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What are the Important Documents Used in Freight Forwarding?

Freight Forwarding Documents

Do you find a grey area in managing documents for your shipments? Or don’t have any idea on which document to be kept ready with, for the movement of goods? Well don’t worry, we are here to help you with what are the important documents used in freight forwarding or the documents that you might encounter in this process.

In today’s logistics and supply chain, moving items across borders necessitates a significant amount of documentation to ensure smooth transactions and regulatory compliance. Various documents serve critical roles in enabling and recording the transportation of products from the point of origin to the final destination.

Let us now look at the key documents used in freight forwarding, providing light on their purpose, value, and significance in the global supply chain. 

  1. Bill of Lading (BOL)

The Bill of Lading is a fundamental document issued by carriers that serves as a receipt of goods, evidence of the contract of carriage, and a document of title. It outlines the terms and conditions of shipment and details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. Let’s look at the different types of bill of lading;

Master Bill of Lading (MBL): The Master Bill of Lading (MBL) is nothing but it is a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier and gives details regarding the terms and conditions of transportation. The important thing is that It serves as a receipt for the goods and evidence of the contract of the carriage.

House Bill of Lading: A House Bill of Lading is issued by a freight forwarder or non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) to the shipper, acknowledging receipt of goods for shipment but it will not have the original copy of the receipt could be shown as the secondary evidence.

  1. Commercial Invoice (CI)

A Commercial Invoice is an important document in international trade that specifies the list of items transported as well as the quantity, price, terms of sale, and description. Personnel involved in the transaction, such as customs officers and others, may utilize this to evaluate the function, taxes, and tariffs.

  1. Packing List (PL)

The Packing List, also known as a shipping list or packing slip, describes the contents of each package or container in a shipment. It contains information such as item descriptions, amounts, weights, and dimensions. Customs officials and freight forwarders use it to verify the contents of shipments and assure regulatory compliance.

  1. Certificate of Origin (COO)

The Certificate of Origin is a document that identifies the country where the items were manufactured, produced, or processed. It is necessary for calculating tariff rates, analyzing quotas, and adhering to trade agreements. It must follow the proper trade regulations and confirm the origin of imported items, in accordance with customs authorities.

  1. Customs Declaration (CD)

A Customs Declaration is an official document that importers and exporters submit to customs authorities, outlining the contents, value, and other pertinent information about the products they are importing or exporting. It makes customs clearance easier and contributes to ensuring import and export laws are followed. 

  1. Insurance Certificate (IC)

An Insurance Certificate, often known as a cargo insurance certificate, certifies that commodities in transportation are protected against loss, damage, or theft. It specifies the insurance policy’s coverage amount, terms, and conditions, providing shippers and consignees with peace of mind.

  1. Freight Forwarder’s Certificate of Receipt (FCR)

To confirm receiving the goods from the shipper, a freight forwarder issues a certificate of receipt known as the Freight Forwarder’s Certificate of Receipt. It is used to track and trace items during the shipment process and acts as proof of delivery when combined with other shipping documentation. 

  1. Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD)

A Dangerous Goods Declaration is necessary for shipments that contain hazardous items or substances. It contains information regarding the nature, quantity, and handling instructions for dangerous products, assuring safe transportation and adherence to international rules.

  1. Air Waybill (AWB)

An air waybill is a transportation document produced by airlines for air cargo shipments. It acts as a contract of carriage that specifies the terms, conditions, and shipment route between the shipper and the carrier. It serves as a tracking document for the duration of the trip and a receipt for the items as well. 

  1. Sea Waybill (SWB)

A Sea Waybill is a transport document that is provided for shipments over the ocean, just like an Air Waybill. It acts as proof of the contract of carriage and includes information about the shipper and consignee, the description of the goods, and the terms of shipment. 

  1. Delivery Order (DO)

A delivery order is an official document that a freight forwarder or carrier issues to the consignee allowing the cargo to be released. It is necessary to get items from a warehouse or transportation terminal after they arrive and acts as confirmation of ownership. 

  1. Dock Receipt

A Dock Receipt is issued by the carrier or terminal operator upon receipt of cargo for shipping. It acknowledges receipt of goods and functions as a contract between the shipper and the carrier, outlining the terms and conditions of transportation. 

