The importance of proper documentation of goods being transported can never be overrated. Transport document is one that is issued under a contract of affreightment. The basic reason for this is to enable those who are responsible for checking, handling, and processing the flow of the goods to have information about the goods.
Documentation is required to know the shipper of the goods and to ascertain the party to which the goods have been shipped (receiver). It is from the individual information covering all the goods carried that a detailed list of what is on board the ship or aircraft is made.
The document which carried a summary of the individual information is known as the manifest.
As I earlier stated, the manifest is the document that shows the particulars ( description, weight, quantity, etc) of goods that are located on board a ship or aircraft. The carrier or agent prepares the manifest at the port of loading and transmits it electronically, usually in a standard structured format, to the shipping line or airline at the port of discharge. Thereafter, it is circulated to the port or terminal operator, Customs and other regulatory agencies concerned with processing clearance of imported cargoes.
Information for preparing the manifest is usually culled from the transport document which the shipper or freight forwarder prepares. Atypical manifest contains the following information:
1. The name of the vessel or registration number of the aircraft, its master and flag.
2. The port of loading and the date of departure.
3. The port of discharge of the cargo
4. The bill of lading or airway bill number (the main transport document).
5. The marks and numbers (including the container number(s) for identifying the goods.
6. The number of packages.
7. The description of the goods
8. The name of the shipper
9. The name of the consignee (or notify party)
10. The weight and measurement (dimensions) of the goods
Sometimes manifests are found to contain information that is at variance with the goods they cover. This happens under three conditions:
1. The information it contains is incorrect.
2. The particulars of the goods are incomplete or insufficient.
3. Certain information is partly or completely omitted
In such circumstances, corrections are made by adding the missing information. For example, a cargo shown on the manifest may not have been shipped and therefore not landed by the aircraft or ship. In such a case, information relating to the cargo will be deleted from the manifest. Amendments to manifest are necessary because they remove any issues which can cause delay to the free flow of goods at the destination port.
It should also be noted that corrections to manifests must be duly approved and effected by authorized personnel in the shipping or airline office. I shall now outline the main transport documents for both air and sea carriage.
* Transport Document For Air Freight: The main transport document for the carriage of goods by air is known as airway bill, sometimes referred to as air consignment note. It does not establish ownership of the goods and is therefore not a negotiable document. Thus, the holder can not transfer ownership or title to a third party.
Air waybills have standard formats with unique serial numbers and usually, travel with the goods. They are issued in three original parts and up to four copies as follows:
1. The first part is for the carrier and is assigned by the shipper.
2. The second part is for the consignee (receiver) and is signed by both the shipper and carrier
3. The third part is for the shipper and is signed by the carrier.
4. Copies which may be up to four in number.
The basic information contained in an airway bill includes:
1. Name and address of the shipper.
2. Name and address of the consignee.
3. The issuing agent’s name (air waybills are issued by IATA agents).
4. IATA agent’s code and account number.
5. Place of departure, destination, name, and address of the first carrier and requesting routing.
6. Nature and quantity of the goods.
7. The number of packages, method of packing and the marks and numbers on them.
8. The amount of value declared for the carriage and the currency.
9. The freight and other auxiliary charges.
10. Place and date of execution.
Electronic versions of the air waybill are now available for use by airlines. This type of air waybill, also known as “e-air waybill (e-AWB)”, removes the need to use the traditional paper document. They are used where the shipper has signed to become a party to the multilateral e-AWB agreement with IATA. The use of e-AWB is growing due to the benefits it provides. These benefits include:
1. Greater data accuracy as information on the document is automatically transferred for other uses without the need to manually input data into internal systems of users.
2. Reduction of delays in processing air freight causes by missing or illegible paper airway bills.
3. Handling and physical transfer of paper air waybills are eliminated resulting in cost savings for both carriers and shippers.
4. Improved efficiency through smooth and quicker processes.
The air waybill is crucial when seeking information about the flight details of any shipment it covers. In addition, it performs the following functions:
. It acts as ” prima facie” evidence of the contract of carriage between the airline and the shipper.
. It confirms that the goods it covers have actually been delivered to the airline for carriage and thus acts as a delivery receipt.
. It shows the amount of freight and other charges paid for the transportation of the goods and can, therefore, be used as an invoice for the purpose of freight charges.