What Is a Packing List in Business Shipping?

Box on a convertor belt ready for shipping.
Box on a convertor belt ready for shipping. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Businesses that ship goods usually include packing lists with their shipments. Not only are they useful to the business in keeping track of each shipment's ultimate destination, they help the carrier determine how much room the goods will take and how to treat the shipment if it's going through customs.


A packing list contains some or all of the following information: name of shipping company, address of origin, ports of exit and entry, destination information, weight and measurements of the contents, number of items in the package, product's item number, product description and cost, invoice number, import number if being shipped from outside the country, marks from customs or the shipper's signature, and shipping date.


The packing list serves as a backup to the package's invoice and as a checklist for customs officers if the package is imported. The packing list is also important in helping the hauler determine how much space a package will take on a ship or truck.


A packing list may also be referred to as an unpacking note or list, a bill of parcels or a packing slip.


The United States and Canada may require packing lists for shipments entering the country if there is no invoice or manifest, since those goods will go through a customs inspection process. Some shipping companies may also require customers to supply a packing list. Check with your shipper for their particular requirements.


Packing lists are usually contained in a clear envelope on the outside of packages, making them easily accessible to the freight hauler, customs officials and delivery services.

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