Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

Misunderstandings in shipping are not uncommon. Is there a way for exporters and freight forwarders to communicate how to ship goods? Yes. For this purpose, the exporter prepares a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction.

Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

The Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI) is a formal document that provides shipping instructions to the freight forwarder. Therefore, the forwarder can correctly move the goods to the foreign market.

SLI is, as the name indicates, prepared by the exporter. The Shipper’s Letter of Instruction is optional. It means that the goods can be shipped even if the exporter (the shipper) does not provide the SLI. However, it is a good idea to provide such a letter to a new freight forwarder before shipping.

What is included in the SLI?

Since the SLI is not mandatory, there is no standard form. You can make your template. Often, the document includes freight billing terms and other fees. The information in the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction includes the following:

  • Parties to the transaction (the exporter and consignee), contact information
  • Forwarding agent’s details
  • Ports of origin and destination
  • Mode of transportation (air, ocean, rail, road)
  • Method of delivery (consolidated or direct)
  • Declaration of the contents in the shipment: cargo’s total pieces, weight (kg), dimension (cubic meters), value
  • HS codes
  • Whether the goods are hazardous
  • Whether the cargo is insured
  • Terms of shipping (prepaid/collect)
  • Special instructions, if any (such as how to pack the goods)
  • Date, authentication.
Shipper's letter of instruction
Shipper’s Letter of Instruction template, source:

Why should you use a Shipper’s Letter of Instructions?

  • By being given clear instructions, the freight agent knows how to handle, store, load, and unload the goods. Therefore, the risk of damage and mistakes is reduced.
  • There should not be any problem with the shipment since the instructions are clearly written down.
  • SLI provides a freight forwarder with power of attorney. In the case of exports from the US, the SLI authorized the forwarder to send Electronic Export Information (EEI) to the Automated Export System (AES).
  • SLI has more information than Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED). It is a good idea to include an SLI with your SED.

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