Shipper's Letter of Instruction (SLI)

Release time:2024-03-22 16:31

Shipper's Letter of Instruction (SLI)

What is a Shipper's Letter of Instruction?

The Shipper's Letter of Instruction (SLI) serves as a critical communication from the exporter to the freight forwarder, detailing specific instructions on the management and direction of an export shipment. By issuing an SLI, the exporter authorizes the forwarder to operate as the designated agent for handling U.S. export control and customs matters.


An SLI template is also available.


Its purpose is three-fold:


1. To provide transportation and documentation instructions.


2. To provide export control and reporting information.


3. To convey authorization to the agent to transmit Electronic Export Information (EEI) to the Automated Export System (AES).


Who uses the SLI?

The Shippers Letter of Instruction is completed by the exporter in advance and is sent to the freight forwarder with the other export paperwork. It's really a cover memo for the rest of the paperwork and a summary of information your freight forwarders need to know.


An SLI template is also available.


The utility of an SLI cannot be understated. While its usage isn't mandatory, it functions much like a finely tuned recipe or a set of meticulous instructions, guiding your freight partners on the exact procedures for handling your goods. The few moments spent filling out an SLI using dedicated software like Shipping Solutions can prove invaluable. It's a small investment of time that could prevent costly errors, ensuring your shipment reaches its destination smoothly and safeguarding your financial interests.


What should an SLI include?


Introduced by the National Customs Broker and Freight Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) in 2014, a model Shipper's Letter of Instruction (SLI) provides the essential data freight forwarders require to comply with regulatory and shipping mandates. This model SLI, though not mandatory, aims to standardize the information flow from exporters to their forwarding partners, ensuring clarity and consistency across shipments.


It's an opportune moment to review your documentation practices to align with the NCBFAAs recommended SLI format. Even if you choose not to adopt this model in its entirety, your SLI should at least incorporate the additional data fields mandated by the 2014 amendments to the Foreign Trade Regulations. These are critical for enabling your forwarder to accurately transmit Electronic Export Information (EEI) to the Automated Export System (AES) on your behalf, ensuring your shipments are managed efficiently and in compliance with U.S. export regulations.