Clearit.ca's Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates
Importing goods successfully means keeping track of a lot of moving parts at once (or having your customs broker partner do it!). You might get your invoice at one point, your bill of lading at another, your final landed costs months later… and wait, you did get your tariffs right… right?
Here at Clearit, we take pride in taking some of the confusion out of importing. Today, we’re going to go over one of the most important pieces you have to juggle — the bill of lading! As an essential piece of any commercial import process, new importers should consider getting to know the bill of lading a top priority.
What is a Bill of Lading?
A bill of lading is a legal document required for importing commercial goods into Canada; it is a contract that states you will purchase the goods, and the supplier will provide them. Like your Canadian Customs Invoice, it contains an itemized list of the goods being carried. For each item, the document needs to specify:
- Type of shipment
- Quantity of goods
- Origin and destination of the shipment
It will also need to specify contact information for you and the shipper, any purchase orders or reference numbers, and packaging type. Goods being transported by any method — land, air, or sea — need a bill of lading.
What do the Shipping Terms Mean?
While it’s a relatively straightforward document — it’s a shipping invoice, really — there is a section of the bill of lading that might trip you up if you’re not familiar with it: the shipping terms. On your bill of lading, you’ll likely see the letters CY, CFS, or both. These letters tell you where your shipment is being stored in transit.
CY stands for Container Yard; CY/CY shipping is Container Yard to Container Yard.
If your shipment is classified as CY/CY, it’s being picked up from the carrier’s port, transported, and then offloaded at a delivery port. With CY/CY shipping, your carrier’s liability starts and ends at the container yard.
Typically, you only see CY/CY on Full Container Load (FCL) shipments.
CFS stands for Container Freight Station. Container Freight Station to Container Freight Station shipping is more likely to be utilized when shipping Less than Container Load (LCL) shipments.
Typically, goods are consolidated at a specific destination, because multiple parties are involved in the shipping process — both multiple shippers and multiple importers. When the goods are delivered, they are unpacked and delivered; the importer does not deal with the container.
CFS/CY and CY/CFS
Mixtures of CY and CFS shipping happen when multiple parties are doing business with an individual.
Sometimes, multiple shippers send goods to the same importer. In this case, the shipment technically starts as LCL — the suppliers are consolidating their shipments — and is received as FCL. You would see CFS/CY on your bill if this were the case because the goods would be packed in a freight station and then delivered to you at a container yard.
The opposite situation also happens. When one shipper is sending goods to multiple importers, the shipment starts as FCL in a container yard and is received as LCL in a freight station. At the freight station, the goods are unpacked and sent on their way as needed — this is CY/CFS shipping.
A bill of lading isn’t just a handy way to verify the right goods are being delivered in the right way — it’s an integral part of importing! Getting this important document right is crucial, so don’t forget to talk to a customs broker if you’d like some help.