Documentation Glossary

There are a wide variety of documents involved in the shipping process. So we’ve made things a little easier by creating this shipping documentation glossary which includes many of the different types of documents you’ll need to read, sign and send whenever you’re sending goods or requesting payments to various countries around the globe.

Listed below are the definitions of some of the documents you need to know about. 

Bill of Lading

A bill of lading is a receipt, issued by the carrier once your cargo has been loaded onto a vessel. This receipt can be used as proof of shipment for customs and insurance. Or, it can act as commercial proof that a contractual obligation has been completed – especially under Incoterms such as CFR and FOB. The bill of lading itself details a shipment of merchandise, including the title of the goods. Once the carrier issues you with this document, they’re required to deliver the cargo to the appropriate party. 

New Export System (NES)

NES is an electronic export processing system, developed by Customs in consultation with the export trade. Under NES, customs are moving to a standard system based on positive clearance. This means that NES declarations will have to be put into the CHIEF system (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) and validated. Clearance then needs to be given by customs before your cargo can be shipped.

NES declarations are submitted to customs electronically. Thanks to our own electronic link to the CHIEF system, we can complete NES entries on your behalf – saving you the time and the hassle. 

Certificate of Origin

A certificate of origin helps to establish:

  • Whether your product is entitled to preferential duties in the importing country
  • Your goods do not come from a nation which the importing country has placed trade restrictions against

The certificate of origin must be certified and/or legalised by the relevant country’s Embassy and Chamber of Commerce. As a member of both institutes, we can complete the document for you and have it stamped on your behalf. We can even issue the Euro and Arab Certificates of Origin. 

EUR1 Certificate

EUR1 is a joint venture between the EU and various non-EU countries to attract mutual trade. Put simply, it offers a reduction of duty for goods originating in participating countries. The EUR1 certificate is a proof of origin, allowing you to claim a reduction on your goods. It needs to be stamped by the customs office in question and must be accompanied by original, signed commercial invoices.

As part of our comprehensive service, we can act on your behalf, getting all your EUR1 documents to signed and stamped at HM customs. 

EORI Number

When you book a freight forwarder to take care of shipping your goods, one of the pieces of information you’ll be asked for is an EORI number. An EORI is basically a number assigned to importers and exporters, which allows the government to track what is being traded between EU and non-EU countries. At the moment, the UK is still part of the EU, so trade to or from other EU countries doesn’t require an EORI number. Obviously, this situation will change when the UK leaves the European Union under Brexit.

ECTN/BESC (Cargo Tracking Note)

Often needed when shipping to most West Africa countries, Cargo Tracking Notes are essential when shipping to the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Benin and Togo. But don’t worry. If you’re not sure where to start, or don’t want the hassle, we can arrange them on your behalf.


A movement certificate specifically for trade between Turkey and the EC. 


A transport document that does not need surrendering in order to get delivery. 


A transport document that does not need surrendering in order to get delivery. 

Booking Confirmation

Confirms your transport is arranged, offering collection points times and vessel details. This document should always be carefully checked immediately, as all shipping lines now charge if alterations are not notified within 24/48 hours (lines differ) of load time. 

Export Entry/Declaration

Customs entry completed online. The export entry/declaration contains the description/weight/value of the goods and customer details at destination. This information should be provided ASAP – without it, goods will be short shipped. 

End User Certificate

A letter from customs confirming the consignee is approved to take goods from the UK. This certificate is usually only required when shipping arms or similar. It may also be requested if your customer is a known supplier to armed forces. 


Document issued by HMRC. Required by some EC countries (usually in the Mediterranean) to confirm that cargo emanates from within the EC and is therefore in free circulation. 

T1 (TAD Transport Document)

T1 is a transit document which allows for goods which originated outside the European Union to move freely within the European Union. The accompanying document ensures that no customs duties or taxes are payable as the shipment moves from one country to the next within the European Union


International customs and temporary export-import document. It’s used to clear customs in 87 countries/territories without paying duties/import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported within a specified time. Referred to as a passport for cargo. 

Letter of Credit

Letter issued by a bank to another bank (especially one in a different country) to serve as a guarantee for payments made to a specified person under specified conditions. 

Export Licence

A government document that authorises the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. 

Dangerous Goods Certificate

Exports submitted for handling by air carriers and air freight forwarders classified as dangerous goods need to be accompanied by the shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods required for the international air transport association (IATA). The exporter is responsible for the accuracy of the form, ensuring that requirements related to packaging, marking, and other required information by IATA have been met. 

Advance Manifest Filing (AMS) and ISF for United States Cargo and ACI for Canadian cargo

AMS/ACI and ISF documents are mandatory when moving USA-bound cargo. They’re basically a form of electronic pre-arrival information sent to US and Canadian ports. We don’t just have the ability to file AMS/ACI and ISF on your behalf. We offer great range of advice on imports and exports to destinations that enforce countless, complex rules and restrictions.

Here’s a list of some of the destinations you can expect to encounter extra procedures, restrictions and documentation requests:

BeninIvory Coast
Congo (Democratic Republic of)Taiwan
EgyptUnited Arab Emirates
GabonUnited States