— to document the whole process.