Freight forwarders arrange the transport of goods from one place to another. Freight forwarding companies will in most cases not actually move the goods themselves, instead they act as an agent and arrange for other transport companies to move the goods.

Freight forwarders are also known as Forwarding Agents, Consolidators or just Forwarders.


What can an international freight forwarder do for you?

The process of importing or exporting goods can be very complicated. Not only is there the problem of how to ship the goods, there are also many regulations to consider.

For this reason, UK Freight Forwarders will normally either have offices in other countries or arrangements with local agents to handle the transport and paperwork requirements in those countries.

The Freight Forwarder will look for the best delivery route and seek quotes for each element of the transport, taking into consideration the optimum mix of speed, price and reliability.


What transport options can freight forwarders offer?

It is important to pick the right freight forwarder for the job as some specialise in one mode of transport while others have specific expertise in importing and exporting from certain countries. Most general freight forwarders will be able to offer the following options.

Air Freight: this is usually the best choice when the goods are light or need to get to a destination quickly.

Road Haulage: this is generally a good option for moving goods within Europe.

Containerised: this is probably the most common way of transporting goods.

There are two options when transporting goods in a Container:

1: Booking a whole 20′ or 40′ container to yourself, which If there are enough goods to fill a whole container is probably the most cost effective option. This is known as Full Container Load (FCL)

2: Booking space in a consolidated container, where the goods will be loaded with other consignments. This is known as Less than Container Loads (LCL) or Groupage. If you don’t need much space then this is a cheaper option.

Containers, are also referred to as Multi Modal Containers or Shipping Containers, they may travel by road, rail and sea during their journey.


The Paperwork

One of the greatest headaches in shipping is the complexity of the documentation that is required. This alone justifies the use of a freight forwarder. The documents that they can take care of include:

Customs documentation
Insurance forms
Shippers’ export declaration
Bill of Lading (often a House Bill of Lading issued by the forwarder)
Letters of Credit (i.e. if the recipient is paying by this method, the bank’s requirements of the documentation can be very onerous)

In some countries, clearing customs can be a demanding task and freight forwarders will appoint local customs brokers whose job it is to circumvent local red tape and overcome bureaucratic hurdles.


Added-value services

Companies often require help with shipments in other ways and a freight forwarder will in many cases be set up to offer services which may include:

Export packing / professional packing
Supply of heat-treated pallets
Refrigerated storage / delivery
Roll-on / roll-off transport of cars, trucks etc.

In summary, the phrase that has been used of the freight forwarder, that he is the ‘Architect of Transport’, is surely justified. It is hard to imagine how international trade could function without his services.