Any shipping operation involves a long series of verifications being made before the shipment reaches the end costumer. However, the transparency of the entire process is rather limited, which justifies the doubts buyers often have as to whether their goods have actually been shipped as per the agreed conditions.
Attention has been drawn, repeatedly, to potentially forged documentation being sent between issuing and nominated banks. In response, experts in the field have highlighted the fact that as per the letter of credit, the shipping procedure requires that once a shipment has been effected, all documents be sent to the nominated bank (i.e. the seller's bank) to be verified. However, this verification process is limited to the proper submission of the documents in compliance with the letter of credit and does not involve verifications being made as to whether the cargo featuring on the bill of lading has actually been shipped. In this context, suspicions as to whether the documentation circulating between the issuing bank and the nominated one are only justified in those situations where the shipping line can only issue the documents after verifying whether clearance has been obtained from the customs and whether there is any proof of the cargo actually being loaded on a ship in the form of a specified loading port.
Mismatches in terms of the specifications of the goods being shipped have also caused reason for concern among buyers. In this context, it is important to note that the specifications provided on the bill of lading cannot be checked physically by any bank for there is no physical contact with the cargo at any time during shipping. They are only cross referenced with those provided in the letter of credit, any mismatches causing the wrong document to be rejected immediately.
So, basically, there is no reassurance for buyers that their cargo has actually been shipped and correctly so. A possible solution to this problem would be to hire an independent surveyor to assist the packing of the cargo and make the necessary verifications with regard to their specifications and the quantities to be shipped. The same surveyor can also track the cargo from the time of packing to its entry into the port of destination and confirm its being loaded on board with the shipping line. More specific tracking is possible using the shipping lines tracking system, which will pinpoint the exact location of the cargo upon the provision of either the container number or the bill of lading number.
All these steps and solution lead to one very clear conclusion, which is that, as a buyer, clearing your doubts as to whether certain goods have actually been shipped as per the agreed conditions is not as easy as it may appear, shipping procedures being rather complicated. However, freight forwarders provide this kind of services, among others, so contacting one to assist you should you be faced with situations of this kind is highly recommended.
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