The types of export documentation you may need depends on where you're exporting to, and how you're planning to transport your cargo. Export documentation generally falls under four categories:

  1. Commercial.
  2. Transportation.
  3. Finance and payment.
  4. Insurance.

1. Commercial documentation

  • Commercial invoice provides a description of the goods that are the subject of the transaction between exporter and importer. A commercial invoice may be required by your bank, insurance company or by customs authorities. Most international logistics and freight companies offer a commercial invoice template on their website.
  • Packaging list is an itemised list of a consignment's contents ready for export, and is used to facilitate customs clearance at the export destination.
  • Certificate of Origin (CO) certifies the place of growth, production or manufacture of goods. A CO is required when exporting to specific countries, when requested by the consignee for customs clearance, or when it's stipulated in a Letter of Credit.

2. Transportation documentation

  • Bill of Lading applies only to maritime transport and is issued by the shipping line or freight forwarder. It documents the contract terms between the shipping company and the exporter to transport the consignment from one designated port to another. It also acts as a certificate of title to the goods, and is a fully negotiable document. The transfer of theBill of Lading from seller to buyer effectively transfers ownership of the consignment.
  • Airway Bill is issued by airlines to acknowledge receipt of goods to be transported by airfreight. It's similar to a Bill of Lading but it's not fully negotiable, and doesn't transfer title to the goods.

3. Finance and payment documentation

  • Bill of Exchange is a request for payment prepared by the exporter, and presented to the importer, usually through a financial intermediary.
  • Letter of Credit can take various forms. Essentially it represents an advice issued by the importer's bank authorising payment of a specified sum of money by a correspondent bank – to a named beneficiary – upon the delivery of certain documents.

4. Insurance documentation

  • Insurance documentation differs from insurer to insurer. Documentation certifying insurance may be required in certain markets. Exactly what type of documentation you'll require will depend on the contract between yourself and the importer.