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7 Mandatory Documents Required For International Shipping


Sumana Sarmah

Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

July 7, 2023

4 min read

bill of lading

International shipping involves the transportation of goods across borders, and it requires adherence to various legal and regulatory requirements. To ensure a smooth and efficient shipping process, it is essential to have the necessary documentation in place. In this blog post, we will discuss five mandatory documents required for international shipping. These documents play a crucial role in customs clearance, cargo handling, and compliance with international trade regulations.

Primary Documents Required For Global Shipping 

Airway Bill (AWB)

The Airway Bill, also known as the air cargo receipt, is a critical document issued by the airline or freight forwarder. It serves as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier, detailing the terms and conditions of transportation. The AWB includes information such as the origin and destination, a description of the goods, and the declared value.

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is a vital document that serves as evidence of the transaction between the exporter and importer. It includes essential information such as the description of the goods, their value, quantity, and the terms of sale. The commercial invoice is used by customs authorities to assess import duties, calculate taxes, and determine the eligibility of the goods for importation.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

The bill of lading is a document issued by the carrier or freight forwarder that acknowledges the receipt of goods for shipment. It serves as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier and contains details such as the origin and destination of the goods, the consignee’s information, and the terms and conditions of transportation. The bill of lading is essential for the release of the goods at the destination port and serves as proof of ownership.

IEC Code 

The IEC code acts as an identification number for importers and exporters and is used for documentation purposes during customs clearance and international trade transactions. It helps in tracking and monitoring the movement of goods and enables the government to regulate and control imports and exports. 

Packing List

A packing list provides a detailed description of the contents of each package or container being shipped. It includes information such as the itemized list of goods, their quantities, weight, dimensions, and packaging type. The packing list helps customs officials and warehouse personnel to verify the accuracy of the shipment and facilitate the handling and storage of the goods.

Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin is a document that certifies the country in which the goods were produced or manufactured. It is required to determine eligibility for preferential duty rates under free trade agreements or to comply with import regulations and trade policies of the importing country. The certificate of origin is usually issued by the exporter or a recognized authority, and it should accurately state the origin of the goods.

Export Licenses 

Certain products and commodities require specific licenses or permits to be imported or exported. These may include items such as controlled substances, hazardous materials, firearms, or agricultural products. It is crucial to research and obtain the necessary import/export licenses and permits from the relevant authorities to ensure compliance with legal requirements. Failure to provide the required licenses and permits can result in delays or even the seizure of the goods.


International shipping involves a complex network of regulations and procedures. To navigate this process successfully, it is crucial to have the correct documentation in place. The five mandatory documents discussed here —commercial invoice, bill of lading, packing list, certificate of origin, and export licenses —are essential for ensuring smooth customs clearance, complying with trade regulations, and facilitating the efficient movement of goods across borders. By understanding and preparing these documents correctly with the help of a global shipping solution, exporters can minimize the risk of delays, penalties, and disruptions in their international shipping operations. 

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