These days lots of things can slow down your container – from carrier cancellations to port disruptions to labor shortages. Things that are totally out of your control. So why in the world would you risk delays and added costs from something that's totally in your control – shipping paperwork?
Get your shipping documents for export right and avoid shipment delays, customs inspections, unhappy customers, and disputes about who pays for added fees.
The downside of missing and incorrect paperwork
When it comes to shipping documents for export, the biggest issues are incomplete or incorrect data. Things like:
- number of packages
- harmonized tariff code
- seal number
- verified gross mass (VGM) weight
- hazmat documents, like the SDS sheet
- commercial invoices
When small bits of data are missing or incorrect, it can have costly consequences.
Shipping lines will spot missing or inconsistent data and use that as an excuse to roll your shipments, slowing down your supply chain, angering customers and adding charges for late fees and storage. These days it doesn't take much for a carrier to roll your shipment since, very likely, it needs the space for another customer.
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) may spot an inconsistency in the reported numbers and flag your cargo for inspection, triggering $500 or more in inspection fees and delaying your cargo long enough to miss the intended vessel.
Incorrect data that surfaces after sailing can trigger a manifest correction by the shipping line and an associated charge of up to $400.
If incomplete shipping documents for export trigger delay-related fees and added services for storage, chassis, etc, disputes can arise about who is responsible for these extra charges.
Example: for a shipment of hazmat goods from the US to Poland, the Polish buyer pays the freight charges. But on several occasions the cargo has been stopped by the “water police” in Germany for incorrect hazmat placards on the container. That's a problem created at origin and the buyer wants to be reimbursed for the charges related to having the placards removed and reapplied.
These types of situations can lead to contentious back and forth between seller and buyer. In the end, it's more money, more time, or just a big headache you can do without – all due to missing or incorrect data on a form.
Interestingly, in our experience as a freight forwarder specializing in Trans-Atlantic shipments, it's the larger shippers that can be most lackadaisical about submitting correct paperwork on time. It could be poor communication across internal departments. Or, there may not be a clear trail that connects poor administration in the shipping department with the added costs this creates.
Get it right: shipping documents for export
Export shipping paperwork can seem like pure administrivia, but the consequences are anything but trivial – ranging from costly customs inspections to delays and costs linked to rolled shipments.
It's just not worth it.
Take the time to get the details right on the front end to save yourself time, money, and hassle on the back end.