air freight documentation process

Air Freight Documentation Process – Key Freight Documents

Air Freight Documentation Process – Import into the European Union 2020

Air freight documentation process highlights both the documents and the information  for the import client. The goal is to make the import as smooth as possible for the consignee. In addition, this article is based on the European requirements. If you are exporting to any country in the European Union, this article will help you.

Understanding the European Market – The General Overview

In order to understand the air freight documentation process, the exporter needs to know the structure of the EU regulations. The European Union bases its import regulations on a classification system of tariff codes. This system is made up of three well defined components:

  • The Harmonised System (HS)
  • The Combined Nomenclature (CN)
  • The Integrated Tariff (TARIC)

The Harmonised System: HS

The harmonised system is the core component of the import procedure. Keep this in mind during the air cargo documentation process. Details of the HS are available on the official website of the World Customs Organisation. The structure of the HS is hierarchical. It consists of sections. The sections are subdivided into chapters, headings and sub-headings.

An example: 8411 2100 900.

This chapter falls under the section XVI. Chapter 84 lists nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances…..

  • Chapter 84 .
  • Heading 8411 : turbojets, turbo propellers and other gas turbines
  • Sub-heading 8411 21 : of a power not exceeding 1 100 kW
  • Combined nomenclature code 8411 2100 :
  • TARIC Code 8411 2100 900 other

Importance of Knowing This System – Understanding Cargo Clearing Process

Before the consignment can leave the airport, the customs office has to release it. In order to release it, the freight has to go through a clearing process. The customs broker does the clearance through electronic means. The customs broker draws up a document called the Customs Bill of Entry. He submits this document to the customs electronically. The customs office evaluates the bill of entry and either releases the cargo or decides on other means. This can mean either refusing the release or any other steps detailed in the procedures of the relevant law.

The Customs Bill of Entry – The Primary Declaration to Customs

What does the customs bill of entry contain? This is the question you are prompted to ask. In fact, the question should be,  what must the bill of entry contain.

  1. The Air Waybill numbers (the MAWB and the HAWB)
  2. The dates on the MAWB and the HAWB
  3. The number and date of the commercial invoice
  4. The total amount mentioned in the commercial invoice
  5. The number and date of the packing list
  6. Any other document that the customs regulation requires
  7. The 11 digit HS Code (Harmonised System Code) of all the items contained in the consignment
  8. A clear description of the content of the freight
  9. The number of pieces (of the consignment)
  10. The total gross weight of the consignment
  11. The nett weight and number of pieces of each item listed under the HS code
  12. Declarations or documents needed, if the goods fall under the generalised system of preferences (GSP)
  13. The CE marking specification.
  14. Special Quantities or measurements: Square meters, number of pieces, litres
  15. Specialised description: such as hygiene masks : medical, non medical, type description of masks
  16. If the content is a chemical, the CAS number

Key Freight Documents – Cargo Clearing Forwarding Procedure

Import customs procedure is an extended procedure in comparison to export. The EU has published information related to importing into the EU. All those wishing to export into EU member countries should have a look here to get official information.

What Key Freight Documents Do I Need To Send With the Air Freight Shipment?

  1. The Air Waybill (AWB) (Your freight forwarder will do this)
  2. Commercial invoice
  3. Packing  list
  4. Certificate of Origin if needed (Please send this separately by express courier directly to the importer)
  5. Conformity Certificate if needed
  6. Health certificate and bio-chemistry analysis papers (in case of meat or dairy products).  Please send these by express courier to importer. If regulations require the originals to accompany the shipment, please hand the papers to the freight forwarder. Send the copies by email to importer
  7. EUR. 1 if required
  8. Dangerous Goods Declaration (in the case of hazardous goods. Your cargo agent will do this)
  9. If dangerous goods are involved, please include the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)

Commercial Invoice and Packing List – Your Attention Please

Customs authorities might order a document review. The commercial invoice must be understandable to them. Only abbreviations will not help. If your products carry serial number, please mention them either on the invoice or on the packing list.

If there are more than one HS Code, it is important to mention the nett weight of items under each HS Code. In the customs bill of entry, the broker has to mention the nett weight against each individual HS Code.

The commercial invoice must have a number and date, as well.

Textiles, Gloves and Masks- Rolls, Clothing – Documenting Details

If the content of the freight is textiles, such as sheets, rolls etc you should mention the square metre

Exporting trousers, shirts, vests etc.? mention the total number of each individual item.

Gloves, socks etc. ? mention the total number of pairs of each item.

For Masks : the type of masks has to be mentioned (medical, non medical, material, disposable etc.)

Leather and Wood – Important Details on Documents

If your products are out of leather or out of wood or contain leather or wood,  you should include the scientific name of the  animal or of the plant or tea, whichever the case might be. The scientific name will include minimum two parts (binomial nomenclature). The first name shows the genus and the second the species. The cargo agent or broker preparing the Customs bill of entry has to enter the scientific name into the bill of entry.

Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals and Fluids – Details needed on Documents

It is advisable to mention  “not for pharmaceutical use” in the document, if that is the case. The broker will be happy to see the CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) number. Customs authorities might demand.

It is advisable to add the nett quantity of the liquids (in litres, millilitres etc.)

Temperature Controlled Products – Temperature Details Needed

If your products fall under the “cool goods” category, where temperature limits have to be maintained, please mention the temperature limits, such as +2°C to +8°C, on the packing list. This information must be present on the product packaging, clearly visible to the warehouse staff.


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