International Trade Documents

There are different types of documents used in international trade transactions.

What are the Functions of International Trade Documents:

Each document type has its own unique function.

For example, transport documents, which are generally issued by the carriers or their agents, prove that goods are receipt by the carriers in good condition and evidence the contract of carriage. In addition, some type of transport documents such as negotiable bills of lading are also function as document of title to the goods.

Commercial invoices function not only as a bill of sale, defining how much money already paid or will be paid by the importer, but also act as a customs document, telling both outbound and destination customs what the goods are, the applicable harmonised code, and the value of the goods.

Likewise insurance documents evidence the insurance contract, packing lists explain how the goods are packed, weight lists show the gross and net weight of the shipment, inspection certificates tell whether goods' quality are in conformity with the sales contract or not.

The list can be extended. But my point is simple. In international trade every document used to fulfill a specific objective.

Why Different Set of Trade Documents Used in Most of the Shipments?

Different set of trade documents used in most of the shipments mainly because of the fact that documentation in export and import operations change from country to country and product to product.

First of all, I would like to demonstrate you with an example, how the documentation would differ when importing and exporting countries and traded goods are changed.

Later on I will be explaining international trade documents one by one.

As an example, assume that you are exporting compressors from France to USA. The documents you should normally prepare as an exporter are:
  1. Importer Security Filing (ISF 10+2) 
  2. Commercial Invoice
  3. Packing List
  4. Certificate of Origin
  5. Transport Document either Air Waybill or Bill of Lading
  6. Insurance Certificate (only if selected trade term is CIF or CIP)
In addition to above documents some parties such as carriers, forwarders or custom brokers may be creating supplementary documents such as:
  1. Documents Related to Additional Carrier Requirements
  2. Manifest for Aircraft / Manifest for Vessel
  3. Customs Import Declaration
  4. Customs Bond
  5. Transportation Entry
Now I want you to assume yourself as an exporter located in Norway. 

You are working in a sea food factory, which produces frozen and canned fish. You are about to export some quantities of frozen salmon to Israel for the first time.

Once you check the required documentation, you will realize that you have to supply following export documents to your buyer for import purposes.
  1. Commercial Invoice
  2. Packing List
  3. Movement Certificate (EUR.1)
  4. Transport Document either Air Waybill or Bill of Lading
  5. Insurance Certificate (only if selected trade term is CIF or CIP)
  6. Kosher Certificate
  7. Certificate of Analysis
  8. Veterinary Health Certificate for Animal Products
  9. Certificate of Manufacture
This time supplementary documents that should be prepared by carriers, forwarders or custom brokers are:

  1. Security Declaration
  2. Prior Notice of Arrival
  3. Cargo Manifest
  4. Customs Import Declaration
  5. Delivery Order
Most Frequently Used International Trade Documents 

Transport Documents:
  1. Multimodal Bill of Lading or Combined Transport Document
  2. Bill of Lading
  3. Non-Negotiable Sea Waybill
  4. Charter Party Bill of Lading
  5. Air Waybill
  6. Road Transport Document
  7. Rail Transport Documents
Insurance Documents:
  1. Insurance Policy
  2. Insurance Certificate
  3. Open Cover
Financial Documents:
  1. Bill of exchange (Draft)
Commercial Documents:
  1. Proforma Invoice
  2. International Sale Contract
  3. Commercial Invoice 
  4. Packing List
  5. Weight List
  6. Inspection Certificate
  7. Certificate of Analysis
  8. Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) Certificate
  9. Fiata Documents which are not considered as a transport document: FCR, FCT, FWR, SDT
  10. Shipment Advice
  11. Vessel Certificate
Official Documents:
  1. Certificate of Origin
  2. Health Certificate
  3. Consular Invoice
  4. Legalized Invoice