What is a shipping mark?

Exporters must mark their cargo clearly before export. This helps to ensure that shipments reach their intended destination by allowing carriers and consignees to easily identify their cargo. Keeping this in mind, markings on packaging material should be clear and easily visible. Commonly, cargo labels will include information such as the consignee’s address. Technically speaking, this would mean that the shipment has been labelled and not marked. For the purposes of this article we will not draw distinction between the two. Unless required by port authorities, personally identifiable information (i.e, delivery addresses) should not be included on a shipment label or mark, as this may pose transportation risks to the importer. The only marks that are required by law are hazardous or DG markings.

How to make a shipping mark?

First of all, it must be mentioned that it is the exporter’s obligation to mark the cargo. Do note that this applies regardless of the Incoterm used for the shipment. Shipping marks can also sometimes include markings on pallets, containers, and/or documents.

The following information should be included on a shipping mark:

  1. Shipper’s reference numbers
  2. Destination port and country
  3. Origin port and country
  4. Coded product names
  5. Weight of shipment
  6. Special handling instructions
  7. Cautionary notices such as fragile markings, lifting methods, no stacking indications, slinging points and temperature control requirements
  8. Sub markings can be included to indicate the number of packages that belong to the shipment

Coded product names are used so that cargo handlers will not be able to know exactly what is inside any particular shipment. This will reduce the chance for theft to occur.

Shipping marks should also be affixed to LCL cargo!

Where possible, the following information should not be included on a shipping mark:

  1. Consignee address
  2. Delivery address
  3. HS codes for the product

What does marks and numbers mean?

This term is used to refer to the markings on shipments that allow the carrier and consignee to identify the shipment. It is important that the carrier is able to easily identify specific shipments and these labels should be prepared and affixed carefully, on at least 3 sides of the carton.

Shipping marks on commercial invoice?

Shipping marks and numbers should be mentioned on the commercial invoice to tie the document to the physical shipment. This becomes critical in large shipments consisting of several packages, or when Customs authorities want to inspect particular products in such shipments, as when used with the packing list, affected boxes can be traced in the warehouse or container faster.

Shipping marks on bill of lading?

Shipping marks and numbers should be mentioned on the bill of ladings to link the transport document to the physical shipment.

A final note

Some Customs import entries require mention of the marks and numbers information on shipments. However, shipping marks and numbers is rarely ever the cause of a compliance issue. Exporters should also affix labelling such that lashing and banding does not obstruct the full view of the label. Labels should to some extent also be waterproofed or weather proofed at least sufficiently enough to last the entire journey from source to destination. Shipping marks could also become important when conducting supply chain audits.

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