Guide to export transport documentation

Transport Documentation


When you export, what transport documentation do you need?

If you are looking to trade internationally you will need to think about transport & logistics. Depending on where you wish to export and of course the products you are shipping, will affect the rules and documentation requirements, so we have outlined some key information you need to know about export documentation.

The documents we have outlined will travel with your goods and will provide carriers and receiving authorities with clear and precise details about your consignment. They can be used to pass responsibility for, and sometimes ownership of, the goods during their journey.

Read the latest advice on preparing to export goods from the UK to the EU from January 1 2021

ECSI (Export Cargo Shipping Instructions)

An ECSI (Export Cargo Shipping Instruction) contains details of your consignment, customs information and cost allocation. Although not mandatory, it is regarded as “good exporting practice” to include an ECSI.  This multi-purpose document serves as both a useful checklist & instruction to the freight forwarder and can include:

- the nature of the goods and any transport requirements

- movement and handling of goods and the route to their destination

- customs information, including clearance and payment of any duties and taxes

- who should receive any commercial and transport documents

- allocation of freight and other operational costs

- special instructions, for example if the goods are dangerous or if additional documents are needed

Clearly formatted instructions can save you both time and money and in addition, because the ECSI provides an authoritative record, if there are any disagreements later over procedure, documentation or charges, it can be used as a source for resolving disputes.

SSN (Standard Shipping Note)

If you are transporting non-hazardous goods, you should also use an SSN (Standard Shipping Note), which gives authorities clear instructions on how to handle your goods.

This is accepted by customs as a pre-entry document and should accompany deliveries of the goods in transit. It outlines details about the contents to carriers, receiving authorities and forwarders. The same standard document can be completed, regardless of which port or depot is being used and whether it be air, sea or road freight. Should you be using CFSP (Customs Freight Simplified Procedures), you can also use the SSN as a pre-shipment advice.

By using an SSN it will mean that everyone involved with your consignment has enough information at every stage of transit, because it should include the following details:

- Information about you (exporter) and your customer (consignee), the carrier/shipper, the port from where the goods will be shipped, details about the vessel on which they will travel, as well as all necessary Customs Clearance references.

- Information about your goods, the number of packages, their weight & dimensions, as well as how they are packed and labelled.

- The carrier should also complete a section identifying details about the container/vehicle in which the goods are to be shipped.

When you are completing the SSN, here some important points you should bear in mind:

- Try not to handwrite the document, as this can result in it being difficult to read or in inaccurate interpretation.

- Remember that you can only include goods for a single shipment to a port/airport or single sailing/flight – on one SSN.

- Make sure to number and attach any continuation sheets to each copy of the SSN.

- Any incomplete sections, should be resolved contractually between all parties involved in the consignment.

Finally it’s important to remember that SSN documents are standardised, so they are understood and accepted globally.

DGN (Dangerous Goods Note)

If your goods are hazardous, then you have to use a DGN (Dangerous Goods Declaration). This transport document outlines details about the contents of a consignment to carriers, receiving authorities and forwarders and should accompany hazardous goods in transit. This means that all involved have clear and precise details about how your goods should be handled.

The same standard document can be completed, regardless of which port or depot is being used and whether it be sea or road freight. However for air freight, the IATA Dangerous Goods Declaration is normally used. Should you be using CFSP (Customs Freight Simplified Procedures), you can use the DGN as a pre-shipment advice. You can find out more about moving dangerous goods here.

The carriage of dangerous goods by road, rail, inland waterway, sea and air is regulated internationally by European agreements, directives and regulations, and parallel legislation in the UK. The UN (United Nations) Model Regulations harmonise the rules on the various methods of transportation into a classification system as follows:

- Each dangerous substance or article is assigned to a class defining the type of danger which that substance presents.

- The packing group (PG) then further classifies the level of danger according to PG I, PG II or PG III.

- Together class and PG dictate how you must package, label and carry dangerous goods, including inner and outer packaging, the suitability of packaging materials, and the marks and label they must bear.

- Other regulations define the training and qualifications that dangerous goods drivers and safety advisers must hold, and when you must use one.

The person or business shipping the goods (consignor) is responsible for processing, packing or transporting of dangerous goods, according to these international regulations. This means they have to be classified correctly so that all organisations in the supply chain, including the emergency authorities, know and understand exactly what the hazards are.

