There’s no way of getting around the paperwork when you’re exporting or importing goods. Being on top of the customs clearance documents is essential. If you’re not, it can become an expensive oversight. Get an overview of the needed documents here.

We all know that being buried in paperwork can be just as much fun as getting a root canal. But both are necessary – in different circumstances, of course.

An important part of the paperwork needed to successfully ship goods around the world is the customs clearance documents. These shipping documents are a crucial step to get your shipments out of the ports and on their way to the final destination.

Getting stuck in customs is something you really want to avoid. Because waiting for customs to check out your paperwork and cargo can take a long time. Something that will cause you to be delayed. And in the shipping industry, time is money.

So, while you’re waiting for customs to clear you, your free days are running out. Days you should have used delivering the shipments and getting the containers to where you agreed with the carrier or shipping line. When you exceed your free days, you’ll get penalties from the owner of the containers through demurrage and detention charges. These charges can easily exceed $ 100 per container per day.

Avoid demurrage and detention charges

Just imagine what amount these charges can accumulate to. Let’s say you’re stuck at a port with low infrastructure. Or you’re going to a remote hinterland location. Here, it might take 30 days to return the container. Then being held back by customs, can eat away chunks of your profit.

One way of avoiding the risk of demurrage and detention charges is by using SOC containers. With SOCs you won’t be charged demurrage and detention. Seeing that you’re not obligated to move or return the containers within a certain time frame to and from the carrier.

On the online platform xChange, there are SOC containers in more than 2500 locations worldwide, ready to ship commodities! All you have to do is enter your pick-up and drop-off location, and within seconds you’ve found containers waiting to be put to use.


If you’re interested in avoiding demurrage and detention charges and want to see how xChange can helpt you, then click on the banner below and schedule a demo with us!

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Now, let’s dig into what papers are needed for your customs clearance documents!

Overview of Customs Clearance Documents

Most of the documents, you need to prepare for customs, are the same regardless of whether you import or export. We’ll go through those you’ll always need and those you have to be aware of.

Commercial invoice

The commercial invoice proves the sale between the seller and the buyer. The invoice is a legal document and serves as a contract between the two parties. The seller issues the invoice. In these cases, the seller is the exporter, and the buyer is the importer of the goods.

Certificate of Origin

This document establishes and confirms the country of origin of the commodities. You can add The Certificate of Origin to the commercial invoice. It can also be a document on its own. Both varieties should work for customs in most countries.

Bill of Lading

The Bill of Lading is a very important document. As well as being legally binding. The Bill of Lading works as a contract of carriage between shipper and carrier. This document has all the details, that you would need to process the freight and commercial invoice.

A Bill of Lading can look like this:

Road Waybill

The Buyer’s Purchase Order

The first official offer, that the buyer gives, is called The Purchase Order. This paper documents the types, amounts, and the agreed prices for the products.

Packing List

The Export Packing List is another important document. The list states in detail the products – as well as the packaging in each shipment. Different parties use the Packing List. Often to make sure the shipping process goes as planned throughout the logistics chain.

Shipping Bill

For an exporter, this is where it begins. Before the exporter is allowed to load the commodities they need to fill out a Shipping Bill to even be allowed to load the commodities. The Shipping Bill has to be filled out as an application. How the bill is formed depends on the kind of shipments, that are involved. You distinguish between for instance dutiable goods, duty-free goods, good with drawback claims.

Export License

What are you exporting. Where and whom are you exporting it too. And how will the product be used. Depending on the answers, you might need an export license. Most commodities exported from the U.S. don’t require an export license. But it’s better to make sure whether your shipments do require than go with the assumption they don’t.

The Bill of Entry

The importer is often the one, who prepared The Bill of Entry. The bill documents detailed which commodities that have entered the customhouse. The amount, the type, place of origin, or destination. It’s issued by customs officials concluding the assigned value and what duties that have been charged correspondingly.

Embassies and helpdesks

We have gone through documents that are general papers, that you would need for a customs check. However, many countries have different rules and regulations. And sometimes there are differences within the country and from harbour to harbour.

These differences can e.g. be that a country’s import regulations require specific documentation for the financial institutions. In an attempt to prove the liability of the company. When looking for this information a good place to look can be at the country’s embassy. They often have information available on national and regional regulations. The EU also has a trade helpdesk page dedicated to helping traders have their customer clearance documents in order.

Container Clearance Documents Explained + Help Desk [2021 Update]
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Container Clearance Documents Explained + Help Desk [2021 Update]
Being on top of the customs clearance documents is essential. If you’re not, it can be an expensive oversight. Get an overview of the needed documents here.
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Container xChange
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