Transport Documents for your Export Shipments – SSN, DGN and ECSI

The key “Transport Documents” which you should use when shipping your export consignments are the Standard Shipping Note or the Dangerous Goods Note, and the Export Cargo Shipping Instructions.   These documents travel with your goods to provide carriers and receiving authorities with clear and precise details about your consignment.

Incomplete or missing information is a major cause of confusion and delays when goods are in transit, so using these documents can also serve as a useful checklist to make sure that you have considered everything prior to shipping the goods.   Since delays cost money, it is worth making sure you are familiar with these documents and the job they do.

The Standard Shipping Note (SSN)
The SSN is used to accompany deliveries of non-hazardous goods but cannot be used for dangerous goods.   It is not a mandatory requirement that you use a SSN but it is good practice for non-hazardous shipments as it gives port authorities clear instructions on how to handle your goods. The SSN can also be used for road, sea and air freight.  Using the SSN, enables you to complete the same standard document for all consignments, regardless of which port or depot they are going to.  If you use the Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP), you can use the SSN as a pre-shipment advice.

The sort of information which you will complete on this documents is not the normal commercial information which you would need for a domestic shipment and includes:
1.  Details about you (The Exporter) and your customer (The Consignee), the  carrier or shipper, the port from which the goods are being shipped, details of the vessel on which they will travel and all necessary Customs Clearance References.
2.  Information about your goods, how many packages, how they are packed and labelled and the weights and dimensions of the packages.
3.  There is also a section which is normally completed by the carrier which identifies details of the container or vehicle in which the goods are shipped.

When completing your SSN consider these points:
1.  Documents should not handwritten as these may not easily be legible to all parties
2. Any field not completed could indicate a point which needs resolution between contracting parties.
3.  SSN documents based on UN/SITPRO standards are understood and accepted worldwide, so it is worth using these formats to ensure your document does its job.

Dangerous Goods Note (DGN or IATA DGN)
If your shipment contains any hazardous products then it is mandatory that a DGN is used instead of a Standard Shipping Note.    You can use a DGN when you transport goods using all forms of transport except air freight, when the IATA Dangerous Goods Declaration is normally used.    The DGN will accompany your shipment and will declare what the dangers of the goods are.   If you use the Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP) you can use a DGN as a pre-shipment advice.

The person responsible for preparing the goods for shipment must sign a declaration stating that the contents of the shipment are accurately described, classified, packaged and marked, and are in a proper condition for transport.   Serious penalties may be incurred for any misinformation on the DGN.

International regulations apply to the packing and movement of goods classified as potentially dangerous, and each dangerous substance or article is assigned to a class which defines the type of danger that substance presents. There is a further classification to identify the packing group according to the level of danger. These two classifications dictate how you must package, label and carry dangerous goods and the suitability of the packaging materials and the marks and label they must bear.

Labelling of your dangerous goods can be confusing because the same chemical can have different hazard descriptions in different countries. For example, a chemical could be labelled as ‘toxic’ in one country, but not in another.  The UN has created the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) with the aim of having, worldwide, the same criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health, environmental and physical hazards.  GHS specifies hazard communication requirements for labelling and also safety data sheets  (MSDS) for use in the workplace.

The GHS includes directions for application of the hazard communication elements on the label.   In particular, it specifies for each hazard, and for each class within the hazard, what signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement should be used. The GHS hazard pictograms, signal words and hazard statements should be located together on the label.  Global adoption of GHS started in 2008 and is yet to be finalised in many countries.

Export Cargo Shipping Instructions (ECSI)
The ECSI is the instruction from you (The Exporter) to your forwarder or carrier.  Whilst this is not a mandatory document, it is good working practice to use it as it provides a helpful checklist at the planning stage and helps to clarify who is responsible for various costs and activities once your goods leave your premises.   If there is any disagreement over procedures, documentation or charges then an accurately completed ECSI can be used to resolve the dispute.

The ECSI is intended as a multi-purpose document that can be used for any of the following functions:

  • movement and handling of goods and the route to their destination
  • customs formalities, including clearance and payment of any duties and taxes
  • distribution of commercial and transport documents related to the consignment
  • allocation of freight and other operational charges
  • special instructions, for example if the goods are dangerous or if additional documents are needed

All of these documents can be produced online enabling you to key the data once and then creating and using whichever documents you need.  You can find out more at


About Penny

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This entry was posted in CFSP, Dangerous Goods Notes (DGN), Export Cargo Shipping Instructions (ECSI), Export Documents, Standard Shipping Note (SSN), UN / SITPRO Export Documents and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Transport Documents for your Export Shipments – SSN, DGN and ECSI

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