Your shipment’s almost on its way!
The goods are packed or the container is loaded, the freight is booked; you have export clearance, all the export documentation is done, and you’re about to deliver the cargo to the terminal – there’s just one more thing you might need to do before that, if you’re shipping by sea:
Containers being shipped out of Australia by sea must be preceded by a PRA, so that the shipping line will accept the incoming containers. Again, your forwarder will normally organise this for you. The PRA, which is lodged electronically, contains specific information about your shipment, and once it is lodged, you or your forwarder will receive a response notifying you whether your shipment has been accepted. Once your EDN and PRA are organised, you can arrange local transport to deliver the cargo to the appropriate terminal.
Each of these documents is the contract between the actual carrier, whether airline or shipping company, and the shipper (you). As such, they are issued after the carrier takes control of the goods. This could be at your premises, at the terminal or at the vessel or aircraft – wherever the cargo is handed over to the control of the carrier. Where this is will depend on which Incoterm you have used.
After the vessel or aircraft has departed, and you have the original Bill of Lading, Sea Waybill or Air Waybill, you will send a set of documents to your consignee. You and your buyer can have confidence that they will facilitate a smooth customs clearance and ultimate delivery to your customer.
This is not the same set of documents that has been provided to be sent with the shipment; this set is for your customer or their agent or broker to use in clearing the shipment at destination.
The terms of your contract of sale will determine whether or not you can send copies or originals; in the case of originals requiring an original signature, you will probably send the documents by express courier. Consult your contract of sale or Letter of Credit, or discuss it with your customer.
The final set of export documents will include:
For clearance, there must be a direct link between the invoice, packing list, packing declaration, Certificate of Origin and any other documents provided for the shipment so that it’s clearly evident that the information on each of these documents corresponds with the information on all the others. This link can be the buyer’s reference, the exporter’s reference or the invoice number, or any combination of the three.
The Bill of Lading or Air Waybill will be linked to the other documents in the set by shipper, consignee, total number of packages, total gross weight and total volume as declared on the packing list.
Your customer will appreciate your staying in touch until they’ve taken delivery of the shipment. And you have some options to use in keeping track of vessels or aircraft.
Normally your forwarder or shipping company, or your customer’s broker or agent will take care of tracking the shipment, but it’s also possible to do your own tracking as a backup. For vessels at sea, there are sites such as marinetraffic.com and others that provide online vessel tracking. For aircraft, you can try flightradar24.com and others.
In future articles we’ll go into more depth about each of the export documents mentioned in this series – what must be on each document, where you need to use them, when you can issue the documents yourself and when you need to go to a particular organisation.
For more in-depth information on the export process, you can try one of the courses on offer – the Export Council of Australia offers courses with their partner organisation VECCI in Victoria, for instance. You can check with the ECA or with your state’s Business organisations – check with business.gov.au for information about your state.
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