Putting together Export Documentation

Unlike selling in your home market, a large number of documents which must be completed accurately are needed to get your goods to the buyer and obtain payment. Different forms are required for each country: your local chamber of commerce or business link office can advise you.

Transportation documents

Until the buyer can hand over the original documents to the carrier he or she is unable to receive their goods. In contrast to using a simple dispatch or delivery note at home, export transportation documents have three main purposes:

1.            Evidence of carriage contract.

2.            Receipt from the carrier for the goods.

3.            To demonstrate title of goods in transit

Bills of lading

These can either be ‘received for shipment’ or ‘shipped’. A through bill of lading covers a shipment from its point of departure to an inland overseas destination. A combined bill of lading covers the use of more than one form of transport. Goods shipped in containers which are shared with other goods uses a groupage bill of lading. Other delivery documents could include:

  • airways bills, which are receipts for goods shipped air cargo
  • road or rail consignment notes
  • post receipts, although these are not documents of title

Some of the most common forms of export certificate which you are likely to come across are defined below. Find out from the importer’s embassy or chamber of commerce what documents are needed for the country you are exporting to.

Certificate of origin

A number of countries insist on a separate document, apart from the invoice, to confirm the origin of the goods being imported. It may be combined with a certificate of value used by customs and excise. These documents are issued by a chamber of commerce.

Weight and health certificates

These documents are called to meet the standards of your customer’s country. These simply confirm that the goods were in good order and met the regulations of the importing country when they left your factory. Where these forms are required they can be helpful to settle disputes.

Inspection certificates

These certificates are used by a number of countries which employ inspection companies to operate in the exporter’s own country to confirm the quality and cost of the consignment. Inspection companies can be very influential in ensuring prompt delivery and payment. But delays in dispatch can occur whilst waiting for them to issue the certificate.

Export licences

Most countries today stipulate the type of goods which can or cannot be imported or exported. Whilst it mainly covers goods which could be used for military purposes, restrictions on food and other items can be imposed from time to time. Always check with the Department of Trade and Industry or your local chamber of commerce prior to obtaining orders from abroad, and again before shipment.

We enjoy duty free trade within the European Union, and with certain other countries outside this free trade area. Elsewhere duty is assessed according to the goods exported and the importing country. You are advised to consult with the Export Department of the Department of Trade and Industry for current regulations relating to the destination of your exports. They will also inform you of the other duty free areas with whom you can trade on the same terms as the EU.

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