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What Is a Shipping Manifest? Importance, Types, and Differences

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Have you ever heard about MOQ when you want to order goods from China? Don’t worry, it’s not something you need to be afraid of.

Have you ever tried to import anything from China? If you’re a beginner in this journey, you need to know how to itemize all your goods in your document. 

Actually, this is called a shipping manifest. If you want to learn what a cargo shipping manifest is and how you can prepare one, you’d better read this blog post.

We’re going to explain everything about various types of shipping manifests and their importance in international trade.

At the end of this article, you’ll learn how to generate a shipping manifest and how to mention all the details about your cargo. Remember that this is a strategic step in your importing journey. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to call our team at DDPCH.

What Is a Shipping Manifest?

A shipping manifest is a detailed record of the contents of your shipment. It provides all the crucial information about the goods you’re transporting. 

A shipping manifest is an essential document for your cargo that outlines key details such as:

  • Item descriptions
  • Quantities
  • Weights
  • Dimensions
  • Destination addresses

In other words, you need a comprehensive inventory list along with your cargo from the original place to its final destination. This list is called the shipping manifest.

For example, if you order a package online, DDPCH, as the shipping company, prepares a manifest that lists every item within your package. This list includes specifics like the product names, quantities, and also special handling instructions.

This record has many advantages like accuracy in accounting, smooth handling, and efficient tracking. It is also an important document in communications between various people in the process like:

  • Carriers
  • Customs officials
  • Warehouse personnel
  • Recipients

All of these people’s activities rely on the manifest to understand the contents of a shipment. They need this manifest to be able to verify compliance with regulations and ensure smooth logistics operations.

At the end of this article, you’ll learn how to generate a shipping manifest and how to mention all the details about your cargo. Remember that this is a strategic step in your importing journey. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to call our team at DDPCH.

What Content Are Included in a Shipping Manifest?

As said earlier, a shipping manifest contains a lot of information that is essential for accurate tracking, handling, and delivery of goods.

Here is what exactly you need to mention in a manifest:

  • Item Descriptions: Detailed descriptions of all items. For example, you have to mention product names, specifications, and any relevant data.
  • Quantities: You have to make sure that both senders and recipients are aware of the exact number of goods in the cargo.
  • Weights: Weight restrictions are really important in shipping from China. You have to mention the weight of each item and also the total weight of your cargo.
  • Dimensions: Measurements such as length, width, and height of items determine space requirements for shipment. Remember to mention all oversized or irregularly shaped items for proper transportation and handling.
  • Destination Details: The manifest should include the exact address, contact person, and any specific delivery instructions.
  • Shipping Method: Details of the shipping method and the route are essential for tracking the shipment progress.
  • Special Handling Instructions: You must provide special instructions for fragile or hazardous goods to ensure safety.
  • Regulatory Information: Last but not least, you have to mention all the info to prove the cargo’s compliance with regulations. For example, you must include relevant customs documentation, tariff codes, and declarations required for international shipments.

Who Requires a Shipping Manifest?

Your shipment will be known by its manifest. Here are the places that require you to provide your shipping manifest:

  1. Carriers and Transport Companies: Carriers and transport companies need the manifest to accurately load, transport, and deliver goods to the destination. Without the manifest, they face problems in organizing shipments, allocating space, and ensuring the correct address.
  1. Customs Authorities: Customs authorities both at the origin and destination of the shipment require shipping manifests. It’s necessary for verifying the contents of imported and exported goods. Also, all the duties, taxes, and tariffs are calculated according to the manifest you provide.
  1. Recipients: Of course, the recipient needs the manifest to check if everything is according to the deal
  1. Warehouse and Distribution Centers: An efficient inventory process requires the manifest as the formal document. Without it, the personnel can’t locate the items and distribute them accurately.
  2. Regulatory Authorities: Regulatory authorities require shipping manifests to ensure compliance with all industry-specific regulations, safety standards, and even environmental guidelines.

Why Is It Important to Have a Shipping Manifest?

A shipping manifest is an essential document of your cargo and ensures transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the transportation and logistics process.

It provides details of the contents of cargo to enable accurate tracking, regulatory compliance, and smooth handling.

Without a shipping manifest, the risk of errors, delays, and compliance issues significantly increases. If you want to avoid disruptions in supply chain operations and potential financial losses, you need to pay special attention to the manifest.

Top 6 Shipping Manifest Types

Here are 6 types of shipping manifests:

Cargo/Freight Manifest

This type of manifest provides a detailed list of all cargo or freight on a particular vessel. The cargo manifest includes information such as item descriptions, quantities, weights, numbers, and destinations for each shipment.

Import General Manifest (IGM)

When you want to import cargo via vessel or aircraft to a country, you need an Import General Manifest (IGM). It’s actually a mandatory document that contains comprehensive details of the cargo and it must be available at the destination port before the shipment’s arrival. In fact, officials need to verify the manifest before the shipment arrives.

