Shipping Documentation – A need to know guide

Shipping Documentation Overview

Whether you are importing or exporting, the shipping documentation you provide your forwarder is essential. Having the correct shipping documentation completed in the correct manner will determine how quickly your shipment moves through its intended destination and can even affect the costs you pay. 

With legislation constantly changing, it can be challenging to stay on top of your obligations as a shipper or importer. By getting the basics right you can significantly ease the shipping process.

Read on to discover the shipping documentation you need to know about and download our shipping documentation checklist.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is the most crucial document in the shipping process. The invoice needs to detail who you are selling to/buying from, the products in the transaction and their commercial value. This is the amount you are selling or buying the products for and will determine the duties and GST in the country of import. You should also include your buying terms on the invoice. This will mean all parties are clear who is paying for what elements of the shipping.

Packing List

Typically, a packing list should accompany your commercial invoice. The purpose of the packing list is to outline how your shipment is packed and details the weights and dimensions of each item/pallet/crate. The packing list is particularly useful if your goods are directed for inspection. A clear document stating which products are packed and where can save customs time, and ultimately you money, during an inspection process.

Packing Declaration

Packing declarations are necessary for any importer bringing goods in to Australia. The packing declaration is only necessary for sea freight shipments and declares what type of material has been used to pack the goods. Packaging material such as straw, bamboo, peat, hay, chaff and used fruit and vegetable cartons are not permitted. If timber packaging is used it must be treated prior to import.  

There are two types of packing declarations. One declaration is for single sea freight shipments and the other an annual declaration that will last for 12 months. The annual packing declaration can save you time if you regularly import but note, you will need a separate declaration for each supplier you work with.  

Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin is a declaration that details the country in which your goods are made. If the country of import or export has a free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia, you can avoid duty charges if a certificate of origin is available and complete.

Have you been paying duties on a product imported from a country with a FTA with Australia? If so, you have up to three years to claim rebates on your duties using the certificate of origin. Your forwarder will be able to assist with this.  

General Declarations – Asbestos and Fumigation

Once you check off the four documents above the final piece of the puzzle is to determine if the product you are importing or exporting will require any further declarations. Additional declarations are usually based on the material the goods are made of.

In Australia the importation of certain products are strictly prohibited and an asbestos declaration or information on fumigation treatment may be required. Prior to shipping  check with your forwarder if your product is affected by any restrictions and complete the paperwork accordingly. Australian importers can also find more information on the department of home affairs website HERE.

One Last Tip 

Use the need to know guide to ensure you have all documentation to hand prior to shipping. Share your documentation with your forwarder in advance and they will be able to instruct you if there are any issues. Finally, once you have completed your shipment, file all documents for future reference. 

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Should you have any questions regarding this please contact your ICE team member on 1300 CARGO1.

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