If your business transports products or orders around the globe, then you may have already heard of freight forwarding.
We have put together this helpful guide to freight forwarding, what it is, what processes are involved and whether you need it.
We provide international freight forwarding in collaboration with our global partners. You can find out more about our International Transport Solutions here.
What is Freight Forwarding?
Freight forwarding, performed by freight forwarders, is when someone or a company takes control of the shipment process of goods for an importer/exporter. By getting involved, a freight forwarder alleviates the business of stresses associated with transport solutions and ensures everything runs smoothly. Most often, a freight forwarder acts as an intermediate between the shipper and transporting services, doing very little of the actual transportation.
Freight forwarding involves more than organising transport and is a vital, and usually complex, process involving logistics, legal requirements, negotiating and more. Freight forwarding concerns the main methods of freight; air, sea and road. Rail freight is less common but can be covered too.
What is a Freight Forwarder?
A freight forwarder may be a single person or an entire company handling transportation logistics. A freight forwarder is the party responsible for organising and overseeing transportation of goods. Independent freight forwarders tend not to be in named roles such as distribution manager and instead combine responsibilities of such roles.
What Processes are Involved in Freight Forwarding?
As aforementioned, freight forwarding involves many key responsibilities. Namely:
- Finding and planning the most suitable transportation route, method and carriers. An experience freight forwarder will know which the best routes are to take, be able to assess the various transport modes available and recommend trusted carriers.
- Completing customs clearance. Almost all international imports/exports need documenting and clearing on entering a country. Although regulations and allowances may vary from country to country, freight forwarders should have a good understanding of the relevant controls for the destination. For example, in preparation for importing to the UK, the freight forwarder is responsible for arranging customs and complying with HMRC.
- Preparing documents and licences. Transporting cargo incurs a lot of paperwork aside from border control customs and licences, including invoices, statements and certificates. It is the freight forwarder’s job to ensure the shipper has all the documentation they need for processing as well as compliance.
- Storage and packing goods may also be handled by the freight forwarders as they may have the connections or infrastructure to offer additional support through the transportation process. Packing goods is a critical but often overlooked shipment decision; fragile products not wrapped well may be damaged, and environmental considerations may have to be made.
- Transport of dangerous goods may be catered for by more specialised freight forwarders as the protocols, regulations and allowances are more advanced than regular cargo. Any freight forwarders dealing with dangerous goods should be acutely aware of the various compliance requirements for the differing goods.
Why are Freight Forwarders Useful?
Businesses can do their entire shipment process themselves, however freight forwarding providers can help ensure paperwork is correctly handled and shipments are managed successfully. As cargo transport can be international, and extremely complicated at points, most businesses would benefit from additional guidance. Having a freight forwarder on hand with advanced knowledge of requirements can save businesses a huge headache.
Freight Forwarder Benefits
Speed: experienced freight forwarders will be able to find the best routes, the most appropriate freight method, and quickly overcome any delay issues.
Problem solving: if an issue does occur, a business alone may not be able to solve it. Freight forwarders may even be able predict and prevent common issues.
Cost savings: businesses who invest in the services of freight forwarding will be rewarded with cost effective solutions and benefit from network connections offering good rates.
Expertise: especially useful for businesses who may not be very familiar with international goods transport, a freight forwarder’s expertise and specific knowledge can be invaluable.
Trust: spending money on transporting goods can be a daunting process, especially if businesses do not know the carrier etc. very well. By using freight forwarding, businesses reduce risks and can trust that they are receiving a good service.