What is a Certificate of Inspection?

A certificate of inspection presents evidence that the cargo on board a vessel is exactly the order a customer placed and that the merchandise exceeds quality standards for similar products. The paperwork required for verification often accompanies the shipping of expensive goods.

Legal Overview

Customers have the legal right to request to see the document verifying products, but shippers should ensure the customer handles the inspection and administrative fees. Shippers should also request that the customer hire an independent team, not a group of employees to perform a review. The paperwork required for product confirmation can go straight to the buyer, as well as to the purchaser’s bank or government. Banks typically become involved when a Letter of Credit clearly orders the submission of a record of inspection to fulfill the financial obligations of the buyer.

Pre-Shipment Document

Some countries have a law that mandates businesses must provide a pre-shipment document verifying products and product quality. The countries that demand the paperwork vary from year to year, as laws expire and renewal takes time or countries decide to eliminate the pre-shipment requirement. Moreover, some countries require a pre-shipment inspection (PSI), regardless of cargo value.

As of 2017, here is a list of some of the countries requiring the submission of a PSI:

  • Angola
  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • Ecuador
  • India
  • Kuwait
  • Mexico
  • Sierra Leone
  • Uzbekistan


Several governments have established long lasting partnerships with companies that offer certificates of assessment. The hiring of outside organizations to confirm the price, quality, and quantity of goods ship reduces the likelihood of corruption, such as price gouging and the acceptance of bribes. The four primary international companies include SGS, Cotecna, Intertek, and Bureau Veritas Group.

The four companies assist officials in ensuring shipping accuracy. Governments use the assessment teams to prevent inferior quality products from flooding the market, as well as determine the true cost of goods charged by exporters. The filing of formal documents also ensures countries receive the full amount paid for custom duties.

What the United States Requires

American exporters wanting to send agricultural merchandise, such as nuts, fruits, and vegetable, abroad must obtain a federally issued phytosanitary credential. The United States Department of Agriculture issues the record to meet the minimum import regulations set by other countries. Exporters present the paperwork to verify inspection and that the goods do not contain toxicity and pest diseases. Other records the USDA requires are called the Certificate of Quality and Condition, as well as the Export Certificate for Processed Plant Products. The documents demonstrate proof of the review and grading of canned, frozen, and dehydrated foods.

Coast Guard Involvement

The United States Coast Guard possesses the legal authority to examine vessels for several reasons. Inspectors thoroughly scrutinize a boat for service suitability. They ensure water craft stock all of the mandatory safety equipment that includes lifesaving and firefighting gear. All decks must not contain any slippery substances, such as oil and water. The ship must abide by all United States maritime laws and regulations. Moreover, water craft must have enough water to clean and nourish the crew and passengers.

Sometimes, a dispute arises between a shipping company and a foreign government. In such cases, both parties should seek a resolution by working with the independent company that performed the examination. If a stalemate still exists after negotiations, the time has come to contact an attorney who has accumulated extensive experience litigating maritime law cases, preferably cases that deal with a certificate of inspection.

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