What you need to know

Shipping documentation

There are many different types of shipping documents. Knowing which one(s) you need before ordering freight is crucial. Read along to learn which documents are necessary for your shipment.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is issued by the seller (typically the shipper) stating what has been sold and the sales price. This is the basis of which the customs declaration is generated and subsequent duties are levied.

The document typically includes details of the seller, the buyer, the date of the transaction, type of goods, the sales price and the terms under which the goods are sold. Terms relate to the point in time at which ownership of the goods passes from the seller to the buyer.

Booking Confirmation

The booking confirmation is the document issued by the freight forwarder confirming all details of the booking you have made, except for the actual cost of the transportation. The booking confirmation is used as documentation for the booking and for sharing between shipper, consignee and other relevant parties as easy reference of the booking details. If you present the booking confirmation to your bank, please note that it does not replace the bill of lading as confirmation of cargo shipped.

The document has a unique booking reference and includes details of the freight forwarder, the shipper, the consignee, transportation service, any additional service, timing and cargo details. It normally also has details of next steps and addresses of the forwarders warehouses relevant for your shipment.

If booking on Transporteca, you will receive your booking confirmation immediately after you have completed your payment.

shipping documentation road

Forwarder’s Cargo Receipt (FCR)

The forwarder’s cargo receipt (or FCR) is issued by the freight forwarder or his agent to the shipper of the cargo, when the cargo has been handed over to the freight forwarder. It serves only as confirmation that the cargo has been received for shipping. The FCR does not confirm the condition of the cargo nor that the cargo has left the country of origin.

The document typically includes the details from the booking and will state that the cargo has been received in apparent good order. If the cargo is not in good order when handed over to the freight forwarder, it will normally be rejected and a forwarder’s cargo receipt will not be issued.

Forwarder Invoice

The forwarder invoice is issued by the freight forwarder to the shipper or the consignee. This is the documentation for transportation costs and the services included in the solution purchased.

The document normally specifies the unique booking reference, the billing address, what is included in the transportation service, transportation cost and a reference to terms and conditions.

When booking on Transporteca your forwarder invoice is sent to your e-mail immediately after completing the payment.

documentation transportation

House Bill of Lading

The house bill of lading (HBL) is issued by the freight forwarder to the shipper with following purposes:

Receipt of goods shipped – so when the HBL is issued, the cargo has actually been loaded onto a ship
Document of title – while it is not completely negotiable, it does serve the same purpose as a normal carrier bill of lading and must be surrendered in original by the importer to the freight forwarder at destination in order to receive the cargo
Proof of contract of carriage between the customer and the freight forwarder
The house bill of lading has details of the actual shipper and consignee, the cargo being shipped, payment terms and contact details of the forwarder or their agent.

If you are the shipper, you need to send the original house bill of lading to the consignee once you are certain that you will receive your payment for the goods sold. If you are the consignee, you need to hand the original house bill of lading to the freight forwarder in order to take delivery of the goods.

Telex Release

Some forwarders offer telex release of shipments. This means that the original house bill of lading can be surrendered to the freight forwarder or the forwarder’s agent at origin, who then instructs the office at destination to release the cargo to the consignee (in the old days via telex, nowadays it tends to be per e-mail). Thereby, the consignee will not need to hand over the original house bill of lading to the forwarder at destination to receive the cargo.

The benefit of telex release is that the shipper does not need to send the original house bill of lading to the consignee.

shipping docs

Master Bill of Lading

The master bill of lading (or carrier B/L) is issued by the shipping line to the freight forwarder when the container with multiple shipments has been loaded onto a ship. It is not relevant for the shipper or consignee of the less than container load shipment, as they would refer to the house bill of lading, which relates directly to their shipment.

It is the freight forwarder’s decision which shipping line and origin and destination ports to use. This is, in principle, irrelevant to the less than container load shipper and consignee, as the shipment will always pass through an origin and destination warehouse.

Sea Waybill

A sea waybill has many similarities with the house bill of lading, but does not require an original to be surrendered to the freight forwarder before the cargo can be handed over to the consignee. It is not a negotiable document and is not a document of title.

The sea waybill can be a good solution when goods are already paid before the cargo leaves the origin. It simplifies the process and the consignee will simply need to prove his identity to take delivery of the cargo.

Insurance Certificate

Shipping lines and freight forwarders are limited in liability in case of loss or damage to goods. It will therefore often be required to make a separate insurance for goods in transit. Such an insurance can either be offered by a freight forwarder or by an insurance agent.

Responsibility of the insurance should be agreed between shipper and consignee to avoid double or no insurance of the goods. The insurance certificate is issued by the insurance company and would state that it is cargo insurance, a policy number, description and value of the good insured and contact details of the insurance agent.