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Shipping Guide

Glossary of International Shipping, Customs and Regulatory terms


Brush up on you international shipping vocabulary or find the definition for a specific shipping or customs term.

On this page:


Actual Gross Weight:
The full weight of a shipment, including goods and packaging.

Air Waybill (AWB)
Specifies the terms under which the air carrier is agreeing to transport the goods and contains limitations of liability; contract between shipper and carrier.

Air Waybill number (AWB)
The number assigned to a shipment by FedEx, and used to track a package.

Advance Commercial Information (ACI)
Program that introduces more effective risk management processes and tools to identify threats to our health, security and safety prior to the arrival of cargo and conveyances.

Assessment of Duties and Taxes
Determining the amount of duties and taxes payable.

Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)
U.S. Customs electronic data system that provides support for ensuring trade compliance, enforcing trade and contraband laws, and providing service and information to the international trade community.

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Bill of Lading
A contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier A straight bill of lading is nonnegotiable. A negotiable or shipper's order bill of lading can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit.

Bill transportation to
Select sender, recipient, third party, or Bill Collect (Authorized FedEx Ground Accounts Only) from the drop-down menu as the payer of transportation charges and any duties/taxes/fees associated with the shipment:
  • Bill sender: Select this option to bill the FedEx account assigned to the Sender. A valid, 9-digit Sender FedEx account number must be entered for transportation charges.
  • Bill recipient: Select this option to bill the FedEx account assigned to the Recipient. A valid, 9-digit Recipient FedEx account number must be entered for transportation charges.
  • Bill third party: Select this option to bill the FedEx account assigned to a party other than the Sender or Recipient. A valid, 9-digit Third Party FedEx account number must be entered for transportation charges.
    For more information, please call Customer Service.

Block shipment data
Select this box to prevent your recipient or third party payer (with FedEx InSight) from seeing detailed information about the shipment.

Bonded Warehouse
A warehouse for storage or manufacture of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods enter the Customs Territory. The goods are not subject to duties if reshipped to foreign points.

Business Close Time

Indicate the time that your place of business closes for the day.


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Certificate of Origin
A document that certifies the country where the product was made (i.e., its origin). A common export document, a Certificate of Origin is needed when exporting to many foreign markets. It may be required in order to obtain preferential tariff treatment under several Free Trade Agreements (i.e., NAFTA, APTA, DR_CAFTA, etc)

Commercial Invoice (CI)
A document prepared by the exporter or freight forwarder, and required by the foreign buyer, to prove ownership and arrange for payment to the exporter. It should provide basic information about the transaction, including description of goods, address of shipper and seller as well as delivery and payment terms. In some cases, the Commercial Invoice is used to assess customs duties.

Consignee:
A person or company (named in the bill of lading ) to whom commodities are shipped.

Country of Origin of Goods
Country of origin in which the goods have been produced or manufactured.

Courtesy Rate Quote
By using the Courtesy Rate Quote feature, you can find out how much it will cost to ship your package before you send it. For FedEx Express and FedEx Express Freight shipments, your quote is based on rates associated with your FedEx Account Number and will include any applicable discounts. This Online Tool is not available in all Countries, you can call Customer Service to get more information.

Customhouse Broker:
An individual or firm licensed to enter and clear goods through Customs.

Customs
The government service that is responsible for the assessment of import and export duties and taxes and administration of other laws and regulations that apply to the importation, transit and exportation of goods.
  • This term is also used when referring to any part of the customs service or its main or subsidiary offices.
  • This term is also used adjectivally in connection with customs officials, import or export duties control on goods, or any other matter within the purview of customs (customs officer, customs duties, customs office, customs declaration).

Customs Declaration
A document that traditionally accompanies exported goods bearing such information as the nature of the goods, their value, the recipient and their ultimate destination. Required for statistical purposes, it accompanies all controlled goods being exported under the appropriate permit.

Customs Invoice
A formal document used to clear goods through customs in the importing country by providing pertinent shipment information including but not limited to country of origin, description and value.

Customs Self Assessment (CSA)
Offers approved importers, approved carriers, and registered drivers the benefits of a streamlined clearance option for CSA eligible goods.



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Dangerous Goods
(Dangerous Goods shipping is currently available via FedEx Ship Manager for U.S. domestic and U.S. export FedEx Express shipments only.) Dangerous goods are articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment and which are classified according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations or 49 Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR).

Declared Value for Carriage
The maximum of FedEx's transportation liability for any loss, damage, delay, misdelivery, nondelivery, misinformation or any failure to provide information.

