How To Fill Out A Shipper’s Letter Of Instruction

Geschrieben von FBASZ

Suppose a local Italian craftsman places a large order for 1,500 handmade ceramic vases. Then you will face a challenge: how can you ensure that these delicate vases can smoothly pass the complex international transportation process and arrive safely at their destination?

For any freight forwarder, as long as you have an important document in hand, you can simplify this complicated process, and that document is: shipper’s letter of instructions. SLI can be compared to a road map, which not only records the departure and destination in detail, but also details the contents of the goods, special handling instructions and other information to ensure the safe delivery of the goods

What Is Shipper’s Letter Of Instructions

You can think of the shipper’s letter of instructions as a briefing for your freight forwarder. It provides detailed export shipping instructions that your freight forwarder can follow. Here are the key information that is often included in the SLI:

  1. Shipper and Consignee Information: This includes your business information, contact information, and consignee address.
  2. Freight Forwarder Details: If you are working with a Chinesischer Spediteur, list their contact information here.
  3. Cargo Details: This section requires a clear description of the goods being shipped, including quantity, weight, dimensions, and packaging type.
  4. Export Control Information (if applicable): For goods subject to export controls, provide any necessary certificates or licenses.
  5. Freight Payment: Clearly state whether the shipper or consignee is responsible for paying for the transportation costs (you or the consignee).
  6. Special Instructions: This section allows you to communicate any specific handling needs, insurance requirements, or other documents required.
  7. Authorized Signature: Only the shipper needs to sign the SLI

Fill Out Shipper’s Letter Of Instructions

Fill out shipper’s letter of instructions, We will use air freight to explain how to fill in the information.


Fill in the full name, street name, city name, country name of the shipper, and a telephone number, telex number or fax number for easy contact.


Fill in the full name, street name, city name, country name of the consignee (especially when there are the same city names in different countries, the country name must be filled in), as well as the telephone number, telex number or fax number. Do not fill in the words “order” or “to order of the shipper” (according to the instructions of the shipper) in this column, because the air waybill cannot be transferred.

Airport of departure

Fill in the full name of the airport of departure.

Airport of destination

Fill in the destination airport (if the airport name is unknown, the city name can be filled in). If a city name is used in more than one country, the country name should be added. For example: LONDON UK London, United Kingdom; LONDON KY US London, Kentucky, United States; LONDON TO CA London, Ontario, Canada

Requested Routing/Requesting Booking

This column is used by airlines to arrange transportation routes, but if the shipper has special requirements, this column can also be filled in.

Declared Value for Carriage

Fill in the amount of the declared value for transportation, which is the limit of the carrier’s liability for compensation. The carrier charges the shipper a declared value fee in accordance with relevant regulations, but if the gross weight of the goods delivered does not exceed US$20 per kilogram (or its equivalent currency), there is no need to fill in the declared value amount, and “NVD” (NO Value Declared) can be filled in this column. If this column is left blank, the carrier or its agent may regard the goods as undeclared value.


International goods are usually subject to inspection by the customs of the destination station, and the customs will levy taxes based on the amount filled in this column.

Shipper’s Letter Of Instruction Sample

Shipper’s letter of instructions vary in format and details. Some focus on basic shipment information, while others require more detailed information to ensure compliance with export regulations. Whichever template you choose, providing as much information as possible will allow your freight forwarder to process your shipment more efficiently and in compliance.

Below is a list of additional information that we share that can be added to your Shipper’s letter of instructions. Although some of the details may seem complex at first, we will provide clear explanations so that you can understand the content. Once you understand the details on the list, you can consider adding them to your Shipper’s letter of instructions to improve the efficiency and compliance of the overall process.

