Exporters should seriously consider having the freight forwarder handle the formidable amount of documentation that exporting requires; freight forwarders are specialists in this process. The following documents are commonly used in exporting; which of them are actually used in each case depends on the requirements of both our government and the government of the importing country.
- Commercial invoice. As in a domestic transaction, the commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the buyer to the seller. A commercial invoice should include basic information about the transaction, including a description of the goods, the address of the shipper and seller, and the delivery and payment terms. The buyer needs the invoice to prove ownership and to arrange payment. Some governments use the commercial invoice to assess customs duties.
- Bill of lading. Bills of lading are contracts between the owner of the goods and the carrier (as with domestic shipments). There are two types. A straight bill of lading is nonnegotiable. A negotiable or shipper's order bill of lading can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit and is used for letter-of-credit transactions. The customer usually needs the original or a copy as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.
- Consular invoice. Certain nations require a consular invoice, which is used to control and identify 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. Certain nations require a signed statement as to the origin of the export item. Such certificates are usually obtained through a semiofficial organization such as a local chamber of commerce. A certificate may be required even though the commercial invoice contains the information.
- Inspection certification. Some purchasers and countries may require a certificate of inspection attesting to the specifications of the goods shipped, usually performed by a third party. Inspection certificates are often obtained from independent testing organizations.
- Dock receipt and warehouse receipt. These receipts are used to transfer accountability when the export item is moved by the domestic carrier to the port of embarkation and left with the international carrier for export.
- Destination control statement. This statement appears on the commercial invoice, ocean or air waybill of lading, and SED to notify the carrier and all foreign parties that the item may be exported only to certain destinations.
- Insurance certificate. If the seller provides insurance, the insurance certificate states the type and amount of coverage. This instrument is negotiable.
- Export license. (when needed)
- Export packing list. Considerably more detailed and informative than a standard domestic packing list, an export packing list itemizes the material in each individual package and indicates the type of package: box, crate, drum, carton, and so on. It shows the individual net, legal, tare, and gross weights and measurements for each package. Package markings should be shown along with the shipper's and buyer's references. The packing list should be attached to the outside of a package in a waterproof envelope marked "packing list enclosed." The list is used by the shipper or forwarding agent to determine (1) the total shipment weight and volume and (2) whether the correct cargo is being shipped. In addition, customs officials (both local and foreign) may use the list to check the cargo.
- Export Declaration. The number of documents the exporter must deal with varies depending on the destination of the shipment. Because each country has different import regulations, the exporter must be careful to provide proper documentation.