How do you ensure you send the right export documentation to a freight forwarder?

In the second part of a 2-part interview we ran with Sue Wright from the Institute of Export & International Trade’s Shipping Office, we discuss how exporters can ensure the right export documentation is completed before shipping goods overseas.

Who is responsible for completing the documentation for goods to be sent overseas?

Freight forwarders don’t have a responsibility to generate the export paperwork for a shipment. It has to come from the Exporter. Shipping something to Brazil, an Exporter will need to make sure that all paperwork was right for the freight forwarder to work with the airline or shipping line to get the goods to their destination. The Exporter also ensures that by having the correct paperwork for the country of arrival that the customer receives his products without delay.

The freight forwarder is the middleman. All he is doing is liaising with the airline and shipping line because they get better freight rates to be able to ship in bulk, whereas going directly to a shipping line, unless the Exporter is moving full container loads, they wouldn’t necessarily get a good price.

Any errors that appear in the documentation upon Customs Entry, or that the freight forwarder might make on behalf of the shipper, is ultimately the responsibility of the Exporter.

How does the exporter find out what export documentation they need to complete?

You would normally get this from a freight guide. Something like Tate’s or Croner that provide information for every country. They provide information on documentation needs amongst other things specific to the country.

Do they also include templates and examples of these documents?

They don’t give you templates to our knowledge. The only way you get something like that is by contacting a specialist such as our Shipping Office and I’ll then put you in the right direction or supply you with the right paperwork or the templates of documents. They can explain the boxes that are required to be completed too. This can also be an indication of training needs.

We’re technical specialists at the Institute so we’re able to say what you need to do to sell into a particular country.

export documentation

Could a company have a checklist of what export documentation they need to complete?

We could supply this if required. We can supply checklists for many processes including Letters of Credit where people want to double check all the documentation they have generated and they need to make sure that they have covered everything. The issue is that documentation can be country specific.

Typically, when people run into difficulties that they come to us for help. Those problems can be anything from the paperwork not matching what customs expect, to the weights not being consistent between invoices and packing lists for example.

It might be something as simple as you not realising that the customer actually needed to have an import license, he didn’t know he needed it, and now you’ve tried to ship it and it’s stuck in customs because they can’t get it any further than customs.

Usually what happens is people only come to us because they’ve got an issue – they’re being reactive rather than proactive.

How can companies be proactive rather than reactive?

Training is the big key, and getting out to events and listening to what is being said in the market place. Going to the IOE’s special interest groups and listening to the people that go to them to speak and share information.

What impact will Brexit have?

 Very difficult to say because we don’t know anything yet.

If we go back to where we were before joining the EU then we’re going to need formal export documentation for every country we ship to. Exporters are going to have to send invoices with every shipment and to have to work with Customs Entries for everything.

It depends what comes out of the negotiations. It’s hard to know how it’s going to pan out. Trade agreements – how are they going to stand? Are we going to part of the existing trade agreements anymore? Nobody knows.

If you haven’t already, read the first part of the interview in which we discuss top tips for working with a freight forwarder.

Export Action Plan