Packing List: What Is It and How to Complete It

Packing list: definition and importance in export shipping

A packing list is a document that accompanies a shipment and provides a detailed description of the contents of the parcel or container. Along with details about the quantity, weight, and dimensions of each item, the packing list also includes a description of how the goods are packed, outlining any special handling instructions or markings.

Packing lists are often required for international shipping to help customs officials verify the contents of the shipment and ensure that all necessary documentation is in order.

How do I know if a packing list is required for my shipment?

While it is good practice to include a packing list for facilitating the import/export process, it is not always necessary.

Check whether a packing list is required for your shipment by using the following approaches:

  • Ask the consignee if they need a packing list.
  • Go to the European Commission website, select the destination country and then the sub-heading “Packing List”.
  • Ask your selected carrier or freight forwarder if a packing list is required for your particular shipment.
  • Check with your local chamber of commerce.

What should be included in a packing list?

The details required for completing a good packing list include, but are not limited to:

  • Full name, address and contact details of the shipper/exporter
  • Full name, address and contact details of the consignee/importer
  • The shipment’s address of origin
  • The shipment’s destination address
  • Incoterm agreement or payment terms
  • The type or method of packaging used, e.g. box or pallet
  • The gross weight (metric) of each parcel
  • The net weight (metric) of each parcel
  • Dimensions in centimetres of each parcel – length, width, height
  • Cubic volume of each parcel
  • A detailed content description for each parcel, including HS codes
  • Total number of parcels
  • Total weight of the shipment
  • Total cubic volume of the shipment
  • “Marks and Numbers”: a symbol, word or number on each shipment unit for easy identification and correct handling
Essentially, the information on the packing list should match the commercial invoice and reflect the same parties involved in the transaction. However, unlike the commercial invoice, the packing list does not include pricing information. The commercial invoice lists the shipment’s value, while the packing list describes how the shipment is packed.

3 tips on how to create a good packing list

The packing list is a valuable document that the freight company uses to determine what items are being shipped and how they should be packed. Packaging your items with care and attention is important to avoid any mishaps during shipping. Here are some tips to help you create an effective packing list:

1. Include all items being shipped

Ensure that the packing list is complete by listing all items being shipped, whether they are in boxes or loose.

2. Use clear labelling

To ensure safe delivery, it is important to label all items with your name, address, and contact information for easy identification by the freight company.

3. Keep the language simple

Use clear and concise language to describe the goods being shipped. Avoid using overly technical terms or abbreviations that may be unfamiliar to the reader.

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FAQ about the importance of a packing list in international shipping

What are other names for a packing list?
The following are alternative names for a packing list: bill of the parcel, delivery docket, delivery list, manifest, packing slip, shipping list, and unpacking note.
Who provides the packing list and why?
The packing list is created by the seller for the buyer's use. It helps all parties involved in the shipping process to handle the goods properly. The information on the packing list must match other shipment documents like the commercial invoice, bill of lading, or air waybill. This ensures consistency and forms part of the necessary audit trail to meet regulatory requirements and maintain proper record-keeping.
What is the difference between a packing list and a bill of lading?
A packing list is an itemised document of the contents of a shipment, while a bill of lading is a legal document that serves as a contract between the shipper and the carrier and provides information about the shipment.
Does the packing list provide details about the packaging materials?
Yes, it is important to include the packing method and type of packaging materials used on the packing list, particularly when the packaging contains wood, such as pallets, wood chips, or sawdust. This is because some countries require these materials to undergo fumigation or heat treatment upon arrival, while others may accept a treatment certificate obtained before shipping.
How can I submit my packing list when shipping with Eurosender?
You can submit your packing list, along with your proforma invoice and other necessary shipping documents, to us online. Once your order is confirmed, we will send you email instructions to assist with the submission process.
Disclaimer: The information above serves as a guideline and reflects the requirements for international cross-border shipments. You may be asked to provide additional documentation if needed, depending on different country regulations. It is the shipper’s responsibility to check and fill in the documentation correctly.