The business of shipping, freight, and trade could all be a bit overwhelming as there are several processes to be followed and for those who are doing it for the first time, asking questions and finding the right answers is extremely important..
Below are some questions received from the readers of this resource..
1. How do I as a buyer and my bank verify that the goods have actually been shipped especially when a L/C is involved?
When a Letter of Credit (LC) is involved in a shipment, documents such as a Bill of Lading, Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Certificate of Origin, and other documents may be required as part of the documentary credit process..
The seller has to submit all documents required by the Letter of Credit once the shipment has been effected..
The verification by the bank consists of only checking that the documents have been submitted completely and are correct in all respects in terms of the LC requirements..
As per UCP 600 – Article 5 – Documents v. Goods, Services or Performance “Banks deal with documents and not with goods, services or performance to which the documents may relate.” and therefore banks do not verify if goods were shipped physically..
In terms of personal verification of whether the goods have been actually shipped or not, there are a few options you can exercise:
- You can request the seller to send proof of loading of the container from the port or the shipping line which is the most accurate way of determining the physical loading of the container..
- This could be a loading report from the port or a screenshot of the port system showing the loaded status of the container..
- The status of the container and ship can be checked on the shipping line’s website tracking option or if there has been an agreement to use a Smart Container, the status of the container can be checked on a real-time basis..
- If there has been any agreement between you and the seller to use an IoT device on the cargo, the status of the cargo can be checked on a real-time basis..
- If you have an agent at the port of loading, the agent would be able to verify the loading of the container independently and report back to you..
2) What happens if the goods shipped actually do not match the agreed specification of the goods?
In regards to the specification of the goods,
- If the shipment is containerized, no one including the shipping line has visibility of the goods inside the container as it would have been packed and sealed at the seller’s packing warehouse or nominated warehouse..
- Once a container is sealed for export after packing, it may only be opened when it reaches the buyer’s warehouse, unless customs, port, police, or other authorities need them opened for inspection of any sort enroute..
- Once the goods have been received by you and there is a variance between the agreed specification of the cargo and the cargo received, you will have to deal with it directly with the seller if any such issues are discovered as no one else in the chain would have had access to the goods inside the container..
3) What guarantee do I have that my goods will be shipped/have been shipped?
Whether it relates to documentation or verifying actual cargo in the container, to be brutally honest, if you don’t trust the seller, there is no guarantee and it is up to you to take appropriate measures to safeguard against shipping and freight fraud..
If you are unsure about the seller and the cargo being shipped, and to avoid situations like in question 2 above, you should employ an independent surveyor to be present at the seller’s premises when the cargo is being packed in the container, verify the quantity and specification of the goods, and get a survey report along with pictures..
You can also ask the surveyor or agent to track the container from the time it is packed and enters the port till it is loaded.. The agent can liaise with the shipping line to get a confirmation and proof that the container has been loaded onboard..
If until this stage everything has been above board, then the bill of lading showing that the container has been shipped is proof enough.. Remember the bill of lading is issued by the shipping line or its agent only after verifying that the container has been physically loaded on the vessel/voyage from the load port mentioned on the bill of lading..
As you can see, situations like this could be quite tricky and this is one of the primary reasons many 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.. 🙂
*** This article has been republished after critical updates ***