How to move goods by rail

Key rail transport documents


If you transport goods by rail, you need to be aware of the CIM note, forwarders' certificates and forthcoming changes in legislation that may affect your paperwork. As of 2010, development of a simplified consignment note is underway at the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT).

CIM consignment note

A CIM note confirms that the rail carrier has received the goods and that a contract of carriage exists between trader and carrier.

Unlike a bill of lading, a CIM note isn't a document of title. It doesn't give its holder rights of ownership or possession of the goods.

Key details to be provided in the CIM note include:

  • a description of the goods
  • the number of packages and their weight
  • the names and addresses of the sender and recipient

The sender is responsible for the accuracy of CIM notes, and is liable for any loss or damage suffered by the carrier due to inaccurate information. Notes are used to calculate compensation if goods are lost or damaged.

You can view an example CIM consignment note (PDF, 803K) .

Forwarders' certificates

Increasingly, international trade journeys are intermodal, with freight forwarders playing a crucial co-ordinating role.

'Forwarders' documents' have been designed for these kinds of transactions. The Forwarders' Certificate of Receipt (FCR) provides proof that a forwarder has accepted your goods with irrevocable instructions to deliver them to the consignee indicated on the FCR.

Using an FCR can speed up payment. For example, if you're selling overseas and your contract with the buyer states that the goods are collected from the factory, an FCR can be issued when your buyer's forwarder collects goods.

You can then present the FCR for payment, rather than having to wait until a non-negotiable or negotiable transport document (the proof of the goods having been loaded onto the transport conveyance for the main international carriage, if any) is issued, which may be some time later.

While an FCR is non-negotiable, another similar document, the Forwarders' Certificate of Transport (FCT), is negotiable. This means that the forwarder accepts responsibility to deliver to a destination you specify - not to an unchangeable destination as with the FCR.

For information about more customs and documentation issues, see our section on import and export procedures.