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Exporting cargo shipped via air freight can come with unwanted complications. Making sure your freight forwarder has extensive knowledge in export documentation is vital for a smooth shipment once your international sale has been secured to your foreign buyer.

The top 5 most critical air freight export documents are: Known and Unknown Shipper Documentation, Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origin, Commercial Invoice, and Export Packing List.

Exports of physical goods can prove to be risky and expensive if not handled correctly. Consequently, it is imperative the exporter is aware of the documents used to ship the cargo, thus becoming critical knowledge in any shipper’s supply chain.

1. Known vs. Unknown Shipper Documentation

Post 9/11 has brought a heightened level of security and awareness to the air freight industry. United States Aviation Authorities have applied strict regulations around export air freight security. A section of these regulations involves the “known” shipper registration. Air freight from shippers who are not registered or “unknown” can only be exported on a freighter aircraft. Known shippers have the ability to ship goods on passenger flights.

2. Bill of Lading

A document issued by a carrier, or agent, to acknowledge receipt of cargo for the shipment – essentially a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. The Bill of Lading is typically the first document used in international shipping as it states the commodity being shipped, where it is being exported from, and destination location. The Bill of Lading doubles as a receipt from the carrier once the shipment is delivered to the pick-up destination.

3. Certificate of Origin

A document certified by a governing body or chamber of commerce and then issued by the manufacturer of the goods. The Certificate of Origin is used to note the country where the goods originated.

4. Commercial Invoice

Once the international sale has been secured and the goods are ready for shipment, a commercial invoice is issued. This invoice details the entire transaction from start to finish. This document provides valuable information to everyone involved including the consignee, freight forwarder, U.S. and foreign customs, import broker, banks involved, carriers, etc.

5. Packing List/Export Packing List

An export packing list is generally more detailed than a typical packing list primarily used for commodities shipping domestically. This document lists the goods being shipped, packing information, how the goods are numerically itemized, and commodity dimensions. The packing list is often used by the freight forwarder when preparing the Bill of Lading. Other information itemized by the export packing list could include:

  • Freight cost (USD)

  • Complete contact information of the shipper

  • Company ID number

  • Specifications of the commodity in detail

  • Place of origin

CLN Documentation Services

Documentation is an essential component of the logistics process and a key determinate in the overall success of a company’s supply chain.

Navigating transportation issues, financing concerns, customs, and regulatory agencies requires documentation that is complete, accurate, and presented to the appropriate parties.

CLN’s documentation group works closely with companies to identify the necessary documents that are needed, prepare those documents, and present them to the appropriate agencies.

Accurate and complete documentation not only facilitates the efficient movement of material through the supply chain, but also serves as an effective form of risk mitigation, preventing fines, penalties and delays, and protecting against future audits.

Areas of Documentation Include:

  • Bills of Lading

  • Commercial Documents

  • Certificates of Origin

  • Letters of Credit

  • Sight Drafts

  • Customs and Regulatory Forms and Documents

Connect with our Documentation Team to discuss and review the necessary documents for your shipments.

CLN Air Freight Export

We provide customized air freight solutions for clients that have time sensitive needs and specific handling requirements. The reach and capabilities of our International Freight Forwarder Team span the globe.

For shipments that require a service level higher than available with scheduled air freight service and/or for shipments that are oversize or sensitive in nature chartering meets those additional requirements. With a global network of charterers, we are able to move shipments of all sizes and levels of urgency to the most remote corners of the globe.

There are strategic trade lanes and industries that require a more balanced mix in their service options. One example of this is our Sea + Air service, which combines these two modes of transport to provide the most efficient balance between cost and transit time for our clients.


The importance of proper documentation goes without saying. The smallest most redundant actions taken by an international air freight forwarding company can be the difference between a smooth export and severe consequences. The proper management and understanding of these documents are just as important as the shipment and export of the commodity itself.

Even minor errors can result in delayed shipments, no shipments, accrual of expensive storage fees, fines, and omitted payments from the consignee. Make sure your air freight export specialist has extensive knowledge and a proper understanding of documents and any updates regarding air freight documentation. This process should be a top priority for any freight forwarder.

At CLN Worldwide we know you are the kind of person who wants to scale your business with a simplified supply chain. In order to do this, and get time back in your day, you need a customized logistics strategy.

The problem is governing regulations, the economy, and environmental issues aren’t always clear, which makes you feel overwhelmed and unorganized.

We believe your business’s lack of supply chain optimization could lead to stagnant growth and a decline in potential profits. We understand that supply chains and logistics management can be a complex and daunting task to undertake. That’s why we developed fluid strategies and customized services that removes the nuanced guess work and solves your logistics clogs.

Here’s how it works. You schedule a call with us, we will analyze the current market you’re navigating, and then create an effective supply chain strategy that we will then integrate and execute together.

Call us today, so you can stop wasting your time with regulatory delays and start trusting the efficiency of your supply chain to scale your business.

Click here to contact a global logistics expert if you have any other questions regarding export or import of goods on an international level.

CLN Worldwide

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