Back Letter

What is
Back Letter

A Back Letter is a specialized document issued by the shipper to persuade a carrier to provide a clean bill of lading. A clean bill of lading is essential as it certifies that the goods were received in apparently good order and condition. However, there are instances where a carrier might hesitate to issue such a declaration due to perceived discrepancies or issues with the cargo. In such cases, the shipper can provide a Back Letter to address and mitigate the carrier’s concerns, essentially assuring them that any discrepancies will not be held against them.

The Role of a Back Letter

The primary function of a Back Letter is to facilitate the issuance of a clean bill of lading when there are minor issues that might otherwise prevent its release. The document serves as a form of reassurance to the carrier, enabling them to issue the bill without reservations. This can be particularly useful in ensuring that transactions do not stall and that goods continue to move efficiently towards their destination.

Legal Implications

It is important to recognize that the use of a Back Letter carries legal implications. While it helps in smoothing over potential bumps during the logistics process, it also involves a commitment from the shipper that they will not hold the carrier responsible for the specific issues covered by the letter. Legal advice is often recommended when drafting such a document to ensure that all parties’ interests are adequately protected.

Strategic Benefits

Incorporating Back Letters in logistical operations can be highly strategic, particularly in maintaining the fluidity of goods' movement. It allows for quicker resolution of minor disputes and misunderstandings, which, if left unresolved, could result in delays and additional costs. By ensuring the carrier feels secure in issuing a clean bill of lading, shippers can prevent disruptions and maintain timely delivery schedules.


The Back Letter is a powerful tool in managing logistical challenges. By providing a way to secure a clean bill of lading, shippers can enhance operational efficiency and reduce potential hold-ups. While it is crucial to handle such documents with care and legal prudence, their strategic use can significantly benefit logistical operations by fostering trust and smoother processes between shippers and carriers.

If you are looking to streamline your logistical processes and enhance efficiency in your operations? Contact Shipthis today to learn how you can effectively integrate Back Letters and other strategic tools into your business model.  

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