The Shipper's Letter of Instruction and the needless assumption of shipment liability during the movement of overseas international shipments: For far too long, far too many moving and storage agents in this country have accepted a liability needlessly. By furnishing a "shipper" with an international Door to Door Bill of Lading, far too many companies assume the responsibility and liability of a carrier when handling international shipments.
According to Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) law, (the only law which governs transportation of shipments that cross international borders, including NAFTA (perhaps a subject for another submission, if anyone is interested) a carrier can issue a Bill of Lading on an international shipment only when it conveys freight aboard equipment under its direct control. Once a mover has released a container from their warehouse, assuming the drayage company is not the moving company, that control is no longer with the mover. This is why ocean or air (ACI) container truckers issue a Straight Bill of Lading, Steamship lines issue Ocean Bills of lading (OBL) airlines issue Airwaybills (AWB), and so on.
When a mover does issue a Bill of Lading covering an international shipment on a door to door basis, it can be (and has been) successfully argued in court that the mover accepts all liability for loss or damage. This is illegal per the FMC and can be ruinous especially with exhibit freight. The simple solution? Do what the international freight forwarding industry has done for years, issue a Shipper's Letter of Instruction and have the owner of the goods (the shipper) sign it. This is an instrument which legally conveys the shipper's intent to allow the moving agent to secure the appropriate transportation and related services on their behalf. The SLI is then used as a legal document to procure those services, usually through a licensed forwarder, and receive payment from the shipper or the shipper's company.
To view an example Shipper's Letter of Instruction document you will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe's Web Site.
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