Shipping Manifest: The Daily Definition
What is a shipping manifest?
A shipping manifest is a list of all goods loaded onto a ship or other transport vessel. A manifest usually documents an entire shipment, regardless of the number of destinations. Manifests list the items, quantity, weight, and the destination name and address for each stop. For the sake of customs declarations, manifests typically include declared costs as well.
Let’s say you buy a shipment of cellphone batteries from Japan. They ship the batteries via boat along with lots of other cellphone parts. Now, you’re only receiving the batteries to your warehouse, but the shipment as a whole requires a manifest for passing through the US customs office. When the cargo freighter arrives in LA, a customs officer reviews the shipping manifest against the actual cargo.
Our two cents:
The manifest should exactly match the actual shipment. If not, you’ve got a problem somewhere.
Both forgotten cargo and additional cargo cause manifest discrepancies. Less frequently, dishonest shippers deliberately leave items off the manifest in hopes of avoiding customs declarations and the accompanying fees. If you want to avoid being caught in a smuggling ring, we recommend not working with shippers that do this.
Think of a manifest as a passport for your inventory. Instead of being used to verify that the person on the passport is indeed the individual visiting a certain country, shipping manifests note the nationality of goods and verify that the cargo is legitimate.
Be careful not to confuse a shipping manifest with a bill of lading. While they sound similar and convey similar information, they serve distinct purposes. When businesses ship cargo using several different shipping companies on the same vessel (as is common with intermodal shipping), there will usually be separate bills of lading for each shipping company, but only a single consolidated cargo manifest.