Exporters are responsible for shipping goods to the end destination, and when overseas, the customs documentation (i.e., preparing the goods so that they clear through customs) are the responsibility of the exporter, not the buyer.

Pre Export Finance

An exporters guide to shipping services and customs

In short, the two export documents that are normally required at customers are an International Waybill and also an invoice from the exporter. Most shipments, both within and outside of the European Union require these documents, and it is advisable to complete this properly to avoid delays, which can result in up to 4 extra days’ delay.

The process works as follows:

  1. Commercial Invoice Preparation – Exporter collates the relevant customs documents that are required. It is advisable to put the EORI number on this.
  2. Air Waybill Preparation – Exporter prepares the Air Waybill, as part of this documentation
  3. Pick up of goods – Exporter works with a logistics or shipping provider to pick up the goods and ship to the buyer’s destination
  4. Shipping – A freight provider will ship the goods and present the documents to both Export Customs Clearance (when leaving the country) and also Import Customs Clearance (when entering the destination country)
  5. Confirmation of receiving goods – The buyer will receive the goods in shipment and will need to confirm receipt
  6. Tax and Duty – The buyer would need to settle any relevant duties or taxes

What is a commercial invoice?

An invoice is a document which is issued by the exporter or the producer of the goods to confirm and prove ownership to the importer / buyer at point of Import Customs Clearance.

A commercial invoice should include the following:

  • International Air Waybill number
  • The address and details of the exporter (including EORI number), address and company number, as well as contact details (phone and email)
  • Description of the goods – under UK and EU law, it is essential that you classify your goods and services and find the appropriate commodity code to ensure the correct duties and tax are paid (the UK Government’s website outlines this very clearly here)
  • Details of the shipper or freight provider (find out more information on shipping costs and shipping providers)
  • The address and details of the importer/ buyer (including EORI number), address and company number, as well as contact details (phone and email)
  • Value of the goods or products being sent
  • Signature as a declaration of the commercial invoice (normally original signatures are required)

What is a Waybill?

A waybill is a documentation that should be completed with most shipments; not only does it help ensure a timeline and safe delivery, but also inform the relevant parties of the goods.

Waybills are generally documents that are required for both sea-freight and air-freight.

Waybills (also known as Airwaybills or Air Waybills) should contain the following:

  • The account number of the payee, often the importer of the goods, so that insurance, tax and duties can be charged as appropriate
  • The exporters name, reference number, and contact details (e.g. address, phone number and email)
  • Address of the importer (or final destination of the goods)
  • Details of the shipment (including the goods, value of goods and weight)
  • Description of contents
  • Signature (also an original)

What is an EORI number?

An EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number is a unique number which is assigned by a relevant authority at customs and unique identifier in the EU. It was required by the 1st July according to EU regulation and all states must have one.

An EORI number can be obtained through the exporters home country (if in the EU) and takes around 3 working days. Find out more here.

Want to find out more about shipping and transport?

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