A guide to collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding

Sea freight transport is the most common type of transport of goods. Both importers and exporters. use this type of shipping. Almost 90% of the goods in the world are shipped by ocean. It is the most cost-efficient method for shipping large quantities of goods. Cargo is usually packed in containers. One cargo ship can take around 18000 containers.  Collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding can be challenging, especially when having that many products onboard. Not everyone prepares all documentation for exporting products via sea freight forwarders properly.  As a result, it may lead to delays which can cause further problems. To avoid this you can find a reliable shipping company like  Kokusai Express Japan and have them help you with all necessary documentation for shipping overseas.

What you should have in mind when collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding?

Sea freight forwarding can be a complex process. It’s important to make sure you have all the necessary documentation before you start. By following these tips, you can make the process simpler and smoother for everyone involved.

  • Do research, get all information, and make a list of each document needed for shipping overseas.
  • Be accurate and consistent. In other words, each document must have the same information. For example, the names of each company that is a part of exporting, importing, and shipping, addresses, and all important information.
  • Find the best sea freight forwarder to lower the possible risks of improperly filled documents, poor shipping service, and problems with customs or buyers.
Sea freight moving - ship with containers
Sea freight transport is the most common type of transport of goods

List of the most important documents for shipping overseas:

It looks like there are a lot of documents involved in shipping via sea freight. Which ones are the most important? if you’re collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding, here is a list of the most important documents you’ll need:

  1. Bill of lading
  2. Sea Waybill
  3. Commercial invoice
  4. Packing list
  5. Export/import Customs declaration
  6. Container consignment note
  7. Certificate of Origin
  8. Certificate of Analysis
  9. Insurance Certificate

Bill of lading

Freight shipping of goods overseas requires a bill of lading. It must contain the most important details about the shipment. Bill of lading works as:

  • the contract between carrier and shipper
  • document of title
  • a receipt for shipped goods

It must have all information including the type of products, amount, transportation details, destination, receiver…

The shipper, carrier, and receiver have to sign this document. This document is one the most relevant for a sea freight shipment, as it provides all relevant information needed to ship your products overseas.  Bill of lading is transferable – the one holding the document is responsible for the cargo.

Sea Waybill

Sea Waybill is a contract between overseas shipping companies and shippers. It works similarly to the bill of lading – it has all information about the shipment. Most importantly, the boarding port, destination port, ship’s name, and information about the shipper and recipient, and works as contract and receipt. However, it is not the document of title and it cannot be transferred.

Labeled contairners loaded for shipping
The packing list includes every detail of the shipment

Commercial invoice 

Shipping overseas requires another important document – a commercial invoice. It is a contract between seller and buyer.  The seller is issuing this document. It contains information about products, price, and terms of selling. This document is a base for Customs declaration. It is required by customs and it is used to calculate export and import taxes.

Packing list 

A packing list is another document important when collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding. This document contains details about goods. It is not required by Customs but it is important for exporters, sea freight forwarders, and importers. The packing list includes every detail of the shipment – packaging, weight, quantity, dimension, and marks and numbers on each box. This is a type of document that makes the process of exporting and importing easier.

Export/import Customs declaration 

This document is important for international shipping. It includes all information needed to export and import goods and it is necessary for customs clearance. It is used to calculate taxes or customs duties. Besides the name, address, and other basic information, custom declaration require information about cargo such as the quantity and value of each item. As the export /import laws may be different for each country the best way is to have a reliable shipping company help you with all documentation.

Container consignment note

The shipper is responsible to fill this document with information. It is proof that the carrier received goods. This document specifies the route of the ship, shipping date, the space for goods, and other details important to the carrier. Basically, it is a contract that proves all the agreed instructions for the carrier. You can check what you can fit  inside freight container

Certificate of Origin

International trade requires a Certificate of origin. This may be the most famous document and we’ve all seen it – as it is marked “made in”. This document declares the country of origin. It proves that products are eligible for import and help authorities to determine if some import duties and taxes apply to the products.

Certificate of Analysis

The manufacturer issues the certificate of analysis. It is a sort of contract between buyer and seller.  It is a verification that the product is meeting all needs agreed.  This is very important for buyers. Above all,  they need to be sure that the products meet their requirements. For example, materials, the process in production, and other important details. This certificate ensures that buyers know exactly what they are receiving and prevents customer dissatisfaction or possible returns or replacements.

collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding
The insurance policy will cover any damage during transit.

Insurance Certificate

Sea freight forwarders have limited liability when it comes to damaging or losing your products. In that case, you should consider having an Insurance policy that will cover any damage during transit.  The insurance certificate must contain every detail about chosen policy. It should have the name of the policyholder, Effective date, The type of coverage, and policy limits. As a result, it will significantly reduce the risk of losing your goods and money invested.

Collecting documentation for sea freight forwarding can be time-consuming and it looks like a lot of work has to be done. Following this list can help you organize better. Above all, to understand the importance of every single document. However, your cargo may need some additional documents if it is specific in any way. Different countries have different laws, so, some research is necessary. It is always the best idea to hire a good shipping company that provides sea freight forwarding they will know exactly what documents are required for your goods, and often they will offer to help you collect all necessary documentation.


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