Declared Value for Customs
The selling price or cost as determined by other valuation methods, of an international shipment's contents.

Delivered/Duty Paid:
While the term "Ex Works" signifies the seller's minimum obligation, the term "Delivered/Duty Paid," when followed by words naming the buyer's premises, denotes the other extreme - the seller's maximum obligation. The term may be used irrespective of the mode of transport. If the parties wish that the seller should clear the goods for import but that some of the cost payable upon the import of the goods should be excluded - such as value-added tax (VAT) and/or other similar taxes. This should be made clear by adding words to this effect (e.g., "exclusive of VAT and/or taxes").

Delivery Instructions:
Also called Delivery Orders, these documents provide specific information to a carrier regarding delivery to a specific port, pier, terminal, airport, or steamship line. They show the shipping carrier, delivery deadlines, name and address of consignee, and the contract name and telephone number of the shipper in case of delivery problems.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Single, integrated agency focused on protecting the American people and their homeland.

Dimensional Weight
Dimensional weight is a calculation of the shipment's weight based on its volumetric standard instead of its actual weight. Dimensional weight is calculated by multiplying the length by width by height of each package in inches or centimeters and dividing by a dimensional weight divisor. The dimensional weight divisor varies by service offering and unit of measure (inches or centimeters).

For FedEx International Priority, FedEx International First & FedEx International Economy rates are based on the total weight of all packages in one shipment using one air waybill. Any fraction of a kilo takes the next higher weight.
 
When dimensional weight exceeds actual weight, shipments will be charged according to the IATA volumetric standard.
Dimensional weight in kg =  Length x Height x Width in cm
                                                    ----------------------------------------
                                                                         5,000

For example, for U.S. or Canadian origin export shipments measured in inches, the divisor is 166. For EMEA, LAC and APAC origin export shipments measured in inches, the divisor is 139; if measured in centimeters, the divisor is 5,000. Contact your local FedEx Customer Service for more details.
 
Dimensions
Enter the length, width, and height of the package. Package dimensions must be at least 1 inch/cm for Length, 1 inch/cm for Width, 1 inch/cm for Height. For multiple piece shipments, you can ship up to 25 packages using 10 unique rows of weight/dimensions information.

Duty:
The tax imposed by Customs on imported goods.

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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
Transfer of data between different companies using networks (ex. Internet).

Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport (EDIFACT)

International standard for EDI (standards work toward universal, international conventions for electronic data interchange).

Electronic Manifest (E-Manifest)
Submission of a manifest electronically.

European Commission:

One of the five major institutions of the European Union (EU). The Commission is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Treaty of Rome and Union rules and obligations; submission of proposals to the Council of Ministers; execution of the Council's decisions; reconciliation of disagreements among Council members; administration of EU policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy and coal and steel policies; taking necessary legal action against firms or member governments; and representing the Union in trade negotiations with non-member countries.

European Union (EU):
Formerly known as the European Community, it is a regional organization created in 1958 providing for gradual elimination of intra-regional Customs duties and other trade barriers, applying a common external tariff against other countries and providing for gradual adoption of other integrating measures, including a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and guaranteeing free movement of labor and capital. The original six members were Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom became members in 1973. Greece acceded in 1981. And Spain and Portugal in 1986. Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the Union on January 1, 1995. The term European Union is used to refer to three separate regional organizations consisting of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), and the European Economic Community (EEC). These have been served since 1967 by common institutions as the EU Commission, the EU Council, the European Parliament, and the Court of Justice of the European Communities. Currently there are 25 member states of the EU.

Exchange License:
Similar to import licenses, exchange licenses protect a country's foreign exchange reserves or utilize these reserves advantageously. They also authorize the conversion of currency.
 
Exchange Permit:
A government permit sometimes required by the importer's government to enable the import firm to convert its own country's currency into foreign currency with which to pay a seller in another country.

Export
A shipment transported out of a country.

Export Broker:
An individual or firm who does not take part in actual sales transactions, but brings together buyers and sellers for a fee.

Export Control Classification Number (ECCN):
Most products have an export control classification number (formerly export commodity classification number) within the Commerce Control List (CCL). The ECCN consists of a five-character number that identifies categories, product groups, strategic level of control, and country groups.

Export Declaration:
A formal statement declaring full details about goods being exported, made to the collector of Customs at a port of exit. 

Export License:
A government document permitting participation in the export of designated goods to certain destinations.

Export Management Company:
A private firm that serves as the export department for other firms (usually manufacturers), locating customers, developing foreign advertising, transacting export business for its clients, etc., in return for a commission (ranging from 7.5 to 20%), salary, or retainer plus commission.

