ISBP: General considerations when checking documents


Selected extracts from our ISBP training modules.

Basic considerations to be borne in mind for any documentary credit:

  • A documentary credit is independent of any sale or other contract to which it may relate.
  • As the rules do not provide full coverage of all the documents that may be required for presentation, an applicant and beneficiary should determine, and agree upon, the documents that are to be presented, the issuer, their data content and time frame for their presentation.
  • Any ambiguity inherent in the instruction phase is at the responsibility and risk of the applicant. An issuing bank may be required to provide an element of assistance to its client, at the time of completion of the application form, and this should include guidance as to the possible implications of articles 3, 14, 19-21, 23, 24, 28 (i) and 31.
  • An issuing bank may enhance the instructions of an applicant in order that a documentary credit is issued in a form that is deemed workable for each bank and the beneficiary. However, any changes it makes or suggests should be with the full knowledge and agreement of the applicant.
  • A document to be issued and/or signed by an applicant is often seen as being counter-productive in a documentary credit. Such a condition should only be required with the full agreement and understanding of the beneficiary, i.e., of the possible outcome should a document not be issued or signed as may be expected, or that it is issued at a time that is too late for its presentation under a documentary credit.

Handling abbreviations

  • Abbreviations are regularly and commonly used in international trade instruments and documentation in substitution for a word or vice-versa.
  • An abbreviation in a documentary credit allows the use in a document of the same abbreviation, an abbreviation with a similar meaning, or the use of the complete word in a document.
  • When issuing a documentary credit, and to avoid any confusion or unnecessary refusal of documents, an issuing bank is advised to state the complete word or phrase.

Treatment of virgules and commas

  • Virgules (usually referred to as a ‘slash' mark) and commas are commonly seen in a documentary credit when describing optional places of receipt or delivery; ports of loading or discharge; or airports of departure or destination. They are also seen with regard to details given in respect of the origin of the goods, or their colour, type or components, etc.

Examination of copy transport documents

  • When a copy of a transport document is required for presentation in lieu of an original, it is the responsibility of the issuing bank and applicant to ensure that a documentary credit stipulates the terms and conditions that will apply to that document, otherwisesub-article 14 (f)will be applied due toarticles 19-25not being applicable.
  • Such terms and conditions should include any requirement for naming the carrier, any required evidence of the signing capacity and the means to determine the date of shipment.
  • When examining a copy transport document, a bank is to ensure that the named place of receipt, port of loading, airport of departure, port of discharge, airport of destination or place of delivery, as may be indicated in the documentary credit, is not in conflict. Similarly, any defined date of shipment, as shown on the copy transport document, is to be within any stated latest shipment date.

Non-Beneficiary documents with more than one correction

  • When a correction or alteration occurs in a non-beneficiary document, it is often a single occurrence. However, it can be that more than one correction or alteration is made to a document.
  • The entity that authenticates the correction or alteration i.e., the issuer of the document or an agent or proxy acting for the issuer (and a Chamber of Commerce, Embassy or other similar entity when the document is legalised, visaed or certified) has a choice as to how to indicate such authentication
  • - to provide a separate authentication for each correction or alteration, or
  • - to provide one authentication that covers all of the corrections or alterations.

Identification of document issuing parties

  • When a documentary credit requires one or more documents to be issued by a named entity, this can be fulfilled in either of two ways.
  • Firstly, and the more common way, by appearing to be issued by the named person or entity by the use of its letter head; or, secondly, if no letter headed paper is used, when the document appears to have been completed or signed by, or for (or on behalf of) the named person or entity.

Handling of mathematical calculations

  • An area that has caused particular problems in the past has been with regard to the handling of mathematical calculations - whether this be in respect of individual quantities or weights of goods, or a calculation such as unit price x the quantity or weight of one or more type of goods.
  • It is important that all parties involved in documentary credits are aware of the practice to be applied. Beneficiaries, in particular, need to determine whether extensive data is required or not, when the terms and conditions of the documentary credit do not impose a requirement for detailed breakdowns of weights, unit prices, quantities, etc.
  • If mathematical calculations are included in a document, banks need only determine that the stated total in respect of fields such as amount, quantity, weight or number of packages, is not in conflict with the documentary credit or similar details shown on any other stipulated document.


A more in-depth consideration of these issues can be found in the ISBP training modules at

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