Documents handled under Letters of Credit – A Detailed Analysis

Documents play a crucial role in trade transactions. Documents are integral part of LCs. The banks involved in LC transactions deal only with documents and on the evidence of the correct and proper documents only the paying banks (opening bank/confirming bank) need to make payment. In view of these factors, banks have to be careful while handling documents/ LCs. Now check out Documents handled under Letters of Credit from below.

At various stages, different banks (Negotiating bank {beneficiary’s bank}, confirming bank, opening bank) have to verify whether all the required documents are submitted strictly as per the terms and conditions of credit. The important documents handled under LCs are broadly classified as

(a) Bill of Exchange:

Bill of exchange, is drawn by the beneficiary (exporter) on the LC issuing bank. When the bill of exchange is not drawn under a LC, the drawer of the bill of exchange (exporter), draws the bill of exchange on the drawee (importer). In such a case, the exporter takes credit risk on the importer, whereas, when the Bill of Exchange is drawn under LC, the credit risk for the exporter is not on the importer but on the LC issuing bank. Banks should be careful in ensuring that the Bill of Exchange is drawn strictly as per the terms and conditions of the credit. Some others important aspects are:

(i) It should be drawn by the beneficiary on the opening bank (ii) It should clearly indicate the amount and other details (iii) Depending upon the LC terms a Bill of Exchange may be drawn as a sight bill or an usance bill (iv) It should clearly indicate the LC number.

(b) Commercial Invoice:

This is another important document. Commercial invoice is prepared by the beneficiary, which contains (i) relevant details about goods in terms of value, quantity, weights (gross/net), importer’s name and address, LC number (ii) Commercial invoice should exactly reflect the description of the goods as mentioned in LC. (iii) Another important requirement is that the commercial invoice should indicate the terms of sale contract (Inco terms) like FOB, C&F, CIF, etc (iv) Other required details like shipping marks, and any specific detail as per the LC terms should also be covered.

(c) Transport Documents:

When goods are shipped from one port to another port the transport document issued is called the bill of lading. Goods can be transported by means of airways, roadways and railways depending upon the situations. In case goods are transported by means of water ways, the document is called bill of lading, by airways it is known as airway bills and by roadways called as lorry receipt and by railways it is known as railway receipt. In case of a single transaction, when different modes are used to transport the goods from the beneficiary’s country to the importer’s destination, a single transport document can be used viz., Multi model transport document.

For ease of reference the most commonly used document i.e., Bill of Lading is discussed here.

(d) Bill of Lading (B/ L):

The B/ L is the shipment document, evidencing the movement of goods from the port of acceptance (in exporter’s country) to the port of destination (in importer’s country). It is a receipt, signed and issued by the shipping company or authorized agent. It should be issued in sets (as per the terms of credit).

Other important features:

As per the terms and conditions of the credit, a bill of lading should clearly indicate:

  • (i) the description of goods shipped, as indicated in the invoice
  • (ii) conditions of goods “Clean” or otherwise (not in good condition/ shortage/damaged)
  • (iii) drawn to the order of the shipper, blank endorsed or in favour of the opening bank
  • (iv) the gross and net weight
  • (v) Freight payable or prepaid
  • (vi) Port of acceptance and port of destination

Insurance Policy/ Certificate:

This document is classified as a document to cover risk.

  • (a) It must be issued by the insurance company or their authorized agents
  • (b) It should be issued in the same currency in which the LC has been issued
  • (c) It should be issued to cover “All Risks”
  • (d) The date of issuance of the policy/ certificate should be on or before the date of issuance of the shipment, and should clearly indicate that the cover is available from the date of shipment
  • (e) Unless otherwise specified, it should be issued for an amount of 110% of CIF value of goods
  • (f) The description of the goods in the policy/certificate should be as per the terms of the credit
  • (g) The other important details like the port of shipment, port of destination etc needs to be clearly indicated

Other documents:

As per the terms of LC, all required documents have to be submitted by the beneficiary. Documents like Certificate of Origin (issued by the Chamber of Commerce), indicates the origin of goods. The origin of goods should not be from any prohibited nations.

Packing list, required certificates, etc. should be drawn as per the terms and conditions of the credit.

Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credit (UCPDC 600)

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), arranges to issue uniform guidelines to handle documents under Letters of Credit. These guidelines are used by various parties involved in letters of credit transactions like, exporters, importers, their bankers, shipping and insurance companies. These guidelines gives clarity for the persons to draw and handle various documents. The latest guidelines is called as UCPDC 600 and it came into effect in July 2007. Banks, which are involved in LC transactions need to be familiarized with UCPDC 600.