Export Merchant:
A firm that purchases goods directly from various domestic manufacturers, then packages and marks the merchandise for resale under its own name. Export merchants usually specialize in specific product categories.

Export Permit
A legal document that is necessary for the export of goods controlled by the government of Canada, specifically goods included on the Export Control List (see above) or goods destined for countries on the Area Control List.

Export Quotas
Specific restrictions or ceilings imposed by an exporting country on the value or volume of certain exports to protect domestic producers and consumers from temporary shortages of the goods affected or to bolster their prices in world markets.


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Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
U.S. agency responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, the U.S.’s food supply, medical devices, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.

Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ)
An area within the U.S. that is legally considered outside of U.S. customs territory.

Free on Board (FOB)
The goods are placed on board the vessel by the seller at the port of shipment specified in the sales contract. The risk of loss or damage is transferred to the buyer when the goods pass the ship’s rail.


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Harmonized System Code (HS Code)
A universally accepted classification system for trade goods, used to classify products and their corresponding tariff.

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Import
A shipment brought in from a foreign country.

Import Certificate:
A means by which the government of the country of ultimate destination exercises legal control over the internal channeling of the commodities covered by the import certificate.

Import License:
Some national governments issue and require this document to authorize imports into their countries.
 
Import Quota:
A means of restricting imports by the issuance of licenses to importers, assigning each a quota, after determination of the total amount of any commodity which is to be imported during a period. Import licenses may also specify the country from which the importer must purchase the goods.
 
Import Restrictions:
Applied by a country to reflect a desire to control the volume of goods coming into the country from other countries. They may include the imposition of tariffs or import quotas, restrictions on the amount of foreign currency available to cover imports, a requirement for import deposits, the imposition of import surcharges, non-tariff barriers, or the prohibition of various categories of imports.
 
Import Substitution:
A strategy which emphasizes the replacement of imports with domestically produced goods, rather than the production of goods for export, to encourage the development of domestic industry.
 
Imports:
Consist of government and non-government purchases of merchandise from foreign countries.

Importer of Record (IOR)
The owner or purchaser of the goods; or, when designated by the owner, purchaser, or consignee, a licensed customs broker.

Invoice, Final:

Statement of charges issued after the preliminary invoice, i.e., when the goods have arrived at destination, a true weight quantity/value is determined and agreed upon.

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Legal Weight:
The total weight of the merchandise, including any immediate packaging which is sold along with the goods, i.e., the weight of a tin can as well as its contents, but excluding the cartons in which the cans are packed.

Lomé Convention:
An agreement, first signed in 1975 and since updated, between the European Community, now the European Union (EU), and 70 African, Caribbean, and Pacific states (mostly former colonies of the EU members). The agreement covers some aid provisions as well as trade and tariff preferences for the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) when shipping to the EU. The most recent agreement expired in 2000, and is currently being renewed. Lomé grew out of the 1958 Treaty of Rome's "association" with the 18 African colonies/countries that had ties with Belgium and France.

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Multiple Package Shipments
Multiple package shipments consist of Individual packages that may have different weights, dimensions and declared value but can be accepted on one waybill if the shipment destined to a single address.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
A legal document describing an agreement between parties.


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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
A trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico that encourages free trade between these countries.

NAFTA Certificate of Origin
The NAFTA Certificate of Origin is a document provided for goods that qualify for reduced or duty-free entry as a product of one of the three participating member nations: Mexico, United States and Canada.
Non-Document Shipments
Non-document shipments are shipments that are not personal, interoffice or business documents (PIB) and usually require a Commercial Invoice.


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Prior Notice (PN)
Prior Notice requirements include a set of data elements on food imports that must be filed electronically, using either the FDA website  or Automated Broker Interface (ABI).

Pro Forma Invoice
An invoice prepared by the exporter prior to shipping the goods, informing the buyer of the goods to be sent, their value and other key specifications.


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Quantitative Restrictions (QR):
Explicit limits, usually by volume, on the amount of a specified commodity that may be imported into a country, sometimes also indicating the amounts that may be imported from each supplying country. Compared to tariffs, the protection afforded by QRs tends to be more predictable, being less affected by changes in competitive factors. Quotas have been used at times to favor preferred sources of supply.
 
Quotas:
The quantity of goods that may be imported without restriction or additional duties or taxes.
 
Quotation:
An offer to sell goods at stated price and under stated terms.

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Ship's Manifest:
An instrument in writing, signed by the captain of the ship, that lists the individual shipments constituting the ship's cargo.

