Local Solutions

3 important shipping documents you need to know when shipping to and from China

To simplify your import and export process with China and ensure a smooth trade, we’ve compiled a handy checklist to help you tick off all the crucial pieces of documentation you will need to make sure your cargo reaches its destination without running into any trouble along the way!

K Praveena , Yan Jing Fu, 13 October 2022

Shipping in China brings about a whole new set of customs clearance rules that can add an extra layer of complexity to your supply chain. As you prepare your shipments for China’s stringent customs regulations, it is essential to first be well-versed with the various types of documents you will need when shipping in the region.

You will require three vital shipping documents when shipping containers to or from China. These include the commercial invoice, bill of lading and packing list. Here’s an overview of these all-important documents and the role they play in China's customs clearance process:

What's a Commercial Invoice, and why is it important when shipping to or from China?

A commercial invoice is a legal document that is pivotal in the customs declaration process. It is provided by an exporter transporting items across international borders and issued to the importer during the cross-border transaction. It serves as a contract and verification of the sale between the two parties.

Commercial invoices detail the quantity, value and price(s) of the goods being sold and reflect the agreed-upon trade or sales conditions by both the importer and exporter involved in the transaction. This document plays an important role in international shipping and ocean freight. It provides customs authorities with information that allows them to assess if a set of goods can be transported in and out of a country and to regulate if any controls need to be implemented. It also enables them to calculate and determine duties and taxes.

Article image

The absence of this document and its information can get your customs clearance in trouble or, worse, potentially rejected from entry into the region. This may lead to you missing important deadlines or even a loss in profits. Getting your commercial invoice in order will ensure a seamless, hassle-free journey for your cargo. It begins with choosing the right logistics partner with a working knowledge and expertise of regional requirements within China.

Why is the Bill of Landing important when shipping to or from China?

The Bill of Lading is a legally binding contract between you, the owner of the goods and the carrier. It states the content of the cargo you are shipping, where the shipment is coming from and where its end destination will be. It is an important piece of documentation as it directs the movements and actions of personnel along the route of your shipment, depicting the details they need to process and correctly invoice it – its quantity, how it should be handled at various stops such as docks and trailers as well as how it's billed.

Some of the information the Bill of Lading will require includes the names and addresses of the shipper and receiver, shipment date, exact weight, quantity, freight classification and value. You will also have to provide complete descriptions of the items, including whether they are classified as hazardous, the type of packaging used and any other specifics of the carrier, such as order tracking numbers.

Article image

The more you understand the prerequisites of customs clearance in China and what the documentation required entails, the more efficient your supply chain becomes as the chances of complications along the way reduce. The Bill of Lading is also imperative in preventing theft or fraud while shipping cargo as it provides proof that your cargo has been properly shipped, transported and confirmed to have been received by ensuring that the documentation on both the receiver and shipper ends is consistent with one another.

What is the Packing List in China, and why is it important?

The packing list provides a thorough, detailed overview of the cargo mentioned in the commercial invoice and information on how the shipment has been packed. This includes any identifying marks or numbers to be noted outside the shipment boxes, dimensions and weights. All of these enable accurate verification of your goods to aid in the prevention of incorrect items being shipped. Once the shipment arrives at the port of origin from its destination, it will be weighed and measured, so making sure this information on your shipping package is correct is essential.

Article image
Article image

Which documents are needed by an importer or exporter when shipping to or from China?

Necessary documents for imports:

  • Bill of Lading

  • Sale contract

  • Commercial Invoice(s)

  • Packing List(s)

Necessary documents for exports:

  • Commercial Invoice(s)

  • Packing List(s)

  • Customs declaration sheet: Paperless declaration has been carried out in China, but some of the shipments still need hard copies according to customs requirements.

Please note: This list may be incomplete. Some optional documents, subject to the traits of your products and the requirements of the departments concerned, may also be required. It will, however, provide you with the right foundation to start from.

Familiarise yourself with the different Incoterms®

Choosing different Incoterms® may result in different responsibilities for the importer and exporter. It could also cause the shipping documents you need to prepare to differ. Get a better understanding of the 5 most important Incoterms® in China and their role when shipping to or from China.

Twill is here to support you with your shipping document needs

Shipping documents protect both the importer and exporter involved in the trade process. If you've selected a qualified logistics partner like Twill, we can help you with the current shipping documentation requirements. Use our expertise to your advantage! Head to our knowledge hub for information about other logistics information you cannot afford to miss out on.

Was this content useful?

© 2022    Turfmarkt 107, 2511 DP Den Haag, The Netherlands