What Shipping Documents are Required at the Destination?

Accurate documentation is one of the most important elements in international logistics and customs clearance. Properly completed documentation will help your shipment reach its international destination on time and reduce the risk of it being delayed at customs.

To make sure your products get to their destination without any trouble, it’s essential to get your paperwork and shipping documentation right.

shipping documents

There will be two parts needing shipping documents in a whole international trade process. One is the export process at the loading port or airport, and the other is the import process at the destination port or airport. Since you are buying FOB, which means your supplier will handle the documents and make the export process correctly.

So what you have to do will be only focused on the shipping documents needed at your country border.

  • Bill of Lading for the carrier
  • Packing List, Commercial Invoice, and other optional documents for the Customs

Note: When cargo or freight arrives at the port of entry, it is the responsibility of the shipper or a designated agent to inform the importer of its arrival, usually the local agent of the carrier.

However, proper notification does not always happen. Therefore, it is important to find out the scheduled arrival date of your import and follow-up. Prepare paper works as early as possible.

Carrier needed

Bill of Lading

  • Ocean B/L for the ocean carrier, can be telex released for no bother sending the originals
  • Airway B/L for the air carrier, delivered together with your cargo

We have an article showing a guide to B/L, including the definition, a sample template with detailed explanation, and Q&A. Hope you can understand this document through it.

Customs needed

When your products arrive into your home country, a port via sea or an airport via air, the customs (i.e. Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection) will not release the goods to you until the appropriate paperwork is filled out along with paying the necessary duties (if applicable – not all goods are dutiable).

The correct preparation and completion of the customs clearance procedures are critical, as heavy penalties may be applied if the correct procedures are not fulfilled. Don’t let false or late documentation problem cost your business time and money.

Packing List & Commercial Invoice

These two shipping documents are mandatory for all types of international transport.

A Packing List will specify the volume, different types of products and quantity per type of product. This document often serves as the means for the recipient to verify that the items identified on the bill of lading are in fact delivered to the recipient.

A Commercial Invoice will specify the order value, types of products and consignee. This document serves for customs to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties.

List of Items to Check:

  • Exporter/Shipper’s Name and Address: Full contact details of the party sending the goods. This is typically the seller but can also be a third party acting on behalf of the seller.
  • Seller’s Name and Address (if different from Exporter/Shipper): Full contact details of the actual seller of the goods, if different from the exporter/shipper. This distinction is crucial in transactions where the seller is not directly shipping the goods, and a third party (such as a trading company or an intermediary) is involved in the export process.
  • Consignee’s Name and Address: Full contact details of the party receiving the goods
  • Buyer’s Name and Address (if different from Consignee): When the buyer is not the consignee.
  • Invoice Number: Unique identifier for the transaction.
  • Invoice Date: When the invoice was created.
  • Country of Origin: The country where the goods were produced or manufactured.
  • Detailed Description of Goods: Including material composition, intended use, grades, quality, and, if applicable, part numbers.
  • Quantity of Goods: Number of items, units, or volume.
  • Weight and Measurements of Goods: Both net and gross weights, and measurements (where applicable).
  • Value of Goods: The transaction value of the goods, including the method used to determine the value if the transaction value is not available.
  • Total Invoice Value: Sum total of all items on the invoice, including all applicable charges such as freight, insurance, and packing costs.
  • Currency in Which Transactions are Done: Important for accurate duty and tax calculation.
  • Terms of Sale (Incoterms): Delivery terms such as FOB, CIF, etc., which define the responsibilities of the buyer and seller.
  • HS Code (Harmonized System Code): The international nomenclature for the classification of products, which determines the tariff/duty rate of the goods.
  • Origin of Shipment and Port of Entry: Essential for customs to determine applicable duties and compliance with import regulations.
  • All Charges Incurred: Including insurance, freight, packing, etc., necessary for determining the transaction value of the goods for customs purposes.

Almost all Chinese suppliers will email these to you when the information listed on them are available. Or you can simply ask. They can be PDFs, EXCELs, Words or any other forms, only if they can serve the purpose and are clear enough for a customs officer.

  • Clearly shows shipper and cnee’s full name and address
  • Description of the goods is clear
  • The quantity declared is the same as reported on the B/L
  • The currency is specified
  • The value declared is real and it’s the same amount paid by the consignee to purchase the goods
  • Clearly shows ship term

Arrival Notice

When your goods arrive at the port, the carrier issues an arrival notice to the consignee, the notify party, or directly to your customs broker. This notice is crucial as it informs them that your goods are ready for the next steps in the customs clearance process. It includes details about the shipment and its location, enabling your customs broker to arrange for the release and further transport of the goods within the country.

Some official customs form

The type of documents needed for importing or exporting transactions usually depend on the type of goods you have. In many cases, the documentation may also vary depending on the country of origin or destination. So the forms under this list are unique to all countries, and in some countries it’s more complex than others.

Be prepared in a particular way to comply with the requirements of the import or export country. For example, a Quarantine Packing Delcaration is a must for cargo into Australia.


Bill of Lading, Packing List and Commercial Invoice are the three kinds of paperwork used in every import process. Other paper works such as Certificate of Origin, Product Licenses, Product Certification, etc. are optional based on different kinds of products.

Besides the preparation of documents, the customs clearance for commercial cargo also involves and/or electronic submissions, the calculation (and usually the payment) of taxes, duties and goods and service tax.


Necessary documents vary by product but may include standard documents such as a bill of lading, invoice, shipping list, customs declaration, insurance policy, and sales contract, as well as more specialized documents such as an import quota certificate for general commodities (where applicable), import license (where applicable), inspection certificate (where applicable), and other safety or quality licenses.

Shipping documents are important to protecting all parties involved in the international trade process. If you’ve selected the right freight forwarder or logistics company, they should be right on the ball about the current shipping documentation requirements. Use their expertise to your advantage.

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