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Shipping packing lists can go by many names.  These include packing slip, docket, manifest, or bill of the parcel.  They may not be the world’s most exciting documents, but they are very important and it is crucial to include all the necessary details on them.  Here is a quick guide to what needs to go on a shipping packing list and why it matters.

The many functions of a shipping packing list

In simple terms, the essential function of a shipping packing list is to ensure that the right cargo gets to the right recipient undamaged and in the shortest possible period of time (for the relevant transport method).  At a basic level, it helps to reduce the potential for human error (and also, quite bluntly, for deliberate theft).  It’s used as a cross-reference for invoices.  It’s used as a reference for the creation of all other documentation relating to the shipment, for example, bills of lading and customs documents.  In the event of issues with the shipment, it can be used for resolving complaints made by the buyer and may ultimately end up being requested by an insurance company.

The basic elements of a shipping packing list

Any shipping packing list should include the following items of information.

  • Contact details of both shipper and sender, including the name of a specific contact person
  • Authorized signatory company, (printed) name of authorized signatory, signature
  • Dimensions and weight (net and gross) of cargo
  • Details of the number of packages and how the goods are packaged
  • Dispatch method and type of shipment
  • Details of vessel and voyage
  • Port of loading and discharge
  • Any relevant shipping marks or seal numbers used

A shipping packing list should also contain any other important information or special instructions relating to any aspect of the shipment, e.g. its loading, handling and/or unloading.

Layout of a shipping packing list

Although shipping packing lists are basic, functional, documents, presentation matters a lot because people involved in cargo transport, in any capacity, usually have to work very quickly. This means that they are highly unlikely to have time, energy or inclination to search for details regarding any aspect of your cargo, so you need to make it nice and easy for them to find out whatever it is you need them to know.  You should therefore forget about (or at least minimize) branding and go for a super-clear layout with a decent-sized, simple font (nothing cursive and preferably avoid serif too).

You are going to need several copies of your shipping packing list

Several organizations are going to need at least one copy of your packing list.  First of all, there is your bank and/or your insurer, then there is your cargo handler, then your customs broker and last, but certainly not least, your customer.  Any or all of these may need more than one copy and should let you know how many copies they need and exactly where each copy needs to go (e.g. does it need to be attached to the cargo or does it need to be sent somewhere and in either case where).  Ideally, everyone concerned in the shipment should let you know all of this well in advance.  If not then it might be wise to chase them up about it and/or print out extra copies just in case.

Although shipping packing lists can be (and these days often are) created electronically, there is usually still a requirement for them to be signed.  This generally requires printing out at least one of them, signing it and scanning it.  You may need an original signature on all copies of the shipping list.

If you’d like to know more or need help regarding export, please contact us