The 5 Shipping Documents You Need For Import or Export

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

With legislation constantly changing, it can be challenging to stay on top of your obligations. By getting the basics right you can significantly ease the shipping process. In this blog, we will outline the 4 essential cargo shipping documents for export and import.

>>> FREE BONUS: download our fact sheet on Importing General Cargo into Australia at the end of this page! <<<

1. Commercial Invoice

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

Commercial Invoice for export shipping document sample

Downloadable sample 

2. 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 where can save customs time, and you, money, during an inspection process.

3. Packing Declaration

Packing declarations are necessary for any importer bringing goods into 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 materials 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.  

4. Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin (COO) 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 you have a COO.

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. Click here if you wish to download a certificate of origin template.

Certificate-of-Origin shipping document sample
Click to View Example. Credit: Shipping And Freight Resource

5. 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. In these cases, 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. 

Shipping Documents Checklist

Download below our checklist with a quick and easy description of what each shipping document is. 

Shipping documentation checklist
Click here to download

One Last Tip 

Use this checklist 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. 

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

Request a Free Quote or call us on 1300 227 461

Free Guide!

Find all below a summary of what you need to know before bringing cargo into Australia.

general cargo fact sheet banner covers

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