An expert`s handbook on Shipping bill: Its meaning, importance, types & more

If one wishes to have an insight into the technicalities of the international trade industry, the first thing that he would notice is the significance of documentation.

If one wishes to have an insight into the technicalities of the international trade industry, the first thing that he would notice is the significance of documentation. Every piece of paperwork that is essential to the shipping process plays a role in the proceedings of the same. Although every document is of extreme importance, the role of a shipping bill goes beyond what one may think! It is not just a mere bill that enlists the details of the exporter and his cargo but serves as a legal document in times of need.

In simple terms, a shipping bill is a legal paper that the exporter needs to acquire from the customs department before dispatching the goods to the port of shipment. It comprises all the details related to the shipping consignment. The seller has to submit the shipping bill in an electronic format to the port authorities after it gets approval from the customs department. It is just like a boarding pass of freight shipments because, without it, the goods will not get an allowance to shift onboard.

The exporters need to procure the shipping bill as a seal of approval from the customs department.

Meaning And Types of Shipping Bill

A shipping bill serves as a boarding pass to the cargo and as a ticket to claim duty drawbacks or excise refunds after the shipment process is complete. In India, the customs department verifies all the required documents and then gives a green signal to the exporter with “Let Ship Order” and “Let Export Order”. The exporter will need to produce his export license, acceptance of the shipping contract, invoice of the goods, letter of credit, port trust document, packing list, and other required documents if any. 

There are five types of shipping bills that are valid in the international shipping industry. All these bills are differentiated based on colour. Each colour represents the type and nature of goods that the exporter is shipping.

         Sl. No.

       Name of         Shipping Bill           Colour        Significance of             the bill


Free Shipping Bill White For duty-free goods


Dutiable Shipping Bill Yellow For dutiable goods


Drawback Shipping Bill Green For goods eligible for drawback claims


Shipping Bill For DEPB scheme Blue Export goods that fall under the DEPB scheme


Bill for Ex-Bond Shipment Pink Goods that get allowance under duty-free ex-bond

The DEPB (Duty Entitlement Pass Book) scheme is a kind of incentive program of the Indian government. It was announced to induce the exporters to ship certain goods that are not much popular within the trading community. The exporters get a different type of shipping bill in this case.

There is one more shipping bill that is termed as the “Coastal Shipping bill” that the customs department issues for the export of goods within the geographical boundaries of the country. That is when sellers export goods from one state to another in the same country, then they acquire the coastal shipping bill.

Contents of The Shipping Bill

The shipping bill includes a lot of details and information regarding the freight shipment. Few of the major contents are:

  • Details of the exporter, shipper/freight forwarder, and importer.
  • Information related to the freight carrier, shipping line, the port of shipment, and other transportation details.
  • All the details of the imposable export duty and GST (Goods and Services Tax)-related information.
  • If there are any export schemes applicable to the shipment or if the goods fall under the category of re-export, then the seller must mention all the information regarding the same.
  • Cargo-related information like quantity, quality, and nature of goods, if required.

Apart from these, many minor details like the date and time of shipment, contact details of the shipper, etc. are also present on the shipping bill.

The port authorities do not give access to any cargo without a valid shipping bill.

How To Generate A Shipping Bill?

The exporter must procure an IEC (Import-Export Code) code number or the license number of the CHA (Customs House Agent) along with the authorised dealer code number of the exporter’s bank through which he will do the transactions. The procedure for generating the shipping bill involves a few simple steps.

  • The exporter or his customs agent will need to submit a duly-signed declaration form with the packing list and invoice copy of the goods.
  • After the customs department enters the data into their system, they handover a computer-generated checklist to the exporter.
  • The exporter has to verify all the data and then inform the customs department of the same.
  • The Assistant Commissioner (AC) of the customs department assesses all the given information and then approve further proceedings.
  • Once the proceedings are successful, the exporter or his agent will need to submit all the invoices, packing list, etc. with the checklist issued by the customs department at the dockyard.
  • The docks or port authorities verify the documents and if everything turns out to be in order and legally valid, the liable officer will sign the copies and issue the “Let Export Order”.
  • Once the exporter or his customs agent gets this order, the department issues the legal print of the shipping bill. The colour of the shipping bill is as per the norms laid down by the government.

The exporter will not have to stress over procuring the shipping bill if he is smart enough to hire a reliable and well-known service provider.

Is It Important To Hire A Customs Agent For Shipping Bill?

Yes, it is essential to take the help of a licensed customs house agent to get the shipping bill as soon as possible. The agents are well-versed with all the technicalities involved in the process. Also, they know the rules and regulations of the customs department so there is no chance of delays due to inaccurate documents. For a hassle-free shipping process, the exporter should hire the service providers who take care of all the shipping responsibilities from starting to end. 

The shipping bill is the most important legal document that the exporter has to get for boarding his cargo onto the ship. The international shipping process is more than just a business activity. Therefore, the seal of approval from the legal bodies of both the trading countries is crucial.

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