Should the container number be mentioned on the packing list?

Transporting goods by sea in containers plays a very significant role in international trade. 

In the past 60 years, containers have become the primary means of transport of customer goods by sea. 

At the moment millions of containers circulated around the world every year. 

Tracking and tracing these containers is one of the most important security priorities of the custom authorities. 

Development of a standard container number system was a huge response to tackle the container tracking problem in international trade. 

With the help of the globally valid and standard container number, every share holder could trace and identify them fast.

Container tracking system will be most effective when the container number is mentioned on the shipping documents.

Container number is generally inserted on the bill of lading by carriers or their agents on behalf of the carriers as a standard sector practice.

In most instances shippers also add container numbers on the packing list as well. But is this a requirement, a good practice or unnecessary information. 

Let us discuss below.

Container number must be stated on the bill of lading

A bill of lading should mention the container number as a transport document. It is an established international transportation practice. 

If you cannot see the container number on the bill of lading in a containerized see shipment, you should suspect a fraudulent transaction as the carrier or the consignor may be trying to conceal the cargo information from either importer or importer’s bank in case of a letter of credit payment.

Container number should be stated on the packing list

In addition to the bill of lading, container number should be mentioned on the packing list as well. It is not only a good practice but also it has several practical benefits such as:
  • Shipping documents will be linked together by adding definite references that defines the shipment. Container number is one of the strongest references that could link the shipping documents to each other. 
  • Packing lists are used by the custom authorities during the custom examination stage. Finding the container number on the packing list may help to increase the custom inspection speed. 
  • Sometimes goods need to be shipped in more than one container but under the same bill of lading. In such a case the importer may require to know the content of each container. The best way to do this is to create a container based packing list. This can be achieved by forming a multiple page packing list, each page dedicated to a single container.
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