Importance of a Shipper's Letter on Instruction

Importance of a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

There are enough factors involved in the shipping process to make anyone’s head spin. But that’s what 3PL’ are for. You hire a freight forwarder or NVOCC to handle your shipments so that you don’t have to worry about all the details. They’re the experts – you pass your cargo on to them, and they handle it from there.

However, due to cargo ownership and legalities, no business can simply step in and act on your behalf; making decisions regarding your shipment and how it is to be handled. You need to formally give permission to your appointed freight forwarder to handle your shipment. This is done using an SLI, or Shipper’s Letter of Instruction.

Importance of a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction

A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction, as the name infers, is an instructional letter regarding how your cargo is to be handled. It is given to the person or organization that will be handling your shipment on your behalf (typically a freight forwarder or NVOCC), and is used to establish best practices regarding how they deal with your shipment. It contains important shipment information and delegates authority to the forwarder to act on your behalf. Here’s a bit more about what the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction does and why it’s so important.

Delegating Authority

As stated previously, no forwarder is able to just begin acting on behalf of any shipper. There needs to be a formal, established process by which the “baton is handed off”. This is done using a Shippers’s Letter of Instruction.

The Shipper’s Letter of Instruction essentially enables a freight forwarder of your choice to be the acting agent for your shipment. All shipping questions and actions regarding carriers, ports, insurance, duties, etc. will all be communicated to the freight forwarder. This keeps your hands off from your shipment while in transit and allows your freight forwarder to take care of the shipments tasks while only passing along necessary information and fees for you to take care of.


The SLI is essentially an informational document (given the name, that should be pretty obvious). The SLI is incredibly important because not only does it delegate authority to your chosen freight forwarder – it also enables them to take on your behalf by providing them with key data pieces regarding your shipment. That includes the products being shipped, weight, origin, destination, and all other pivotal details surrounding international shipments.

Without the SLI, your freight forwarder will not know all details necessary to handle your shipment.

Workflow and Efficiency

This is a bit of a repeat of the above two, but the ultimate goal of the SLI is to make the entire workflow for your team and the freight forwarder’s team easy and efficient. The SLI centralizes the location of all key data for a shipment, empowers the freight forwarder to act on your behalf, and gives you an opportunity to pass all shipping duties off to your forwarder to reduce you and your team’s involvement in the action pieces of an international cargo move.

If you have any questions about the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction or other international shipping questions, feel free to reach out to our team!


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