The ABCs of creating accurate export documents

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January 8, 2019

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Creating accurate export documents is one of the most paramount things that an exporter can do. As a matter of fact, record keeping is one of the most important tasks that exporters have. Not only does it help to ensure that shipments arrive on time, but they also allow you to run your business smoothly.

The movement of goods between large bodies of water is extremely risky– even when done properly. Therefore, in all circumstances and scenarios, the exporter must maintain the export documents used to ship goods as accurately as possible to promise success.

Export documents used most commonly used

Some of the most commonly used export documents include:

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is typically the first document that exporters encounter in the process of international shipping. The Bill of Lading acts as a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier, and it states the type of goods being shipped, where they are being shipped to and where the shipment started.

Certificate of Manufacturer

The Certificate of Manufacturer basically states that the items being shipped fulfill the overall product requirements and are therefore ready for shipment.

Certificate of Origin

Certificates of origin are usually issued by the manufacturer and must be certified by a government body or the chamber of commerce. A certificate of origin is used to identify the country in which the goods were manufactured.

A commercial invoice

Commercial Invoices are one of the most critical documents that exporters can have as they supply vital information and instructions about all parties involved from the start of the shipping process to the end including the buyer, freight forwarder, local and foreign customs, import broker, banks, carriers, and so on.

Consular Invoice

A consular invoice is given by the consular representative of the country the goods are being shipped to. It is sometimes required in some countries.

Dock Receipts

Dock receipts certify to the exporter the goods have been delivered to the international carrier successfully and that the freight is not damaged.

Inspection Certificate

Inspection certificates are needed when industrial items and equipment, meat products, as well as perishable goods are being exported. The certificate stated that the exports are received in great condition and in their expected quantities.

How long should you keep your export documents?

Although it may appear like a lot of work, maintaining your export documents is essential because throwing them away could result in a lot of headaches that you want to avoid in your export business. As a rule of thumb, you should keep your export documents for at least a period of 5 years before throwing them away.

If you can maintain your records for more than 5 years, you should seriously consider it as certain agencies and departments may request information applying to a particular export shipment before the five-year period is up. As such, you must continue to maintain all your export documents pertaining to that shipment until you receive written authorization to toss or get rid of them.

What can go wrong when creating accurate export documents?

If you are not careful, there is plenty that can go wrong when creating export documents, which is why it is vital to remain aware of all the rules and regulations in place. For instance, something as seemingly simple as a typo or entry of incorrect information can cause a world of trouble. Some common mistakes that are made when creating export documents include:

  • Entering incorrect contact, packing, and payment details
  • Erroneous product descriptions
  • Assuming your goods qualify for preferential rate when they do not
  • Incorrect classification of goods
  • Improper product descriptions

Whenever you are exporting anything, it helps to be as informed as possible to prevent mistakes. You should take the initiative to ask your freight forwarder a lot of questions so that the export process can be as smooth as it can be.

Here at Sidoman, as your trusted freight forwarders, we are here to lend our expertise so you can use it to your advantage so that you never have to deal with any costly mistakes. Nine times out of ten, having the wrong person fill out your export forms often leads to some of these avoidable problems, so do not let it happen to you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.


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