Eastern Europe Shipping Blog

Expert tips on smarter shipping between the U.S. and Eastern Europe, including shipping of heavy goods.

What Are Export Cargo Shipping Instructions (and why are they important)?


Lots of paperwork is required to send an international shipment. But one form that's not required may be the most important.

The export cargo shipping instructions form is exactly as the name implies. It's an exporter’s instructions to its freight forwarder on what is being shipped and how they want it shipped. You might also hear this document referred to as a shipper's letter of instruction or bill of lading instructions.

export-cargo-shipping-instructionsThe export cargo shipping instructions include information like the origin and destination address, the exporter EIN number, the volume and type of cargo, the route and special shipping instructions, among other details. For your convenience here's a Shipper's Letter of Instruction form that you can use to type your instructions.

Since a lot of the information on the export cargo shipping instructions are also contained in other documents, like the commercial invoice, only about 50% of shippers complete this form. Their rationale? They're busy and want to avoid unnecessary paperwork, if possible.

Most often it's the exporters that ship under Ex Works (EXW) or Free Carrier (FCA) terms that balk at completing the form. With an Ex Works (EXW) or Free Carrier (FCA) Incoterm, the products are already purchased and the buyer is responsible for shipping, not the exporter. In such cases, the exporter often wants to just load it on a truck and be done with it.

But here's the thing. Freight forwarders still require certain information to manage the shipment. If it's not provided by the exporter up front, the forwarder will ask for it eventually. So it's actually faster and easier to use the export cargo shipping instructions as a first step in the shipping process. This way, you won't get those inevitable emails or phone calls asking “What's your EIN number?” or “Do you want to ship this direct or as part of a consolidated shipment?”

The more important reason to trigger a shipping process with export cargo shipping instructions is that the form provides clarity from the start and reduces the chance of shipping delays.

Let's face it, your cargo is not going anywhere without complete data and documentation. Your container booking can easily roll to the next vessel if shipment information is incomplete. The export cargo shipping instructions minimize that risk by answering key shipping questions up front.

It’s also a form of protection. The instructions provide an official record of your explicit direction on how the cargo should be handled. If there are disagreements over handling procedures or charges, you can refer to the export cargo shipping instructions to help resolve the dispute.

The same information on the shipping instructions form could certainly be communicated via e-mail, but you’re better off using the form. Forwarders are trained to look for certain data in particular places on the form. If they are scanning an e-mail for relevant data, it opens up the chance for mistakes. Use of the form supports a more streamlined process.

An NVOCC can streamline the export process further If that NVOCC's portfolio includes the full range of freight forwarding services, as it does with I.C.E. Transport.

An NVOCC can get you a competitive rate, issue its own bill of lading (which a freight forwarder can't do) and arrange door-to-door global transportation. By combining carrier and forwarding services with one NVOCC partner, you cut out the middleman and streamline communications.


Document export shipping details to avoid delays

Export cargo shipping instructions provide written proof, from the very start, on who needs to do what in the shipping transaction. It acts as kind of a cover memo for other paperwork. While it takes a little time to complete, the document eliminates any confusion or data gaps that could delay your shipment.

Need help with exports or any other global shipping needs? Contact the experts at I.C.E Transport.

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