What Is the Difference Between a Customs Declaration and a Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods

What Is the Difference Between a Customs Declaration and a Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous GoodsAny international shipment needs proper paperwork to get delivered to its destination without delays. Some of the documents that your shipment may need include a customs declaration and a shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods. They sometimes get confused with each other but there is a difference between these two types of postal declarations.

The main purpose of a customs declaration is to declare the contents of your shipment and their value. Without a properly filled customs declaration, your package will get held up at customs, which typically results in shipping delays and sometimes even fines.

Major postal and courier companies, including the USPS (United States Postal Service), FedEx and UPS, generally require a customs declaration form for every overseas package, although some mail classes may be an exception. For example, the USPS First Class Mail International does not need a customs declaration because this mail class is reserved for documents.

The good news is that an international shipping label doubles as a customs form, so you can save yourself a trip to a post office to get a physical customs declaration form and kill two birds with one stone by printing your shipping labels online.

Generally, you need to include the following information in the customs declaration form:

  • Shipper name, address and contact details
  • Consignee name, address and contact details
  • Type of shipment
  • List of items in the shipment, their quantity and declared value
  • Total weight, value and quantity of items in the shipment

While a customs declaration is a requirement for almost any overseas shipment, a shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods is required only when you ship dangerous goods, just as its name suggests. It serves as proof that you’ve packed, labeled and declared your shipment in accordance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations, as well as helps the carrier understand how your shipment should be handled while in transit.

The shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods should include the following information:

  • Shipper name, address and contact details
  • Consignee name, address and contact details
  • Emergency contact information
  • Whether the package contents are radioactive or not
  • Nature and quantity of dangerous goods
  • Additional handling information
  • Name of signatory, date and signature

The Nature and Quantity of Goods section of the declaration must contain the following information about each dangerous item in the package:

  • UN number (a four-digit number identifying hazardous materials)
  • Proper shipping name (the standard technical name of the dangerous goods)
  • Class or division (there are nine hazard classes, some of which are further split into divisions; we’ve covered them in our article on proper marking and labeling of dangerous shipments)
  • Packing group (there are 3 UN dangerous goods packing groups depending on the degree of danger; some dangerous goods classes don’t have one)
  • Net weight of the dangerous goods and gross weight of the shipment (if required)

You can find most of the information you need to include in this section of the shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods in the UN Dangerous Goods List.

Unlike with the customs declaration, international shipping labels do not double as the shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods. You can fill out the shipper’s declaration form on the IATA website and then print it or print the form first and then fill it out by hand.

While filling out both declarations, you need to make sure that all details are correct because inaccurate or missing details may result in shipment delays and fines. Before attaching the customs declaration (shipping label) and the shipper’s declaration for dangerous goods to the package, place each in a separate clear pouch to protect the documents from the elements.