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When you transport goods abroad, you need a transport document. It serves to record your arrangements with the transporter. Each mode of transport comes with its own transport document.
Transport by road: the CMRThe Convention Relative au Contrat de Transport International de Marchandises par Route (CMR) is an international treaty for transport by road. It has been signed by nearly every European country, but also by countries further afield, such as Iraq and Lebanon. The CMR requires that goods being transported must come accompanied by a standard transport document or freight note, that is acknowledged and accepted in all of Europe, to be shown at Customs and police checks. You would do wisely to use this standard document. A correctly filled-out freight note contains all the information you need for an efficient and successful transport, plus the adhering documentation. The freight note proves that the stated number of goods have been delivered by / to the stated individual(s). It can also be used to prove that goods have been damaged or gone missing during transport. The Stichting Vervoeradres website provides additional information about the CMR and the participating countries (in Dutch). You can also view the CMR in English (second link).
Transport by rail: the CIM or ISVDo you transport goods abroad by train? Then you’ll need a Convention Internationale concernant le Transport des Marchandises par Chemin de Fer (CIM-freight note) or Internationale Spoor Vrachtbrief (International Railroad Freightnote, ISV). The document consists of 5 copies: one for you, one for the addressee, one for the destination station’s railway company, one for the export country’s railway company, and one for the station of departure’s railway company. The document has to be filled out both by you and the railway company with which you make the transport arrangement.
Transport by air: the AWBThe AirWay Bill (AWB) is an air freight note containing information on the goods, their place of origin and their destination. The AWB is proof of your transport agreement, and must be signed by the sender as well as the transporter. The AWB is a complicated document. There are several expediting companies who can help you fill it out, if you lack experience. You can search for one online, or you can check the Fenex site (in Dutch). The AWB number, the flight number and the estimated time of arrival (ETA) are the most important data in air cargo. It enables you to establish the goods’ whereabouts.
Transport by water: the B/LThe B/L, or Bill of Lading, is a transferable transport document. That is to say, you or your customer can trade the goods by selling the B/L. Whoever owns the B/L, owns the goods. There is also a Straight Bill of Lading, which cannot be sold.
- You can find additional information about transport documents in the Netherlands on the Fenedex website (in Dutch).
- If you need help filling out a transport document, seek advice from an experienced expedition company (in Dutch).
- Use the internet to find transport document providers.
Be aware that once the United Kingdom leaves the EU, you may need to use different documents to import or export goods, as the UK will become a third country. Check the Dutch Tax and Administration pages on customs matters.