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The Shipping Order: A Simple But Important Document

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Updated on 06 Aug 20213 min read

The shipping order has a role to play at the start and end of the shipping process, making it a vital document for international trade.

At the start of the process for shipping an import or export, a carrier will issue a shipping order to the seller of the goods, to confirm that space aboard its vessel has been booked for the consignment.

Once the goods reach the port of discharge, the carrier will issue a shipping order to the buyer. It confirms that the shipment has been made. The buyer then presents the document to customs officials who will use it to authorize the release of the cargo into the possession of the buyer.

We’ll take a closer look at the shipping order in this article, revealing the essential role it plays. It’s worth noting that a shipping order is sometimes referred to as a delivery order. In this article, however, we’ll be referring to the document as a shipping order.

What Is In a Shipping Order?

Shipping orders contain essential information about international shipments. The details that need to be provided on a shipping order include:

  • The space booking number
  • Contact details of the shipper/customs broker/freight forwarder
  • The reference number of the vessel transporting the goods
  • The voyage number
  • When the vessel is due to depart
  • The delivery location and date
  • The number of packages in the consignment

Who Needs a Shipping Order?

The majority of commercial shipments require a shipping order so that the goods can be released to the buyer at the destination port. However, in some territories, a shipping order is seen as redundant. Only a space booking number is required. That’s because the information on the shipping order is also contained on the dock receipt.

Who Issues a Shipping Order?

A cargo carrier will issue a shipping order to a shipper to confirm that a consignment booked for transportation has been assigned space on a vessel. After transportation of the cargo, a shipping order is issued by the carrier to the consignee to confirm that shipment has taken place. The consignee then presents the document to customs officials as part of the customs clearance and release process.

Before issuing a shipping order to a consignee, the carrier (or agent acting for the carrier) will need the buyer or receiver of the goods to present at least one of the following documentation:

  • The original bill of lading
  • Authorized bank guarantees
  • A copy of the seaway bill

If a freight forwarder issues the bill of lading, the forwarder must collect the original bill at the port of arrival and issue a release letter to the carrier, permitting the shipping order to be released to the cargo’s recipient. To help accelerate the issuance of the shipping order, the bill of lading is usually issued as an electronic telex release.

How to Get a Shipping Order

Shippers and freight forwarders should approach the carrier of their goods for a shipping order. To obtain a shipping order before goods are transported, the freight forwarder will usually need to send the carrier a packing list. The carrier will use it to decide how much space to allocate for the goods on its vessel. Sometimes a valid export permit is also required.

Start and Finish the Shipping Process With a Shipping Order

Shipping orders are one of the many important documents that help speed-up international trade. It’s a simple form that serves a dual purpose. It’s the carrier’s confirmation to the seller that space has been allocated aboard a shipping vessel—and confirmation to the buyer that shipping is complete.