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What is Shipment documentation and its procedure in the export business?

Shipping goods internationally involves a complex process, and accurate shipment documentation is crucial for smooth transactions. In this blog post, we’ll go through the various types of shipment documentation, including proforma contracts, invoices, packing lists, bills of lading, phytosanitary certificates, certificates of origin, insurance documents, fumigation certificates, and quality certificates.

Various Types of Shipment Documents Required for Trading

Proforma Contract:

A proforma contract is a primary agreement between the buyer and seller. It summarises the terms and conditions of the sale, including product details, pricing, payment terms, and delivery details. 


An invoice is a formal document with a detailed breakdown annexure of the goods or services provided, their quantities, prices, and payment terms. It’s an important financial record for the seller and the buyer, often required for customs clearance and taxation purposes.


Packing List:

A packing list provides a comprehensive list of the contents of each shipment, specifying the details like quantities, weights, dimensions, and packaging material names of each item. Customs officials utilize this document to verify the shipment’s contents and check duties and taxes.

Bill of Lading (BL):

The bill of lading is a legally binding contract document between the shipper, the carrier, and the receiver. It serves as a receipt for the shipment or collection of goods, proof of the contract of carriage, and a title to the goods. There are various types of bills of lading, including negotiable and non-negotiable, each with specific significance for ownership and payment.

Phytosanitary Certificate:

A phytosanitary certificate is needed when shipping agro-based products internationally. It confirms that the goods come up with the phytosanitary regulations of the country which is importing, ensuring they are free from pests and defects

Certificate of Origin (COO):

A certificate of origin is a document that verifies the country in which the goods were produced. It’s often required for customs clearance and can show an impact on the application of trade taxes and special trade agreements.

Insurance Documents:

Insurance documents, such as a marine insurance policy, provide coverage for goods in transit. They protect against loss or damage of goods during shipment and are vital for risk management in international trade.

Fumigation Certificate:

A fumigation certificate confirms that the shipped goods have undergone the required fumigation or pest control treatment. It’s often necessary when exporting agricultural products to prevent the spread of pests.

Quality Certificate:

A quality certificate attests to the quality and conformity of the goods being shipped. It may include details about product specifications, testing methods, and compliance with industry standards.

Understanding these documents is important for exporters and importers alike, as they ensure compliance with regulations and facilitate the transport of goods across borders.

Now, we will walk you through the various stages of the trading process, from the initial steps of sourcing goods to the final delivery and payment assurance. Whether you’re a seasoned trader or new to the business, understanding these steps can help streamline your operations and ensure a smooth trading experience.

Sharing Costing with Buyers:

Begin by calculating the cost of the goods you intend to trade, factoring in expenses such as production, transportation, and overheads.

Share these cost breakdowns with potential buyers to establish transparent pricing.

Conforming Orders with Buyers:

Once buyers show interest, work jointly with them to confirm order details, including quantity, quality standards, and shipment timelines.

Signing Contracts with the Buyer:

Formalize the agreement by signing a contract that summarizes all terms and conditions, including payment terms and delivery schedules.

Placing Orders of Bags:

If packaging of goods is required, place orders for suitable packing bags or containers to ensure sufficient storage and transportation of goods.

Rice Mill Shortlisting:

Choose a reputable rice mill for production, considering factors such as quality, quantity, and location.

Deploy Quality Inspection at Mill:

Implement a vigorous quality inspection process at the rice mill to ensure products meet the required standards.

Arranging for Production:

Coordinate with the chosen rice mill to start production based on the confirmed order for shipment.

Arranging for Packaging and Loading to the Truck:

Packaging the goods as per requirements and loading them onto trucks for transportation to the nearby port.

Dispatched to the CFS:

Goods are transported to the Container Freight Station (CFS) for upcoming processing.

Filing the Shipment at the CFS:

Complete the important and necessary paperwork and documentation at the CFS to formalize the shipment.

Booking on Vessels and Containers:

Secure bookings for vessels and containers to transport your products to the required destination.

Coordinating with Line and NVOCC to Pickup Containers:

Work with the shipping line and Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) to arrange container pickup location.

Stuffing into the Containers:

Load the goods into containers at the CFS, ensuring proper storage and securing for transit.

Inspection at the CFS:

Conduct a final inspection at the CFS to verify the condition and completeness of the shipment.

Fumigation at the CFS:

If required, perform fumigation at the container freight station to meet international regulations.

Custom Clearance and Documentation at the CFS:

Complete customs clearance and prepare all required documentation for export.

Cargo Gated in the Port:

The cargo is gated into the port, which indicates that it is ready for loading onto the vessel.

Final Green Signal LEO Copy is Generated:

Receive the final green signal indicating that the shipment is cleared for export the goods.

Loaded to the Designated Vessel:

Goods are loaded onto the assigned vessel for their journey to the destination.

Coordinate and Obtain the BL Copy of the Shipment:

Work with shipping agents to get the Bill of Lading (BL) copy, an important document for international trade.

Payment Assurance as Soon as the Shipment Reaches the Destination:

Make sure payment arrangements are in place with the buyer, with payment due upon shipment arrival at the destination.

Surrender the BL as Soon as Payment is Received:

Once payment is received, submit the BL to hand over the goods to the buyer or their designated recipient.

Navigating the complex trading process involves careful planning, coordination, and attachment to international trade regulations. By following the above steps and maintaining open communication with all partners, you can create a powerful trading process that ensures transparency, efficiency, and success in your international trade endeavors.