Click here to access a copy of ExportHelp’s packing list (Word document)

When you prepare your goods for shipment, you may be required to prepare a detailed export packing list. This is a formal document that itemises quite a number of details about the cargo such as:

  • The name of the exporter (referred to as the shipper) and their contact details (tel, fax, cell, e-mail), including physical (not postal) address
  • The name of the importer (referred to as the consignee, meaning the person or firm to whom the goods are to be sent) and their contact details (tel, fax, cell, e-mail), including physical (not postal) address
  • The gross (i.e. the weight of the product and packaging – that is, the total weight), tare (i.e. the weight of the packaging without any contents) and net (i.e. the weight of the product only) weights of the cargo
  • The nature, quality and specifications of the product being shipped
  • The type of package (such as pallet, box, crate, drum, carton, etc.)
  • The measurements/dimensions of each package
  • The number of pallets/boxes/crates/drums, etc.
  • The contents of each pallet or box (or other container)
  • The package markings, if any, as well as shipper’s and buyer’s reference numbers
  • Reference to the associated commercial invoice such as the invoice number and date
  • A purchase order number or similar reference to correspondence between the supplier and importer
  • An indication of who the carrier is (airline, shipping line or road hauler)
  • Reference to the Bill of Lading or Air Waybill number

It is also important that the details on the packing list (such as shipper’s/importer’s details, number of items involved, etc.), match exactly what is stipulated on the commercial invoice and bill of lading/airway bill. You can imagine that if there is a mismatch between the packing list and the other transport/export documents that this may lead to closer scrutiny of the cargo and may ultimately result in delays in the cargo arriving at its destination! Note that pricing information is not required on the packing list.

If you are exporting to a market using imperial measures (such as the US or the UK), provide weights and dimensions in both metric (kg and mm), as well as imperial (lbs and inches).
The purpose of the packing list

The packing list should be attached to the outside of a package in a waterproof envelope or plastic sheath marked “Packing list enclosed”. The list is used by the shipper or forwarding agent to determine (1) the total shipment weight and volume and (2) whether the correct cargo is being shipped. In addition, customs officials (both local and foreign) may use the list to check the cargo. Packing lists come in fairly standard forms and can be obtained from your freight forwarder.

Combining packing lists and commercial invoices

It is also not uncommon to find combined commercial invoices/packing lists. In such instances, the commercial invoice simply contains more packing information than it might normally have on it. This makes sense, as the commercial invoice already contains most of the packing and packaging information on the invoice; just a little more detail and it becomes a full-blown packing list. The title might also state; “Commercial Invoice?Packing List”

Don’t make mistakes with the packing list

It is essential that the packing list agrees exactly with all the terms and conditions of the export sale. It is important for you to realise that any mistake on the packing list may cause a delay in clearance at the port of destination. Customs Authorities in the target country have the right to delay the clearance of the shipment until the importer provides a packing list reflecting the real contents of the container (should your packing list be incomplete or incorrect). If all the information required for the packing list is already stated in the commercial invoice, then the packing list may be unnecessary. Our recommendation is to provide it anyway – you don’t want the consignment delayed simply because a customs official demands to see a packing list (you can never provide too much information).