How do I verify if my goods were actually shipped..??

How do I verify if my goods were actually shipped..??


One of the readers Eliash asked some questions on how to verify if the goods were actually shipped and the safeguards thereof..

1) What happens if the nominated bank sends forged papers based on which the issuing bank releases payment to the nominated bank ?

2) I mean, if there was no actual shipment takes place (only fake papers sent to the Issuing Bank) or if the goods shipped actually does not match the agreed specification of the goods ?

was my goods actually shipped3) As buyer do I have any guarantee that the (1) Goods are actually shipped (2) Goods match agreed specification and quantity ?

4) If they do not match, as buyer how can I have remedy ?

Eliash, to answer the first part of your question about forged documents being sent to/by the bank, if the shipment involves a Letter of Credit (LC), after the shipment is effected, the documents as per the LC are to be submitted to the nominated bank for verification..

The verification by the bank consists of only checking that the documents as required by the LC are submitted properly.. The bank is not expected to verify if the cargo was actually shipped on the vessel mentioned in the bill of lading..

Reasoning could be that, the bill of lading submitted to the bank is issued by a shipping line who is allowed to issue it only after verifying that

1) the container has been cleared by customs
2) the container has been physically loaded on the vessel/voyage from the load port mentioned on the bill of lading

were my goods actually shippedTherefore the bank is taking the bill of lading issued by the shipping line to be authentic and proceeds with the verification of the other documents (like Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Certificate of Origin etc) submitted as per the LC requirement..

As regards the specification of the goods, the bank does not see the cargo physically, so here again they cannot and will not verify if the cargo specifications mentioned in the bill of lading or commercial invoice are physically correct..

They will merely check if the description of the goods mentioned in the bill of lading and commercial invoice and other documents submitted match the description of the good mentioned in the LC..

If there is a variance between these two descriptions, they will reject the wrong document..

As for your Question 3 & 4

  1. Do I have any guarantee that the Goods are actually shipped
  2. Do I have any guarantee that the Goods match agreed specification and quantity

To be brutally honest, if you don’t trust the shipper, you don’t have any guarantee and it is upto the buyer to take appropriate measures to safeguard against shipping and freight fraud..

So  as a buyer how do you ensure the above..???

were my goods actually shippedIf you are unsure of the shipper and the cargo being shipped you can employ an independent surveyor who can be present while the cargo is being packed in the container, verify the quantity and specification of the goods and present that survey report to you along with pictures..

With regards to the cargo being actually shipped, you can also ask your surveyor to track the container from the time it is packed and enters the port and the surveyor can liaise with the shipping line to get you a confirmation that the container has been loaded on board..

If until this stage everything has been above board, then the shipping line’s bill of lading showing that the container has been shipped is proof enough..

If you still want to check further, you can track the container or bill of lading on the shipping line’s tracking system where if you give the bill of lading or container number, it will bring up the details of where the container/vessel is currently located..

As you can see, things like this could be quite tricky and that is one of the main reasons many of the customers employ the services of a Freight Forwarder as these are some of the services that a freight forwarder provides..

Better safe than sorry I say.. 🙂

*** End of Article ***

14 thoughts on “How do I verify if my goods were actually shipped..??”

  1. I salute you on answering this person.You have expounded every part very well.In fact i am happy with the way you answered question 3 and 4.Well done Sir.You are a good teacher.

  2. Hi, I think the question of the asker contains a contradiction in the first phrase “forged” and “bank”. Those two really do not go together. Your client’s/suppliers bank will be on a list which your bank has control on.It is YOUR bank (if you have a decent bank) who will check the LC, and where it is coming from/going to. An LC invokes real genuin documents, and they are very well controlled by your bank. That is the first trust: your bank. The second trust is your supplier/client. If you do not trust him/her: dont’ sell or buy to/from…

    As for the rest of the article: well, I myself go sometimes to the port to see for myself the goods are shipped to my client. The other way around, I can not check, and I have to say, there are problems if you don’t urge for the original BL. Some suppliers (China) don’t work with LC but with prepayment. Be VERY cautious choosing your supplier, do a test order, or, go over there…as I did …
    Third but not least is your shipping company, there are crooks, but if you do not choose wildly, and do a test shipping, you are good to go. I myself have found through Hariesh the best there is…

    Indeed: better safe than sorry.

  3. hello, the information given is true and very professional but there is one more solution and it called: SGS company which acompany the shipment from the packing and loading step till it arrive to your warehouse.

    • Thanks Li-Tal, this is the solution I have mentioned in the post.. 🙂 “…….With regards to the cargo being actually shipped, you can also ask your surveyor to track the container from the time……….”

  4. Hariesh,

    Eliash’s questions are pertinent – maybe he’s been caught by an unscrupulous “seller” previously? Hopefully the occurrence of forged documents is a rare occurrence as the perpetrator has to go to a lot of effort to manufacture these – from warehouse to transporter to freight forwarder to shipping line – although I have seen it happen several times (and it will possibly happen again) in some “lawless” parts of the world such as some locations in Africa.

    Lakshmi makes the obvious point – if the offer looks too good to be true, don’t buy it in the first place! However, if you go ahead but still have reservations, it is more than just good practice to appoint a surveyor or independent inspector at the loading point of the container or at the port of loading of breakbulk or bulk cargo. Verimet Inspection Services Africa has experience of this and has contacts in many parts of Africa – in many cases simply notifying the supplier that you will be appointing an inspector may cause them to back out of the deal or, at least, to do an honest job.

    Note – if the perpetrator has gone to all the trouble to falsify the documents, the container may indeed be shipped but not hold what you expect it to, so tracking it online won’t help – you may still receive a container full of rubbish.

  5. How do I verify goods were actually shipped..?? is a question that has and will continue to disturb clearing and forwarding companies as well as shippers

  6. An FCR issued by a forwarder is a confirmation of receipt of the cargo from the supplier. Sometimes, it is the FCR that is submitted for negotiation under LC, though this isnt accepted by all banks/always.

    Once shipped, the container/BL can be tracked online.

    As for the compliance of the cargo itself to the order placed by you, you could nominate an Inspection agency and do a TPI of the goods and get their certificate confirming quality of goods, before actual packing and shipping of the material.

    Baseline is in the trust that you place on your supplier/shipper. You don’t trust them or they haven’t much of a reputation to speak of, think a gazillion times before placing an order with them in the first place!

  7. Good day
    From a Carriers perspective in RSA a Shipped on Board B/L is issued based on following
    info / confirmation received from Port Authorities (TNPA)
    a) For Containerised Cargoes a N76 report is issued comprising all units and stowed on board vessel and a (BRT) stow position is given bay / row / tier however with the advent of Navis and EDI the way of reporting may have changed
    b) For breakbulk cargoes a copy of the Shipping Order is utilised as a Mates Receipt whereby the Chief Mate obo Master of Vessel acknowledges receipt of cargo by way of stamping the SO with Vessels Stamp that has all vessel relevant details and also stow position of said cargo

    A cross check may be conducted on what info / details you may given FF and against the B/L info you have received and discrepancies (if any) may identified by the various check points …transporter / warehouse / documentation etc

    Trust this may be beneficial to you


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