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Transport Documents: CMR, Bill of Lading, Air Waybill

Transport documents lie at the heart of international trade transactions. These documents are issued by the shipping line, airline, international trucking company, railroad, freight forwarder or logistics company.

To the shipping company and freight forwarder transport documents provide an accounting record of the transaction, instructions on where and how to ship the goods and a statement giving instructions for handling the shipment.

There is a Type of Transport Document for each mode of transport (CMR for road transport, Bill of Lading for shipping, etc.). Those goods carried in multimodal transport units (mainly containers) use a document called FIATA multimodal Bill of Lading (FBL). The responsibility for the management and processing of shipping documents will depend on the sale conditions (Incoterms) agreed between de parties.

We describe below the main transport documents explaining for each one: what are used for?, who prepares them? and to whom they are addressed?



The CMR transport document is an international consignment note used by drivers, operators and forwarders alike that govern the responsibilities and liabilities of the parties to a contract for the carriage of goods by road internationally.

The carrier usually completes the form, but the sender – in other words, the exporter – is responsible for the accuracy of the information and must sign the form when the goods are collected. The consignee will also sign the form on delivery, which is essential for the carrier to be able to confirm the delivery of the goods and to justify the payment for its services.

The CMR transport document is not a document of title and is, therefore, non-negotiable.

This document is prepared by the exporter and the freight forwarder and is addressed to the importer and the carrier.

Download model of CMR with instructions for completing the document




A Bill of Lading B/L is a document issued by the agent of a carrier to a shipper, signed by the captain, agent, or owner of a vessel, furnishing written evidence regarding receipt of the goods (cargo), the conditions on which transportation is made (contract of carriage), and the engagement to deliver goods at the prescribed port of destination to the lawful holder of the bill of lading.

A Bill of Lading is, therefore, both a receipt for merchandise and a contract to deliver it as freight. There are a number of different types of bills of lading and a number of regulations that relate to them as a group of transport documents.

Since this is a negotiable instrument, the Bill of Lading may be endorsed and transferred to a third party while the goods are in transit.

This document is prepared by the shipping and addressed to the exporter, the shipping company trough the agent, and the importer.

Download model of Bill of Lading B/L with instructions for completing the document



An Air Waybill AWB is a non-negotiable transport document covering transport of cargo from airport to airport.

The Air Waybill must name a consignee (who can be the buyer), and it should not be required to be issued “to order” and/or “to be endorsed” as it is not a title of property of the merchandise. Since it is not negotiable, and it does not evidence title to the goods, in order to maintain some control of goods not paid for by cash in advance, sellers often consign air shipments to their sales agents or freight forwarders’ agents in the buyer’s country.

The Air Waybill is not a negotiable document. It indicates only acceptance of goods for carriage.

This document is prepared by the IATA Transport Agent or the airline itself and is addressed to the exporter, the airline and the importer.

Download model of Air Waybill with instructions for completing the document




A Multimodal Bill of Lading FBL is a type of international transport documents covering two or more modes of transport, such as shipping by road and by sea.

It is also used as a carriage contract and receipt that the goods have been received.

When it is issued “to the order”, the Multimodal Bill of Lading is the title of ownership of the goods and can, therefore, be negotiated.

As a rule, Multimodal Bills of Lading are not negotiable documents.

Only authorized forwarders integrated into FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations) can issue this document. It is addressed to the exporter, Multimodal Transport Operator on the destination country, and the importer.

Download model of Multimodal Bill of Lading with instructions for completing the document



The Cargo Insurance Certificate is a document indicating the type and amount of insurance coverage in force on a particular shipment. It includes the name of the insurance company and conditions of coverage.

The original copy of the Cargo Insurance Certificate is required in the filing of a claim. Copies of documents necessary to support an insurance claim include the insurance policy or certificate, bill of lading, invoice, packing list, and a survey report (usually prepared by a claims agent).

In addition to these transport documents prepared and managed transportation companies, it should also mention three other documents prepared by the exporter which accompany the goods during transportation: international commercial invoice, packing list and delivery note.

Download model of Cargo Insurance Certificate with instructions for completing de document

Transport documents



The International Commercial Invoice is an administrative document which contains all the information about the international sale. The item, quantity, price for the products/services sold, delivery and payment conditions, as well as the taxes and other expenses that might be included in the sale, are detailed in an International Commercial Invoice.

The importer, with the original of the International Commercial Invoice, declares to the tax authority of his country the amount that it must pay, to who it is going to pay and the agreed means of payment. For the exporter, this document means a documentary evidence of the sales that it has made in foreign markets.

In operations with third countries, the International Commercial Invoice is part of the customs declaration, upon which, the taxes and tariff rights applied, must be paid at the moment at which the products enter the country. In operations with EC countries, this document is used as a declaration of the transaction and tax exemption to comply with the basic tax settlement conditions.

This document is prepared by the exporter and addressed to the importer and the import customs clearance.

Download model of International Commercial Invoice with instructions for completing the document



The Packing List is a more detailed version of the commercial invoice but without price information. It must include, inter alia, the following: invoice number, quantity and description of the goods, the weight of the goods, number of packages, and shipping marks and numbers.

A copy of the Packing List is often attached to the shipment itself and another copy is sent directly to the consignee to assist in checking the shipment when received.

Although not required for all transactions, it is required by some countries and some buyers

This document is prepared by the exporter and addressed to the importer, the carrier and the import customs clearance.

Download model of Packing List with instructions for completing the document




A Delivery Note is one of the transport documents accompanying the shipment of goods that list de description and quantity of goods delivered. A copy of the Delivery Note, signed by the buyer or consignee is returned to the seller or consignor as a proof of delivery.

Delivery Notes have a dual function for the exporter: justify the removal of the products from its store and proof credit delivery to the importer and therefore, it is important that de importer sign the copy provided by the carrier. For the importer, Delivery Notes serve to verify that the goods received match those listed on the purchase order or contract. For the carrier is the document used as a proof of delivery of the goods.

Download model of Delivery Note with instructions for completing the document 


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