A forwarder often serves as an agent or a third-party
When it comes to international freight, forwarders are required by law to provide adequate documentation. The kind of documentation varies from state to state but some are considered basic requirements. These are the following:
Bill of Lading - This type of document is issued by carriers to shippers as acknowledgement that the goods have been received. The place of delivery and the consignee are often identified. When two or more modes of transportation are involved, a through bill of lading is used.
This document serves three main purposes. First, it is a receipt which acts as a notice that the shipment has been loaded. Second, it includes the provisions of the contract of carriage. Lastly, the bill of lading acts as a title document for the shipment.
New international regulations have replaced the term bill of lading to transport document.
Commercial Invoice - This document is always present when it comes to international freight. It serves as a customs declaration by the individual or company who is exporting the shipment across international boundaries. It follows no standard format but little basic information is expected to be included. These are country of manufacture, goods included in the shipment and the Harmonized Systems codes of the goods.
A statement certifying the invoice is correct must be signed and accompany the invoice. This is part of the customs paperwork used to calculate the tariff.
Shipper's Export Declaration or SED - This form is for declaring international exports and is often shared by several government agencies. In general, it is required when the value of the goods exceeds USD 2,500. in some territories though such as Cuba and North Korea, a SED form is required regardless of the shipment's value.
A SED form also collects other kinds of information such as the taxpayer identification number, the consignee, country of destination and date of departure and export. Mode/s of transportation whether by sea or air freight as well as the inclusion of hazardous materials are required as well.
Other Documents - Freight shipping companies also handle other types of documents for international shipments. Different carriers may also require additional types of documents to meet regulations. Countries of export, import and transshipment may have different requirements as well.
Advancements in technology have made it possible to process these documents in a paperless environment. The result is a more convenient and faster electronic process using computers. In fact, some countries such as the US have fully automated systems for this.
As you can see, there is plenty of paperwork that needs to be processed for international sea or air freight forwarding. Dealing with such a workload can be a huge problem for small and medium-sized companies. Benefiting from a forwarding company's experience is why working with one is a good idea.