Dangerous Cargo Manifest

As it comes from the name, this manifest specifically identifies and documents hazardous or dangerous goods that you want to transport.

You need to include information about the nature of the hazardous materials, packaging requirements, and all other safety precautions for handling and transportation in this manifest.

Out of Gauge (OOG) Manifest

An OOG manifest is used for oversized or irregularly shaped cargo. In other words, if your product’s size exceeds standard dimensions, you need an OOG manifest. In this manifest, you must provide details about the dimensions, weight, and special handling requirements for your out-of-gauge products.

Reefer Manifest

A reefer manifest is used for shipments of temperature-sensitive goods. For example, if you want to transport products like perishable food items or pharmaceuticals, you need refrigeration or temperature-controlled transportation. This manifest must include information about temperature settings, monitoring requirements, and handling procedures.

Container Manifest

Last but not least, a container manifest is specific to a cargo made of several containers. You need a detailed list of the contents of each shipping container and also container numbers, seal numbers, and the destination of each container.

Top 3 Advantages of Using Shipping Manifests

Here are three advantages of using shipping manifests when importing goods from China:

  1. Higher Efficiency: If you prepare a well-organized manifest, it provides a clear picture of your shipment’s contents and details. This helps carriers optimize the process to ensure timely deliveries. In fact, the loading procedures and customs clearance will be managed much better.
  1. More Transparency: When all parties access the manifest, they’ll get real-time information, and therefore, there will be no misunderstanding. In fact, shippers and receivers exactly know what’s being shipped and its location. Also, carriers can communicate any discrepancies or delays promptly. This means better communication throughout the supply chain, which is essential in international trade.
  2. Lower Risks: The more details, the better. In fact, a detailed manifest minimizes the chances of errors. Accurate information in the manifest prevents issues like lost packages, misdirected shipments, or delays.

Shipping Manifest vs. Other Docs: What’s the Difference?

Now, it’s time to know what the main difference between shipping manifests and other documents of your cargo is:

Shipping Manifest vs. Air Cargo Manifest

A shipping manifest and an air cargo manifest have similar purposes but are used for different modes of transportation.

As it comes from the name, an air cargo manifest is specific to air freight shipments. On the other hand, a shipping manifest is used for goods transported via sea or land.

Both documents provide details about the contents of a shipment, including item descriptions, quantities, and destinations. However, they need specific regulatory info for the supposed means of transportation.

Shipping Manifest vs. Bill of Lading

A shipping manifest and a bill of lading have different purposes. A shipping manifest is a comprehensive inventory list of all items within a shipment.

However, a bill of lading is a contract between the shipper and carrier. BOLis also an important legal document of your cargo.

This doc includes details about the shipment’s origin, destination, contents, and terms of transportation. It’s also a receipt for your products as well as a document for ownership.

Shipping Manifest vs. Packing List

A shipping manifest and a packing list differ in terms of scope and purpose. They are both used to document the contents of a shipment, but a shipping manifest only provides an inventory list of the shipment as a whole.

On the other hand, a packing list is a more detailed breakdown of the contents of individual packages in your shipment.

The packaging list includes item numbers, dimensions, and packaging materials. Also, a shipping manifest is typically useful for regulatory compliance and transportation logistics.

This is different from the purpose of a packing list which is primarily used for inventory management and order fulfillment.

How to Make a Shipping Manifest

Here is a step-by-step guide to making a shipping manifest:

  1. Collect Information: Gather all necessary information about your shipment as we mentioned in the previous sections.
  1. Choose a Format: Select the right format for your shipping manifest. You can use both a digital document and a physical document according to what regulations determine.
  1. List Items: Enter the list of items of your shipment in the chosen format.
  1. Include Shipping Details: Add shipping details, such as the addresses, shipping method, carrier information, and any tracking or reference numbers.
  1. Add Regulatory Information: Include any required documentation for customs and other authorities, such as tariff codes, declarations, and permits.
  1. Review and Verify: Double-check the information in your shipping manifest to make sure everything is OK.
  1. Submit the Manifest: Sometimes you need to submit the manifest to the relevant authorities.
  2. Monitor the Shipment: Keep track of the shipment to ensure it reaches its destination on time and in good condition.


Shipping manifests are among the most important documents of each cargo in international trade. By reading this article, you must’ve become familiar with all the details of shipping manifest types, their differences, and the way you can make one. You can now create a shipping manifest that meets regulatory requirements. You can also ask any other questions about shipping manifests from our team at DDPCH.

Here are some common questions people ask about shipping manifests:

What is a shipping manifest?

It’s a detailed list of all items you want to include on a specific vehicle (ship, plane, truck).

What information does it include?

You need to include all important information about your cargo:
Shipper and receiver details
Description of goods (quantity, weight, type)
Destination information
Regulatory information

Why is a shipping manifest important?

Here are the most important reasons why you need a shipping manifest:
It helps you track and organize shipments
It’s essential for customs clearance
It’s used for billing by carriers

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