Shipping Documents Term under Letters of Credit

Understanding shipping documents term in a letter of credit transaction.

There is no definition of “shipping documents” term exists under documentary credit rules as a result ICC Banking Commission discourages banks to use this terms in the documentary credits. But issuing banks still choose to implement this term in their credits one way or another.. 

You can find two examples below how shipping documents term is used in letters of credit by the issuing banks.

Example 1: Field 47-A Additional Conditions: Shipment date and shipping documents including bill of lading dated prior to letter of credit opening date is not acceptable.

Using shipping documents term in way, as specified on above example, may create disputes between the issuing banks and the beneficiaries. According to ISBP 745, which is the latest International Standard Banking Practices published by ICC, "shipping documents" term defined as follows: "all documents required by the credit, except drafts, tele‐transmission reports and courier receipts, postal receipts or certificates of posting evidencing the sending of documents." 

Under normal conditions in regards to the above example, it is expected that even if the drafts, tele‐transmission reports and courier receipts, postal receipts or certificates of posting have been dated prior to the issuance date of the credit, issuing bank would accept such presentation. These having been said, in order to be on the safe side beneficiaries may choose to present all documents under this letter of credit will be dated after the issuance date of the documentary credit in order to prevent any problem with the issuing bank as the issuing bank’s intention, by using the term of shipping documents, may be defining all documents not just the ones as being described under ISBP 745. 

Example 2: Field 47-A Additional Conditions: Shipping documents should be prepared in the name of: Applicant Company...

Using "shipping documents" term in a way as exhibited in example 2 would be the most risky one for the beneficiaries.  Let me try to explain you why. 

In most cases issuing banks define how bills of lading, certificates of origin and insurance policies should be completed under field 46-A Documents Required.  As a quick reference let us check following wording indicated by the issuing bank under field 46-A Documents Required for a bill of lading: “Full set of clean on board bills of lading issued or endorsed to the order of Issuing Bank, notify applicant showing freight prepaid.” If issuing bank puts another indication under field 47-A Additional Conditions stating that “Shipping documents should be prepared in the name of: Applicant Company...” then we will be reaching a debate during the document preparation stage as these statements contradict each other. Under such a circumstances the best advice that can be given to the beneficiary is that applying to the applicant for an amendment to delete the so called phrase which has been inserted in field 47-A by the issuing bank.

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What does shipping documents mean in a letter of credit transaction?

Shipping documents, when used as a term in a letter of credit, could create problems between the issuing bank and the beneficiary due to its obscure meaning.  
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