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The A-Z of Export Shipping Terms

When exporting goods, either domestically or internationally, it’s important that the process is as smooth and efficient as possible. To eliminate the likelihood of any mistakes or delays, you need to make sure you’re aware of all the possible export shipping terms you might come across. 

Here's a handy glossary of terms that you can refer to - just to help make things easier.

6 - learning more and filling in the gaps about export shipping terms

Glossary of Export Shipping Terms


AEO - A company that’s received the Authorised Economic Operator status is part of an international programme designed to improve supply chain security. A sign of quality.

Agent - A person or organisation that’s authorised to act on behalf of the supplier when selling products abroad.

Air Waybill - A transport document that’s used when goods are transported by air freight. It acts as a receipt and confirms the terms and conditions set out by both parties.

Arrival Notice - A written notice that’s sent to advise of the arrival of a vessel and/or certain shipment.

ATA Carnet - An ATA carnet is an international customs document that allows exporters to move goods temporarily through successive countries without needing to make a customs declaration at each border.

ATR - A customs document that’s used to allow exporters to receive free movement of trade between EU members and Turkey.

Bill of Exchange - A written order from one party to another that asks for a specified account to be paid.

Bill of Lading - A contract between the shipper and transportation company that confirms the terms of a sea freight shipment. Acts as a receipt for the goods that are shipped and includes important information like quantity, weight and condition.

Cargo Insurance - Insurance taken out by exporters to protect themselves against the risk of loss or damaged goods.

Certificate of Inspection - A document that confirms whether the items ready for shipment were in a good, saleable condition before they left.

Certificate of Origin (COO) - Establishes where goods were manufactured or processed. Important as some countries require this information before allowing items to pass through. Issued by a Chamber of Commerce.

Commercial Invoice - The main document used to provide information about a transaction. Must include the parties involved, the goods being transported and the country that the goods were manufactured in.

Commodity Code - Numbers that are used to identify goods for customs purposes. You’ll need to know this code when filling out any paperwork. Usually eight digits long for exports and 10 for imports.

Consignment - Delivery of items from the exporter (consignor) to the destination (consignee) under the agreement that the agent will sell the goods on behalf of the consignor.

Dangerous Goods - Cargo that has the potential to cause harm, damage or loss of life if released. Can include explosives, compressed gases, flammable materials, toxic substances and electronic devices containing lithium batteries.  

Dual Use - Shipped goods, like machinery, tools, software and other technology, that have a valid commercial function but could also be used for strategic or military purposes. Because of their potential dual purpose, they’re subject to export controls.

EORI Number - An EORI (Economic Operator Registration Identification) number is a unique code that’s used to identify exporters across the EU. To export or import with UK companies, you’ll need an EORI number.  

EUR1 - A kind of Certificate of Origin that proves that items are of EU origin and therefore eligible for a better rate of duty when imported.

Export Controls - Government checks that aim to control the export of goods depending on the nature of the items.

Freight Forwarder - Transport and logistics experts who help exporters when moving goods around the world.

Import Licence - A document required by some national governments authorising the importation of goods into the country.

Intellectual Property - Assets traded internationally that aren’t tangible, like trademarks, patents, designs or copyrights. Items like these need to be protected and come under their own guidelines.

Letter of Credit - A written document given by a bank to pay the seller a given amount of money. It sets out the terms and conditions which need to be met in order to obtain payment.

On-Board Courier - A premium service offered by some exporters that is used when items are especially time-critical or important. A member of staff travels with the items to ensure they reach their destination safely, handing over them personally to the consignee.

Proforma Invoice - An initial draft of a sales invoice which can be used as a sales offer or to facilitate payment in advance. It’s used in place of a commercial invoice when there is no sale between the consignor and consignee.

Proof of Delivery - Confirmation that the items have reached their destination safely and correctly. Proof of delivery should be sent to the consignor immediately after goods have been delivered.

Road Freight - Used for items of a less time-sensitive nature, it involves using road networks to move heavier items around the world.

Sea Freight - Large deliveries that aren’t time critical are often sent by sea as it’s a convenient and cost-effective method of exporting goods.

Shipped On Board - A confirmation that the goods involved in a trade have been loaded and dispatched on a ship. It includes details of the vessel name and date of international departure so that items can be accurately tracked.

Short Shipped - Used when items have not been dispatched on the ship or flight that they were booked onto. This could be because of an error which would need to be dealt with.

Temporary Import - The process of bringing goods into a country for a short period of time before they’re re-exported. This often takes place when businesses import equipment or items for special events like auctions and exhibitions. As long as the goods aren’t altered, there’s no duty or VAT to pay.

Volumetric Weight - The cost of shipments can be affected by the space that goods take up on an aircraft or ship, rather than their actual weight. Even if the goods are light, if they need a lot of space, then there may be higher charges to pay.

Looking for the Perfect Courier to Suit Your Business?

Whatever you’re looking to export or import, you need a courier service you can trust. If you have tight deadlines to meet and a budget that has to be stuck to, then the last thing you want is items that go missing or delays at customs because the right documentation wasn’t filled out.

Ensure your items arrive quickly and efficiently with an expert courier. But how do you know which one to choose to work with? To make the choice a little easier, we’ve put together a handy comparison guide.

Until that's ready why not speak to an expert.

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