Packing List in International Shipping: A Guide for SMBs

Packing List in International Shipping: A Guide for SMBs
Back to blog

A packing list in international shipping is a document that enumerates the contents of a shipment, specifying items, quantities, and packaging details.

A packing list is an essential document for international shipping. Whether you are an SMB that manages global trade independently or you work with a freight forwarder, it is important that you have an understanding of what a packing list is and how it works. Lack of knowledge or improper use of this document may lead to difficulties in customs clearance, resulting in possible delays and extra expenses.

In this article, we’ll delve into the significance of the packing list, its role, its impact on your business, as well as what you need to know to streamline your shipping process.

What is a Packing List in International Shipping? Packing List Definition

A packing list in international shipping is a document that enumerates the contents of a shipment, specifying items, quantities, and packaging details. It assists in verifying cargo accuracy, customs clearance, and proper handling. This information complements other shipping documents, enhancing logistics efficiency and minimizing errors during transportation.

What is included in a Packing List?

 A packing list typically includes:

  • Item descriptions
  • Quantity of each item
  • Packaging type (boxes, crates, pallets)
  • Weight and dimensions of packages
  • Total weight and volume
  • Handling instructions (fragile, handle with care)
  • Marks and numbers for identification
  • Shipper’s and consignee’s names and addresses
  • Order or reference numbers
  • Country of origin
  • Harmonized System (HS) codes for customs classification

Including these details helps ensure accurate handling, customs compliance, and efficient cargo management in international shipping.

Who is Responsible for Creating the Packing List?

The responsibility for creating the packing list falls on the seller or the manufacturer whose goods you are purchasing. The seller has direct knowledge of what items are being included in the shipment and is, therefore, in a position to provide accurate details on the packing list. This will include essential information, including item names, amounts, and necessary item numbers or SKUs.

Legal Requirements and Obligations

A packing list is not a legal requirement for every shipment. However, it is strongly recommended that one be included when shipping internationally. Customs officials rely on these lists for verifying the items in a shipment and assessing any applicable duties. Incorrect or incomplete lists can result in shipping delays and additional inspections.  

What Do Freight Forwarders Do in This Context?

As noted earlier, the task of creating an accurate packing list falls on the seller. Regardless, freight forwarders play a key role in facilitating the transportation of goods. So, while they are not responsible for handling the document, they do coordinate between various parties to help make sure that shipments arrive on time. By doing so, they help SMBs navigate the complexities of international shipping more effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Packing List for SMBs

In case you have any questions regarding the packing list, please find below a list of frequently asked questions.

What is the Difference Between a Bill of Lading and a Packing List

A Bill of Lading (B/L) is a contractual document outlining terms of shipment, ownership transfer, and carrier responsibilities. A packing list details the contents, quantities, and packaging of individual packages within a shipment. B/L is legally binding, while a packing list aids in accurate handling, customs clearance, and inventory management. B/L involves contractual and legal aspects, while a packing list focuses on logistical details for proper cargo handling and verification.

Can a Packing List Be Used instead of Bill of Lading

No, a packing list cannot replace a Bill of Lading because it has a different purpose. A Bill of Lading (B/L) is a legally binding document that serves as a contract of carriage, evidence of ownership transfer, and receipt of goods. A packing list provides details about contents and packaging but doesn’t hold the same legal and contractual significance as a B/L in international trade.

What Isn’t Included on a Packing List?

A packing list focuses on the physical details of the shipment’s contents, packaging, and quantities, while other documents, like the Bill of Lading, handle legal, contractual, and financial aspects of international shipping.

A packing list typically does not include:

  • Financial details or payment terms.
  • Contractual terms and conditions of shipment.
  • Carrier responsibilities and liability information.
  • Title transfer of goods.
  • Customs clearance information.
  • Regulatory or legal details related to the shipment.
  • Freight charges or shipping rates.
  • Delivery instructions or recipient’s signature.
  • Insurance coverage or claims information.
  • Bill of Lading (B/L) number or reference.

How Do Full Container Load (FCL) and Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipments Affect the Packing List in International Shipping?

When shipping internationally, the type of container load you choose, either Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL)—can have implications for your packing list.

  • Full Container Load (FCL): When deciding on FCL, you’re simply renting an entire container for your goods. In this case, the packing list would detail all the items that fill the container. 
  • Less than Container Load (LCL): With LCL, you share container space with other shippers. Consequently, each shipper must provide a separate packing list for their portion of the goods in the container. The packing list in an LCL shipment is equally important for customs and verification but may require more details like marks and numbers for identification to differentiate your goods from others in the same container.

In both FCL and LCL options, the packing list serves as a key document for carriers, customs officials, and consignees to confirm the accuracy of the shipment, facilitate customs clearance, and ensure proper handling. Therefore, regardless of the load type, a carefully drafted packing list is essential for smooth international shipping operations.

What Ship4wd Offers Small and Medium-sized Businesses

Our online freight forwarding solution, Ship4wd, is tailored specifically to cater to the requirements of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs)

With Ship4wd, you can not only simplify and improve your global shipping activities, but it also enables you to concentrate on what you do best – growing and managing your business while we take care of the shipping process.

As a one-stop shop, our digital platform assists you in all aspects of the shipping process, such as finding shipping quotes, selecting among Full-Container Load (FCL), Less-than-Container Load (LCL) Ocean Freight shipments and Air Shipments, door-to-door and port-to-port deliveries, providing flexible financial options such as credit lines that allow you to pay for your shipments up to 90 days from cargo delivery date, and more. 

Furthermore, our professional, 24/7 customer service is available to resolve issues and guide you at every stage, from booking to receiving your cargo.

Get started with Ship4wd now and find out how we can enhance your global shipping operations.

Take control of your shipping

Sign up to create a new account
By signing up you are agreeing to terms & conditions