Shipper's Export Declaration (SED):
An official document submitted by a US exporter whenever a shipment of merchandise is shipped from the United States to a foreign destination. The joint Bureau of Census-International Trade Administration issues this form used for compiling US export control laws. In it the shipper shows the value, weight, consignee, destination, etc., of export shipments as well as Schedule B identification numbers.

Shipper's Letter of Instructions for Issuing Air Waybill:
A document required by the carrier or freight forwarders as a prerequisite to obtain (besides the data needed) authority to issue and sign the waybill in the shipper's name.

Shipping Permit:
Issued by a shipping or carrier company giving the receiving clerk at pier, dock, warehouse, airport, or on board, the authority to receive a stipulated amount of merchandise from a specified firm.

Shipping Weight:
Represents the gross weight in kilograms (kg) of shipments, including the weight of moisture content, wrappings, crates, boxes, and containers (other than cargo vans and similar substantial outer containers).


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Tariff
A duty (or tax) levied on goods transported from one customs area to another. Tariffs raise the prices of imported goods, thus making them less competitive within the market of the importing country. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, most duties on goods qualifying as NAFTA-originating and services from Canada to the U.S. and Mexico have been eliminated.

Terms of sale
The point at which sellers have fulfilled their obligations so the goods are said to have been delivered to the buyer. They are shorthand expressions that set out the rights and obligations of each party when transporting the goods.

The different types of Terms of Sale are:

  • FCA/FOB (Free Carrier/Free on Board). Free Carrier at a named port of export. The seller quotes the buyer a price that covers all costs up to and including delivery of goods aboard an overseas vessel (e.g. airplane).
  • CIP/CIF (Carriage Insurance Paid/Cost Insurance and Freight). Carriage Insurance Paid to a named overseas port of disembarkation (i.e. import). Under this term, the seller quotes a price for the goods, including insurance, plus all transportation, and miscellaneous charges to the point of disembarkation from the vessel.
  • CPT/C&F (Carriage Paid To/Cost & Freight). Carriage Paid To is the named overseas port of disembarkation (i.e. import). Under this term, the seller quotes a price for the goods that includes the cost of transportation to the named point of import. The cost of insurance is left to the buyer's account.
  • (EXW) Ex Works. Under this term, the price quoted applies only at the point of origin and the seller agrees to place the goods at the disposal of the buyer at a specific place on the date or within the period fixed. All other charges are for the account of the buyer.
  • (DDU) Delivered Duty Unpaid. Under this term, the seller fulfills his obligation to deliver when the goods have been made available at the named place in the country of importation. The seller has to bear the costs and risks involved in bringing the goods thereto as well as the costs and risks of clearing Customs.
  • (DDP) Delivered Duty Paid. Under this term, the seller fulfills his obligation to deliver when the goods have been made available at the named place in the country of importation. The seller has to bear the risks and cost, including duties, taxes and other charges of delivering the goods.

Total Declared value
The declared value for carriage of any shipment represents FedEx's maximum liability in connection with that shipment, including, but not limited to, any loss, damage, delay, misdelivery, non-delivery, misinformation, any failure to provide information, or misdelivery of information relating to the shipment. Exposure to and risk of loss in excess of the declared value is assumed by the shipper.

The Warsaw Convention limits FedEx's liability for loss of or damage to your international shipment, unless you declare and pay the required fees. The interpretation of the Warsaw Convention's liability limits may vary depending on the destination country. If the Warsaw Convention, as amended by Montreal Protocol No. 4 applies to your shipment, FedEx's liability is limited to 17 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) per kilo, unless you declare a higher value.

Otherwise and in instances where the Warsaw Convention, as amended, does not apply, FedEx's liability is limited in the U.S., as set forth in the Service Guide, to US $9.07 per pound ($20.38 per kilo) unless you declare a higher value. In Canada, FedEx's liability is limited in these instances to $100 CAD unless you declare a higher value.

Tracking number
The number assigned to a shipment by FedEx.


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Value Added Tax (VAT)
Assessed on the value added to goods and services. The value added tax is imposed throughout the European Community and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and many other trading nations, but not the U.S.

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Waybill:
A detailed description of the shipment is sent to the transfer point.
 
Weight Certificate:
Usually issued by an official weigher on the dock, this certificate records the weight (as well as measurements) being entered on the back of the second and third copies of the dock receipt by clerk on the dock.
 
Weight Note:
This note, or slip, shows the individual weight of each unit and is included in cases. It is also the official weigher's record.

World Trade Organization (WTO)
The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.

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