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A packing list accompanies the international shipment and is used to inform transportation companies about what they are moving as well as to allow the customer and others involved in the transaction to check what has been shipped against the proforma invoice. It is a good safeguard against shipping incorrect cargo! An export packing list, for example, is far more detailed than a domestic one.

To prepare your packing list, delete all the prices on the invoice and double-check to see that the number of cases, weight (net, gross, metric) and measurements appear on the invoice. Then rename the document “PACKING LIST” in big, bold letters and you’re all set. Never substitute a packing list for a commercial invoice. Here are a couple of reasons why a packing list is important:.

  • It supports what is actually being shipped
  • It can accompany an inspection certificate.
  • It can be used as further evidence to support a method of payment (make sure you match your product description to that of any payment instrument).
  • It will be used by a Custom’s Broker for clearance and entry into a country.
  • It is used by the buyer-seller to compare what has been ordered to what has been shipped.
  • It is used to issue a bill of lading.
  • It is used for the electronic export information (EEI) and is often used by U.S. and foreign customs officials to verify goods.

An export packing list should be securely attached to the outside of each shipping container, preferably in a waterproof packet or envelope clearly marked “Packing List Enclosed.” Shippers and forwarding agents determine the total weight and volume of the shipment, and whether the correct cargo as indicated is being shipped — all based on the packing list. In addition, customs officials at port of entry and port of exit may use the packing list to check the cargo. Your freight forwarder, customs broker, bank and customer should indicate how many copies they will need, and where each copy will need to be attached and distributed, some weeks in advance. I always make 3-4 extra copies for my file just in case. If you take care of your shipment documentation online, select the packing list option to download and, check with all parties involved in the international sale to determine if your packing list needs to be signed.