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Export packing lists – 10 crucial details to include in 2024

Richard Coombes: Last Updated 27th March 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31623

What is an export packing list?

The critical considerations for successful shipping of your goods

If your business exports parts, assemblies or finished products, getting your documentation – particularly your export packing list – is vital.

An export packing list provides details of all items within a specific shipment. Created as an itemised list, it should include details of volumes, weights, quantities and consignee details. Export packers, freight forwarding companies, and everyone else involved in the shipment use export packing lists to track and check cargo at each stage of the process.

This guide provides details of the ten vital considerations when creating your export packing list and how they can impact the smooth flow of your shipment.



What is an export packing list?

A packing list for export is an essential document in international trade, providing comprehensive details about the contents of a shipment moving across borders.

The document should include information regarding packaging details, weight and measurements, unique marks and numbers for identification, export compliance information, and destination specifics. A detailed description of each item is also necessary.

Accurate and thorough packing lists are vital for customs clearance, aiding authorities in verifying the shipment’s contents and ensuring compliance with import and export regulations.

However, the exact format and requirements of packing lists may vary by country, underscoring the importance for exporters to be well-versed in the regulations of both the exporting and importing nations.

People in a warehouse studying export packing lists
A packing list for export is an essential document in international trade, providing comprehensive details about the contents of a shipment moving across borders.

Packing list requirements

An export packing list serves as a detailed inventory of all the items included in a shipment. It is fundamental to provide essential information for each item, such as its volume, weight, and pertinent details about the consignee’s contact information.

Similar to the Incoterms established by the Department of Trade for constructing well-defined contracts, the primary purpose of export packing documents is to simplify the shipping process.

Without an export packing list, a shipment’s contents, especially inside export packaging such as wooden shipping crates, would remain unknown.

This fundamental issue highlights why various entities in the supply chain, including freight forwarding companies, expect comprehensive information on the export packing list.

Essential information for export packing lists

To facilitate a smooth and transparent shipment process, here are ten essential pieces of information your export packing list should include:

  • Date.
  • Contact info.
  • Consignee contact info.
  • Origin address.
  • Destination.
  • Total packages within the shipment.
  • Detailed description.
  • Volume and weight (per package).
  • Volume/weight (total).
  • Commercial invoice.
Stacked shipping crates with packing list displayed
Stacked shipping crates with packing list clearly displayed.


Ensure your date is correct

Perhaps obviously, your export packing list should incorporate the date.

Doing so proves advantageous for all parties involved, providing you and the consignee with evidence of the shipment’s timing.

This visibility is helpful for you should you decide to change transport options in the future, particularly if the change is driven by the expected timeframe for your goods to arrive with the end user.

A date also helps identify the package should it become lost.

Contact info

Correct contact information helps identify your goods

When creating your export packing list, include contact information for the shipper (yourself) and the exporter (shipment company).

This step proves beneficial in the event of unforeseen issues, aiding third parties in resolving any complications.

Additionally, it serves as a proactive measure for you and your exporter to manage risks and navigate insurance claims efficiently.

Consignee contact info

Provide the recipient's information

A consignee refers to the individual or entity receiving the goods you are exporting. It is imperative to feature their contact details on your export packing list to facilitate communication in case of loss or misplacement during transit.

Incorporating consignee contact information on your export documents is essential for comprehensive shipment documentation.

Origin address

Mitigating delivery complications

One vital detail to include in your export packing list is the origin address of the cargo.

If there are any issues or problems with your goods during the journey, the responsible party needs to know where to send the items. This information could also prove valuable if the destination address is difficult to locate or there are delivery complications.

A pallet of goods ready for export in a warehouse
It is important to include the origin address of the cargo on any export packing list.


The destination address of the cargo

Arguably, the most vital information to incorporate into your export packing list is the destination address of the cargo.

This detail is sought after by everyone involved in the process. It becomes especially vital when utilising multi-modal freight forwarding, emphasising the need to consistently ensure the presence of this information on your packing list.

Total packages

Detailing everything within your shipment

When a shipment comprises a single package, your packaging manufacturer can measure and weigh the item before supplying a suitable type of export packaging (e.g., a wooden shipping case).

For shipments containing multiple packages, it can be somewhat more complicated.

Including the total number of packages in your shipment is crucial, providing reference points for everyone involved in the transport process and the recipient of your export. This practice also offers protection against potential loss or damage to the goods.

Stacked shipping crates with packing list displayed
Stacked shipping crates with packing list clearly displayed.

Detailed description

What is inside the packaging?

In addition to specifying the quantity of individual packages within your shipment, it is essential to provide a comprehensive description of the contents of each package on your export packing list.

This information facilitates the smooth progression of your shipment and is also imperative for insurance purposes and documentation.

Volume and weight (per package)

Identifying missing parts of your shipment

Similar to the significance of a detailed description, including each package’s specific volume and weight on your export packing list is essential.

Should there be any disparities in the weight of your cargo during its journey, the shipper can refer to the packing document to ascertain if any items are missing or have been removed.

Volume and weight (total)

Further help in identifying shipments

If they lack information on the overall volume and weight of the shipment, your shipper will be unable to identify any inconsistencies between different destinations.

Commercial invoice

Make sure to complete the online process

The majority of the required technical information you’ll need for your export packing list is done online.

Including your commercial invoice number and shipment details on your export packing list is vital. Doing so ensures that individuals can swiftly and easily retrieve all necessary information about your shipment through online searches.

Packing list enclosed in a plastic cover on a box
Even protecting the documents is an important consideration.

Export packing list format

Clear and concise presentation of information

The specific format becomes less critical, provided you include all the essential information in your export packing list. Nevertheless, ensuring that the provided information is clear and concise is vital, enabling relevant parties to locate the necessary details quickly.

Numerous free export packing list templates are available online in PDF or Excel format for downloading at no cost. While these templates may not precisely match your requirements, they are excellent examples of the typical formats used for international shipping and organising your packing list.

Remember that your manufacturer or export packing company can also assist with your export packing list.

Other considerations

Dangerous goods, timber and packaging types

You may need to consider other factors regarding your goods and preparing them for export.

For example, are they dangerous goods? If so, you must confirm with your export shipping company that everything, including your export documents, meets the applicable regulations.

Other packaging types might also need extra handling or care, including timber, which must comply with ISPM 15 regulations before international shipment.

Working with an experienced export packaging manufacturer helps ensure your packaging is correct, your documents are acceptable, and you meet any specific regulations required.

Battery packaging
Battery packaging for Lithium Ion is tightly regulated by various legislation, including UN3480, UN3481 and IATA specific rules


Obtaining your export packing lists

Getting your export packing list right the first time can play a significant part in ensuring your goods arrive at their destination.

At GWP, we have over 30 years of providing a vast range of export packaging to businesses and industries. Besides being able to design, manufacture and supply a vast range of export packaging, we are well-versed in the requirements for specific markets and products (including ISPM 15 regulations).

So, if you need assistance with your export packaging lists – and the packaging to ensure safe transit of your goods – please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Further reading

About the author

Richard Coombes

Richard Coombes

General Manager | GWP Protective

Having originally joined GWP Protective back in 2004, working on the factory floor, Richard now heads up the business as General Manager.
Read full bio

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