The 14 Essential Documents for
Sea Freight

A range of shipping documents for import or export is required when shipping goods internationally via sea freight. These ensure that your shipment complies with customs regulations, meets legal requirements, and can be smoothly processed through customs in both the exporting and importing countries.

We have rounded up below the typical documents for shipping globally:

Commercial Invoice

This is a detailed document that provides information about the goods being shipped, including their description, HS code, value, quantity, and terms of sale.

Packing List

From the name itself, this document is a detailed list of the contents of each package or container, including item names, HS codes, quantities, weights, and dimensions.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

This is a contract between the shipper and the carrier that serves as a receipt for the goods, evidence of the contract of carriage, and a document of title.

Certificate of Origin

This document for shipping states the origin of the goods. It may be required for customs purposes and to determine eligibility for preferential tariffs under trade agreements.

Customs Declaration Form

This form provides customs authorities with information about the goods, their value, and intended use. It is used for customs clearance and assessment of duties and taxes.

Insurance Certificate

If the shipment is insured, this document for shipping outlines the coverage and terms of the insurance.

Export License or Permit

Some goods, due to export restrictions or regulations, require an export license or permit from relevant authorities.

Import License or Permit

Depending on the destination country and the type of goods, an import license or permit might be required.

Dangerous Goods Declaration

If shipping hazardous materials, a declaration detailing the nature of the hazardous goods, packaging, and labelling information is necessary.

Certificate of Inspection

Certain countries may require a certificate from an authorized inspection agency to verify the quality, condition, or conformity of specific goods.

Consular Invoice

Some countries require a consular invoice to be certified by the consulate of the destination country.

Proforma Invoice

This is a preliminary invoice sent to the buyer before shipment, outlining the terms of the sale.

Electronic Export Information (EEI)

For shipments from the United States, this information is submitted through the Automated Export System (AES) and includes details about the shipment.

ATA Carnet

This shipping document for export is used for the temporary export of goods for trade shows, exhibitions, or similar events. It allows duty-free and tax-free entry of goods into participating countries.

The international shipping documents mentioned above can vary based on the specific countries involved, the type of goods being shipped, and any trade agreements in place. It’s crucial to research and understand the documentation requirements of both the exporting and importing countries. Working closely with your shipping provider, freight forwarder, or customs broker is also imperative to ensure that all necessary documents for shipping are prepared accurately and submitted on time.

TFI is one of the leading logistics service providers in the UAE that you can rely on when it comes to your logistics needs. Our expertise in documentation is rooted in our longstanding experience in shipping, freight forwarding, and customs brokerage.