In international trade, there are a variety of mandatory documents. The packing list is one of the required shipping documents. Today’s post explains the packing list with a focus on the following 5 aspects, which are highly concerned by many importers.

What is a packing list?

The packing list (P/L) is one of the necessary documents for international trading and logistics. It lists all the items in a batch of shipments and detailed information about packaging. P/L is also called the shipping list, packing slip, delivery docket, delivery list, and bill of the parcel.

P/L is important for all parties involved in export and import, who can need it to handle cargo correctly and effectively.

Customs officers need P/L to check and clear a shipment.

Customs use the packing list to check the contents of a specific package or carton. As a supplementary explanation to the commercial invoice, P/L details the packaging method, packaging materials, number of packages, specifications, quantities, weight, and volume (usually in CBM) of the shipment.

In case of customs inspection, customs officers will verify the contents of a container based on the details stated in the packing list. If OK, the shipment can be cleared.

Freight forwarders need P/L to calculate shipping costs.

Forwarders use the packing list to determine the chargeable weight and then calculate the freight cost.

Shipping companies need P/L to create B/L.

The packing list is an important shipping document that contains a detailed statement of the goods, including their weight and dimensions, safety measures, and packaging type. On that basis, shipping companies create and issue the bill of lading to shipping agents.

And according to special instructions or markings, the P/L can help prevent loss or damage in the entire logistics process. Also, the P/L can act as a supporting document in case of any dispute about the measurement or weight of a shipment between the shipping company and the exporter.

Banks may use P/L as one supporting document presented for payment.

This is usually under the payment term L/C. Banks require the presence of the packing list for payments.

Buyers use P/L to check goods at the destination port.

The packing list is usually sent directly to the buyer in duplicate so that you can easily check whether all the goods have been shipped. This is similar to the receipt checklist provided by the seller when you purchase something on Amazon.

What does a shipping packing list look like?

Typically, your supplier or freight forwarder will prepare the packing list for you. Contact us to get the editable, ready-format packing list.

Here is a shipment packing list example.

shipment packing list example
click to enlarge

The P/L format may look different, but the required details of the shipment will all be covered.

A packing list must include the following key details:

Exporter: company name & add.

Importer: company name & add.

Date: the date that a packing list is made. It should be the same as or later than the commercial invoice date, but can not be later than the L/C validity period and B/L date.

Commercial invoice number and date: this is easy to understand.

Contract No.: can be the same as invoice No.

L/C No.: if under the term L/C. Moreover, the exporter and importer info must be kept the same as that in the L/C.

Description of goods: this should match the description of goods on the sales contract or commercial invoice.

Quantity: the number of products, usually in pieces.

Packages: the total amount of packages, i.e., cartons or crates or pallets whereby products are totally packed in.

G.W. & N.W. & Meas.: the weight and volume of packages. Make sure this info is correct, as the shipment will be weighed and measured at the port of departure and destination.

Marks: keep the same as the invoice and bill of lading. If there is no mark, just write “N/M” (No Marks). If under L/C, shipping marks must comply with the L/C requirements.

Total: Total number of packages, gross weight, net weight, and volume for all products involved in the shipment.

If you would like any other info like the value of each package or total shipment, HS code, etc., you can ask your supplier or forwarder to add it.

Container packing list sample

This is used when your shipments are loaded and shipped in one or more containers. For FCL shipments, there is a need to describe the quantity and type of containers used, container ID number, seal number, and detailed info about the shipped products. Info about the container is helpful for cargo identification and customs clearance. Here is an example for your reference.

Container packing list sample
click to enlarge

Difference between packing list, bill of lading, and commercial invoice

Packing list vs bill of lading

Both documents are necessary for international business. But there exist some differences.

  • The bill of lading is a legal document representing the ownership of shipments. Only with the B/L can buyers pick up goods at the port of destination.
  • The packing list shows the actual goods being delivered in the shipment. With the P/L, buyers can easily check the completeness of cargo.

Packing list vs commercial invoice

The essence of commercial invoices and packing lists is different.

  • Essentially, the commercial invoice is proof used for payment. Suppliers use this legal document to ask buyers to pay.
  • The packing list is a shipping document, used for parties involved in the transportation process.

When it comes to customs clearance, the two documents function differently.

  • The commercial invoice is used by customs to assess duties, taxes, and other import fees for each shipment.
  • The packing list is used by customs officers to check the quantity, type, weight, and dimensions of each shipment.

In addition, their importance is different in international business. The commercial invoice is the core of other necessary documents such as packing lists, bills of lading, etc. That is, info listed in the P/L like the description of the goods should be in line with that on commercial invoices.

We are JingSourcing, a leading sourcing company in China. So far, we’ve helped 4000+ importers to source and ship a wide range of products from China.

With long-term cooperative freight forwarders, we can get the most competitive shipping prices. Then, prepare the required documents like packing lists and deliver goods to the designated port or your door.

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