  1. Export Packing Declaration (EPD)

An Export Packing Declaration is a document that details the packaging of exported products. It provides information about the type of packaging utilized, the technique of packing, and any particular handling needs. 

  1. Import Declaration

An Import Declaration, also known as a customs declaration or entry declaration, is a document that is presented to customs authorities when products are imported into the country. It provides information about the imported products, such as the description, value, and origin, and is utilized for customs clearance. 

  1. Transit Documents

Transit documents are used for commodities that go through one or more nations before arriving at their final destination. They make it easier to move items across borders without incurring import tariffs or taxes, as well as guarantee that transit requirements are followed. 

  1. Export License Application

An export license application is a request to the competent authorities for approval to export specific items. It is necessary for items subject to export controls or restrictions and aids in compliance with export legislation. 

  1. Import Permit

An import permit is a document issued by the importing country’s authorities that authorizes the importation of particular items. It describes the terms and conditions for importing products and is required for customs clearance. 

  1. Phytosanitary Certificate

A phytosanitary certificate is a document that the responsible agricultural authorities issue attesting to the fact that a plant or plant product satisfies the phytosanitary standards of the nation of import. It guarantees that the products are free of diseases and pests that could affect regional agriculture. 

  1. Fumigation Certificate

A licensed fumigator issues a Fumigation Certificate, which certifies that a shipment was fumigated to eliminate pests or insects. It is necessary for some goods and helps to assure compliance with quarantine requirements. 

  1. Certificate of Analysis

A Certificate of Analysis is a document produced by a laboratory or testing facility that confirms the quality, purity, and composition of a product. It ensures that the product satisfies the necessary criteria and standards. 

  1. Shippers Export Declaration (SED)

The Shippers Export Declaration (SED) is a document required by the US Census Bureau for all shipments that are exported from the US. It gives information about the commodity being shipped, its destination, value, and other pertinent information needed to compile trade statistics. 

  1. Certificate of Manufacture

The Certificate of Manufacture is a document produced by the manufacturer that certifies that the items being exported were manufactured in line with the specifications and requirements. It gives the customer confidence about the product’s origin and quality. 

  1. Vessel Stowage Plan

A Vessel Stowage Plan is a comprehensive document that describes how cargo is to be arranged on a vessel for a specific voyage. It guarantees safe loading, stowing, and unloading of cargo by indicating the location of each cargo unit on board. 

  1. Import Duty/Tax Declaration

An Import Duty/Tax Declaration is a document that the importer submits to customs authorities to declare the value of imported goods as well as any applicable duties or taxes payable. It is necessary for customs clearance and compliance with import rules. 

  1. Cargo Arrival Certificate (CAN)

The carrier issues a Cargo Arrival Certificate (CAN) upon the arrival of cargo at their destination port. It serves as confirmation of the cargo’s arrival and can be necessary for cargo release and customs clearance. 

  1. Purchase Order (PO)

A purchase order is a written agreement that a buyer issues to a seller specifying the goods or services to be bought, how much they will cost, what conditions apply, and other pertinent information. It functions as the buyer and seller’s contractual agreement. 

  1. Letter of Credit (LOC)

A letter of credit is a financial document that a bank issues on behalf of a buyer, promising payment to the seller in exchange for the seller presenting certain paperwork and adhering to the terms and conditions of the letter of credit. 

  1. Rail Waybill (RWB)

A Rail Waybill is a document provided by a railroad firm that acknowledges receipt of goods for rail transit. It contains information on the terms and circumstances of transportation and acts as a contract of carriage and receipt for the goods. 


Handling and knowing your documentation in freight forwarding is critical for ensuring that items flow smoothly across borders. Whether it’s a bill of lading or an import declaration, each document plays a role in ensuring that everything is legal, transactions run quickly, and shipments arrive safely. 

By utilizing technology and simplifying operations, you can reduce risks, eliminate delays, and keep things moving smoothly from the starting place to the end destination. A good document system not only makes things move more smoothly but also fosters trust among parties, making freight forwarding transactions more reliable and profitable.

So, why wait? get organized with the FOS Desk and make sure your documents are strong with necessary details for the smooth movement of the goods and avoid obstacles on the way.