Official Documentation

We have outlined some of the key documentation that is needed when exporting abroad. However given the recent Brexit results and the likely impact this will have on both European and global trading markets for UK exporters, this information is likely to change, so we would encourage you to seek expert advice to make sure all the relevant documentation criteria are met.

- Commercial Documents – Depending on the nature of the consignment these might also include invoices, letters of credit, shipping instructions and insurance certificates.

- SAD (Single Administration Document) – The SAD (Customs Form C88) is the Customs declaration document for export, imports and goods transiting the European Union (EU). It is required for all exports, except postal exports and must accompany the goods to the point of exit from the EU.

- C/O (Certificates of Origin) – These are obtainable from Chambers of Commerce and are certified when they are complete. There are two types you can apply for: European Certificates of Origin & Arab-British Certificates of Origin. They have to be provided in a sales contract or during importation procedures in the recipient country. In some instances the C/O and other accompanying commercial documents may also need to be legalised by the UK Embassy of the country of import.

- EUR1 – The EUR1 is used to claim preferential (reduced or even zero) rates of duty on goods exported to European Community (EC) countries, with a preferential trading agreement. This is benefits both buyers and sellers, making goods cheaper to import & export. You can find out more about the movement of goods within the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), including the countries that are included and the rules and documents that apply.

- ATR – The ATR is similar to the EUR1, but applies only for exports to Turkey. The major difference being that the goods do not have to be of EU origin to attract a zero rate of duty, only in free circulation in the EU (all duties and taxes paid into the EU).

- Special Importation Certificates – CVO (Certificate of Value & Origin) – this gives, in special clauses, extra details about labour, packing costs, royalties or commissions (if applicable), freight charges and any overseas insurance costs. Other importation certificates that may be asked for include: the Canadian Customs Invoice for exports to Canada; Textile declarations for goods being sent to the USA; Certificate of Conformity for goods to China, Russia (GOSSTANDART) & Romania.

Plan your export transport & logistics

Please remember that freight forwarders can help you through all of the complexities of export documentation.  As experts in the field of logistics, they help companies move their shipments cost effectively. They will also advise and help manage the navigation of the processes and regulations required by different countries.

Some may have their own transport and warehouses, but most simply source the best supplier from airlines, shipping lines or hauliers who will actually transport the goods. To find a good freight forwarder, perhaps one of the best places to start would be the British International Freight Association (BIFA)

When planning your export strategy you should consider the pros and cons of keeping international shipping in-house or outsourcing this activity. It’s important to think about the additional resources and costs that will be necessary, for your existing shipping and finance teams, to manage the logistics of global transport and compliance. Remember that collecting payments, customs & tax and export documentation will all add to the workload of your in-house teams.

In our related blog posts Planning your export transport & logistics you will find some useful details about the different delivery options & consider whether you should use a freight forwarder or outsource your shipping. See also A guide to export legislation inside & beyond the EU where we outline information on paying VAT & duty, the UK trade tariff and the use of incoterms when exporting as well as A quick guide to applying for an export licence.

All you need to know about exporting goods outside the EU

Get Help & Advice from the Experts!

Guidance, as well as online information about exporting, is widespread, so it is vital that you make the most of the knowledge that is available from experts. Authorised agents or freight forwarders can help your company with export declarations as well as exporting in general. This will be especially important in the light of Brexit and the impact this has had on both European and global trading markets for UK exporters.

– Use Kompass Business Data to research and find contacts in your target markets.

– Department for International Trade Advisers should be considered key contacts for help and advice.

– Your Local Chamber of Commerce can help with export documentation and finance.

– UK Export Finance provides trade finance and insurance for exporting.

– B2BCentral works with partners to bring the benefits of B2B eCommerce to British SMEs.

– The Institute of Export gives advice, guidance, offers courses and qualifications.

– Find new export markets with a personalised Market Ranking Report from Kompass.

– Build your brand & global online presence with Kompass Digital Marketing solutions.

At Kompass we have more than 60 years experience, helping businesses grow – providing our customers with business data to help improve the results of their sales and marketing activity and driving relevant enquiries through globally optimised company profiles from more than 7.5M Kompass users. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you as you plan your export strategy.

Our Kompass Export Zone builds on our business information expertise, by giving access to straightforward guidance on some of the key factors to consider when exporting, research advice and country specific market information. For more advice on getting started on your export journey, see our 10 Top Tips for Exporting Success.

Disclaimer: Please note that this blog only contains general information and insights about legal matters. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.