Get your export documents right

Last updated 19 March 2019

Having the right paperwork is crucial when you’re transporting goods across borders. Missing or inaccurate documents can lead to delays and extra costs, or even prevent a deal from being completed.

You need to know which documents you or your freight forwarder will need to complete at each stage. You’ll need specific types of documents depending on your transport method.

Air freight documentation

An air waybill is the contract between your business and the carrier you’re using. The e-freight project aims to remove all paperwork from air cargo transportation, making it a digital process.

Find out about the e-freight scheme on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website.

Sea freight documentation

All consignments must have either a bill of lading or sea waybill. These documents clearly set out:

  • who the consignment owner is
  • the terms of the contract of carriage

A sea waybill is a receipt for the goods. A bill of lading:

  • is issued by the shipping company acknowledging receipt of the goods
  • allows you to still own the goods until full payment is made (it’s a risk to release goods unless you’re confident of your customer’s creditworthiness)
  • gives you security and more control over your consignments

Normally, you send the documents to your bank and they transfer the documents across to the buyer. If you’re using an open accounts payment you send the documents to the buyer directly.

Find more information on export documentation.