One of the documents you may need when arranging a freight shipment to export goods abroad is the shipper’s letter of instructions. This document can be considered as a transport document

What is a shipper’s letter of instructions?

The shipper’s letter of instruction is a transport document that the sender/shipper/consignor (person or company sending the goods) provides to the carrier/transporter/forwarder (the logistics provider transporting the goods) in which the:

  • Logistical requirements of the cargo are stated.
  • Contact person’s information for any questions about this cargo is provided and 
  • Reasons for the export are mentioned

What is a sender’s instruction letter used for?

This type of document serves the following purposes:

• The instruction letter contains all shipping information starting with pickup and ending with delivery, making it easier for the carrier to process the shipment. 

• Issuance of export documents. A letter of instructions from the shipper is the best way to ensure that the carrier has all the information necessary to handle the shipment correctly. This way the forwarder will not have to contact the shipper repeatedly or make risky assumptions or guesses.

• Proof of the instructions provided. By providing a letter of instructions to the carrier, the shipper has secured documented confirmation that all specifications, requirements, and special needs related to the cargo have been transmitted to the carrier.

Who fills out the shipper’s letter of instructions?

The exporter or shipper fills out or completes a letter of instructions in advance and is responsible for providing it to the carrier. By filling out the instruction letter, the exporter can ensure that all correct data and instructions are passed directly to the carrier and that their cargo is handled, stored correctly during transit.

Is the sender’s instruction letter mandatory?

Depending on the country of collection and delivery, the shipper’s letter of instruction may or may not be mandatory. In most cases, it is not mandatory. However, in countries such as the United States, a letter of instructions from the shipper is required for all types of exports. even if there is no mandatory requirement for the letter, many shippers will send it to the carrier anyway. In this way, the sender can give the carrier permission to act as an authorized figure and handle Customs procedures and export control. The carrier is, therefore, the sender’s representative and can monitor transport operations on the shipper’s behalf.

What types of shipments require a shipper’s letter of instructions?

Exports from the United States always require the sender to issue this document. Most forwarding/shipping services require a letter of instructions from the sender. Due to the nature of maritime transport, the cargo ship stops at multiple ports during transit. The shipper’s instruction letter is an effective way to ensure that the load remains safe and handled properly throughout the process.

How to fill out the sender’s instruction letter?

You can even find many templates online. Most templates require such information:

  • The name and the contact information for the appointed carrier
  • The name and contact information of the exporter
  • Information about the products being shipped
  • If the products are to be shipped with other loads or separately
  • Insurance information
  • Documents accompanying the shipment
  • How it is packed
  • Special handling requirements
  • If there are export restrictions
  • Who pays for freight transport?
  • Special instructions for the carrier
  • The list of items that are shipped
  • Weight, dimensions, and quantity of each item
  • HS classification information of the cargo
  • Type of cargo transport (land, air, sea, and/or rail)

Other commonly asked related questions:

1. Who is responsible for completing the Shipping Instruction?

The exporter is responsible for preparing it.

2. Who provides the packing list?

The packing list is usually provided by the warehouse that prepared the shipment for export.

3. Who provides the commercial invoice?

The seller prepares the commercial invoice.

4. What is a Shipping Order?

The shipping order is issued by a carrier. This will confirm that a shipment has been booked on a particular vessel.

5. Is the SLI different from an instruction letter?

Technically, “instruction letter” is a term used to describe letters of attorney. However, due to different customary practices around the world, it is best to specify in the letter if the document is intended to act as a letter of attorney or to simply instruct the forwarder on the correct way to handle and process a shipment.

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