Shipper’s letter of instruction form download

  1. Final Consignee Details: This is the final consignee of the export shipment located abroad. For shipments that require an export license: The final consignee should match the person named on the license or the person authorized for an exemption under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
  2. Domestic or Foreign: This tells customs whether your shipment originated in the United States or elsewhere. It is important to report this accurately even if the classification number is the same.
  3. Schedule B and HTS Code: This 10-digit code identifies your specific commodity based on the government classification system.
  4. Commercial Commodity Description: A more detailed description of the export goods that acts as a fingerprint for customs officials to quickly and accurately identify your shipment.
  5. DDTC Unit of Measure (UOM): Think of this as a specific unit used to measure the controlled items defined on the export license. It can be anything from a few square meters of fabric, a few pairs of shoes, a few watts of electricity, etc.
  6. DDTC Quantity: This refers to the exact quantity of the item you are shipping. It must be marked in the unit of measure specified on the license.
  7. ECCN, EAR99 or USML Class: This identifies the export control classification of your shipment. Here are its details:
  8. CIF Value: This amount represents the total value of your shipment when it arrives at the U.S. port of export. It includes the selling price (or cost if not sold) plus any inland freight, insurance, and other costs incurred in transporting the goods to the port.

Please remember that this information is not a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your specific shipment, please consult your freight forwarder.


Who Fills Out The Shipper’s Letter Of Instructions

Shipper’s letter of instructions are created by the shipper for their forwarder. It’s a task that needn’t take too long, but accuracy in the letter’s contents is critical. The Shipper’s letter of instructions needs to be completed before the shipment takes place. It should be sent to the forwarder along with other shipping documentation.

The Value And Benefits Of Shipper’s Letter Of Instructions

Both domestic and international shipping can be complex. Especially for those new to these processes, navigating different regulations, customs procedures, and choosing the best shipping channels requires clear logic and preparation. That’s why preparing an SLI with complete and accurate information is a valuable tool for any shipment.

Standardization and Clarity: As a standardized document, the Shipper’s letter of instructions ensures that all parties involved (shippers, freight forwarders, customs) have access to the same critical information. This avoids the confusion that can arise from information asymmetry and promotes smooth communication.

Reduce the risk of errors and delays: Missing information or inaccurate data can lead to delays at various stages of the shipping process, rerouting, or even penalties. Imagine if a high-tech drone was classified as a toy airplane. This mismatched information could cause Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize the shipment while they investigate the true nature of the shipment, resulting in significant delays and possible fines. Minimize risk by providing a comprehensive overview of your shipment up front.

Ensure Correct Handling: The SLI allows you to specify any special handling requirements your shipment may have. This is especially important for fragile, hazardous materials (including dangerous goods), or temperature-sensitive goods. For example, shipping lithium batteries requires an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). By clearly outlining these requirements in your SLI, you can ensure that your freight forwarder handles your shipment with the appropriate care.

Easier customs clearance: Customs authorities rely on accurate information to process imported goods efficiently. A complete SLI provides all the details they need, such as product description, value statement, and Harmonized System (HS Code)

Potential Pitfalls Of Not Having An Shipper’s Letter Of Instructions

Although a Shipper’s Instruction is not mandatory, it serves as a safety net for your shipment. Skipping this step can cause unnecessary problems, or worse, a domino effect of losses and disruption to the flow of goods. So, without a clear and detailed SLI, you may face the following situations:

Stuck in a customs maze: Customs clearance relies heavily on the information of the shipment to operate. Missing details or inconsistent information in the SLI can result in customs inspections and detentions of the shipment, which can take a long time to get out of the maze. Therefore, not having complete and detailed information can not only delay shipments, but can also incur additional inspection fees.

Wrong shipments: Incorrect or missing shipment information can result in your shipment being shipped to the wrong destination. This means wasted time, having to correct the error, extra shipping costs, and possible disappointment for customers waiting for delivery.

Damaged shipments: If the handling is not clearly specified and explained in the SLI, your shipment may be susceptible to damage during transportation. And without a written record of specific instructions, it becomes a challenge to find out which party is responsible.

By taking the time to create a detailed SLI, you can overcome these potential pitfalls and ensure a smooth, efficient shipping experience. Again, think of your SLI as your shipping roadmap. With it, critical details and instructions for everyone involved are in writing, minimizing hassles, breakages, and greatly increasing the chances of on-time delivery.