External Trade: Documents Used in External Trade, Indent, Letter of Credit, Bill of Lading and Advice Letter

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Documents Used in External Trade

The main documents which are used in external trade are discussed below:

Image of Document Used in External Trade

Image of Document Used in External Trade


It is an order placed for import of goods. It is sent to the exporter for supply of goods. It contains full information regarding the goods to be imported i.e., quantity, quality, mode of packing and marking, period of delivery, mode of payment and other instructions regarding shipment and insurance, etc.

Letter of Credit

In external trade, the importer has to prove his creditworthiness to the exporter, who may demand a certain amount of deposit or even full payment of due price before the shipment of goods. For this purpose, the importer arranges with his bank for issuing a letter of credit in favour of the exporter. Thus, a letter of credit is issued by a bank of the importer’s country in favour of the foreign dealer. It contains an undertaking by the bank concerned that the bill of exchange drawn by the foreign dealer on the importer will be honoured on presentation to the extent of amount specified in it. Thus, it establishes the creditworthiness of the importer and guarantees payment of price to the exporter for the goods exported by him.

Bill of Lading

It is a document prepared by the ship owner or by the master of the ship acknowledging the receipt of goods and undertaking to deliver the goods at the port of destination. This, on one hand, acts as a proof of the receipt of goods specified there in and on the other, is a document of title to the goods. The document is sent by the exporter to the importer who can take delivery of the goods at the port of destination on presentation of the bill of lading and other shipping documents.

Advice Letter

It is a document, which is prepared by the forwarding agent and sent to the exporter indicating that all the formalities for export of goods have been completed and goods have been shipped. Along with this letter, the forwarding agent sends a statement showing expenses incurred on the goods exported and his remuneration. Similarly, a letter of advice is also prepared by the clearing agent and sent to the importer stating that all the formalities for clearing the imported goods have been completed. Along with this letter, the clearing agent sends the railway receipt as a proof of goods sent to importer as well as his statement of account for expenses incurred and commission charged. Thus, it is a document used both in export and import trade.

Documentary Bill

When the documents of title to goods are sent along with the bill of exchange drawn by the exporter on the importer, it is called a documentary bill. It may be of two types.

  • Documentary bill against payment

  • Documentary bill against acceptance. In case of documentary bill against payment, the documents of title to exported goods are delivered to the importer only when the importer has paid the amount specified in the bill of exchange. In case of documentary bill against acceptance, the documents of title to the exported goods are delivered to the importer after he has accepted the bill of exchange drawn by the exporter.

Insurance Policy

The insurance policy is issued by the insurance company to cover the risks of loss or damage to goods due to specified causes. If there is no insurance then the loss will have to be borne by the owner of the goods, the exporter or importer. Under CIF (Cost Insurance Freight) contract, insurance is generally done by the exporter while under FOB (Free on Board) contract, insurance is done by the importer. There are different types of insurance policies to cover different types of risks in external trade.

Shipping Order

In order to hire space in the ship, the exporter or his agent has to enter into an agreement with the shipping company. The shipping company on the conclusion of the agreement gives a shipping order, which contains instruction to the captain of the ship to receive on board the specified quantity of goods from the exporter.

Shipping Bill

The shipping bill is a document prepared by the exporter, or the forwarding agent on the basis of which the custom authority calculates the duty to be paid by the exporter.

Mate’S Receipt

When goods are brought to the docks for shipment, the document issued by the dock authority is known as a dock receipt. It is the duty of the dock authority to load the goods in the ship. But if goods are directly taken into the ship, the captain or his assistant (mate) gives a receipt as a proof of goods loaded in the ship. This receipt is known as Mate’s receipt. If the mate is not satisfied regarding the packing of goods, he issues a foul Mate’s receipt, otherwise he issues a clean Mate’s receipt.

Dock Challan, Dock Warrant and Dock Receipt

The exporter has to fill up a form for the payment of dock charges. This form is known as ‘Dock Challan’. After paying the dock charges, a document is issued permitting the goods to be brought to the docks for loading. This document is known as Dock Warrant. After the goods are actually brought to the docks and handed over to the dock authority for loading in the ship, the document issued as a proof of delivery is known as Dock Receipt.

Consular Invoice

The exporter fills up a special invoice form mentioning all the particulars about the goods shipped and certifying the accuracy of the prices shown. This invoice is signed by the consul of the importer’s country stationed in the exporter’s country. This special invoice is known as Consular invoice. This document is obtained to avoid under and over invoicing as well as for easy clearance of goods by the custom authority at the importer’s country.

Certificate of Origin

It is a document issued as a proof of the fact that the goods have been produced in the country mentioned on it, i.e., a certificate about the genuine origin of the goods exported. This document is issued on the basis of trade agreements between the countries in which they agree to levy lower rates of import duties on the goods produced by them. Some chambers of commerce are authorised to issue such certificates.

Airway Bill

When goods, especially perishable ones, are sent to the importer by air, then this document is needed. It is a receipt given by the airline authority for the goods it is carrying. At the destination it has to be surrendered by the importer for releasing goods. It contains such information as name and address of exporter, name and address of importer or his agent, description of goods, number of packages, weight and volume of goods, rate of freight and total freight, airport of loading and destination, flight number and date, etc.

Export Invoice/Foreign Invoice

The foreign invoice is prepared by the exporter and he/she sends it to the importer after the shipment of goods. This invoice contains details such as the name of the ship, port of shipment, port of destination, number of indents, details regarding packing and marking, price of goods and other expenses including freight, dock dues and insurance charges.

Bill of Entry

Bill of entry is a form to be filled up by the importer at the time of receiving the goods. It is a document based on which imported goods are cleared from the port. These are two types of bill of entry.

  • Bill of entry for Home Consumption: Where an importer wants to get his goods cleared in one lot, he has to present the bill of entry for home consumption.

  • Bill of entry for Warehousing: Where an importer wants to shift the goods to warehouse and thereafter get his goods cleared in small lot, he has to present the bill of entry for warehousing. For imports through post, no bill of entry is used. Instead a waybill is prepared by Foreign post office for ascertainment of duty.

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