Letter of correction in maritime processes: what is it and how does it work?

  • 21/12/2021
  • 10 minutes

Port activities, transport logistics and shipping agency are the focuses for efficiency and profit in international trade. But have you ever thought about how all this is only feasible with the support of well-written documentation and the adaptation of processes to current standards?

In this article, we leave the operational part of maritime import and export aside to focus on records that make procedures safe, reliable and agile when selling or buying in other countries, such as the correction letter.

Do you want to know what this letter is, when it is used and what are the responsibilities of the person issuing it? With the participation of Monica Baldo, a specialist in maritime agency, we are going to present these answers. Enjoy the reading!

What is the correction letter in shipping?

To better understand what the correction letter is, first we need to mention the concept of Bill of Lading, or BL, in maritime transport — the most important document for this type of modal.

The function of the BL is the bill of lading, that is, the document that points out and records all relevant information about the characteristics of the cargo to be transported: data of the parties involved, description of the goods, volume measurements, dimensions and weight, type chartering, ports of origin and destination, etc.

It is an important piece in the operations and agency documents, serving as a delivery receipt, credit certificate upon withdrawal, and it works as a transport contract between the two parties. Without the Bill of Lading it is impossible to carry out international trade by sea.

But what to do when there is a change or identification of a data conflict after the BL has already been issued? In order not to waste time or have other losses in the shutdown of the operation until a new Bill of Lading is registered, the Convention for the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic allows the use of correction letters.

“The correction letter works as an additional document, an addendum to the bill of lading, and aims to present any adjustment in the transport document, avoiding the need to change the BL”, defines Monica.

Thus, any adjustment is made with greater speed and less bureaucracy, maintaining the validity of the document and accelerating the adjustment so that the logistics are not affected.

What the law says

In Brazil, the role of the correction letter is determined in the so-called Customs Regulation — Decree 6,759/09. In its Article 46, it is defined that: “For tax purposes, any correction to the bill of lading must be made by a correction letter addressed by the issuer of the bill of lading to the customs authority of the place of unloading, which, if accepted, will imply correction of the manifest “.

There are still some considerations and specifications in the document. One of them is that the letter can be presented in the period between the beginning of customs clearance and the clearance of the goods.

When can this document be used?

The correction letter can be attached to the Bill of Lading at any time that a discrepancy in information about the declared cargo and its conditions and the goods being transported is identified.

This correction may have to do with quantity, appearance and identification, among other aspects, as long as it is not a drastic enough change to invalidate the initial registration. Monica adds:

“Currently, in addition to being complementary to the original bill of lading, this document serves as a guarantee to the destination agent to adjust data records with government systems.”

This addendum, as well as the BL, is reflected in the Siscomex Carga system and will also be used in the verification of goods by customs authorities.

Who is responsible for issuing the letter?

As the specialist tells us, the issue of the correction letter is the responsibility of the shipowner’s agent in the port of origin. The document must identify the information to be rectified and be presented by the importer in addition to the original bill of lading — an erratum model known as FROM/TO, or Now Read/Correct to Read.

It is worth remembering that this issue goes through the same verification and legal registration procedures as the original bill of lading itself. Therefore, the same rules must be appreciated.

In which cases can the letter be rejected?

In order for the correction letter to be actually accepted as attached to the bill of lading, according to the law, it is mandatory that there is an appreciation and acceptance by the customs authority. Only then does it become valid.

This means that the letter can still be rejected in some situations, such as insufficient registration, information conflicts or non-compliance with technical criteria required by Organs responsible bodies.

What to do

In this case, the issuer is usually given the opportunity to identify the fault and correct it, as long as it is still within the possible window of change in the Bill of Lading.

“When a correction letter is presented, it is necessary to adjust these systems, as well as, in some cases, the opening of a file for fiscal analysis”, Monica points out. “In case there isn’t an acceptance by the inspection and this adjustment has an impact on the nationalization of the cargo, there may be a need to return the cargo abroad, penalty of loss or abandonment of the cargo.”

Therefore, it is very important to make sure that the information is well-recorded and in compliance with regulations. To avoid this type of situation, all new data must be carefully checked, as well as consistency with the original record.

An important warning about this type of oversight is that the Customs Regulation decrees that, in case of divergences, the bill of lading will always prevail over its corrected annexes.

Attention and professionalism at this time ensure efficient logistics and agility in the clearance of cargo that departs abroad or arrives in Brazil to be nationalized.

As time is money and a quick charter means more profits for companies, the care with the information of your cargo described in the Bill of Lading and in the correction letter guarantees a smooth, reliable and reputable transport. More sales, more profits and a better image worldwide.

Do you want to know more about how to use the registration processes to your advantage when exporting? See this article about electronic documentation as a way to optimize processes!