Freight Forwarders

Neil Updated by Neil

A freight forwarder is someone who provides services for organizing international freight shipments. You can think of freight forwarders as travel representatives for freight, assembling carriers, customers, regulations, and more. This portion includes the kind of services they offer and what you should contemplate ahead of choosing one. The shipment can be handled in many other ways, and that is included in this section.


Forwarder Service and Support

Freight Forwarders come in all forms and dimensions. Specific smaller forwarders are mainly national trucking companies or trucking brokers with little or no international freight movements participation. Some forwarders specialize, for example, either ocean freight or air freight.

Take a look at what a freight forwarder will do for you:

Offer expert guidelines and elucidate what you will require to understand regarding your shipment, for example, elaborating on how the key freight documents they are requesting you to offer or sign accords with the load. The forwarders will explain the shipment options available for you and also provide suggestions.

They will arrange all paperwork, make reservations, and organize payments for all shipment sections they are liable for.

Performs on your behalf with the different other parties associated with the shipment, such as goods carriers, other freight forwarders handling a section of the load, and trucking companies. Many forwarders also provide customs brokerage service, and they perform on your behalf with customs.

Regulate if there is an error or is at the likelihood of going wrong.

They provide all information regarding shipment status and notify you if there is any possibility of delays.


Forwarders & Customs Brokers

Suppose you still don’t have a customs agent till now. In that case, you won’t require to organize a separate one as many international freight forwarders can operate the customs procedure in-house as a segment of their service. Other forwarders task with licensed customs brokers as representatives.

Individual importers do have a favored customs broker, and, as an importer, it’s sensible to request your forwarder to work along with them.

At times, some importers arrange customs for their shipment (in-house or through an agent), which gives rise to the significant problem of who should be organizing your shipment.


Shipment Management

  1. Do It Yourself

If forwarders are the same as travel representatives, and fewer people use travel representatives nowadays, then apparently many importers should do it alone. But, this is where the travel agency comparison splits. There are lesser opportunities for smaller importers to manage international freight rightly with ocean or air carriers. But, more significantly, it isn’t a good idea. Many things can (and do) go wrong with international freight, making it a dangerous game for non-specialists to play.

  1. Supplier’s Freight Forwarder (Entire Shipment)

A second alternative is to let the supplier manage the freight. Many Chinese suppliers have a positioning with a neighborhood freight forwarder, and a few Chinese forwarders will arrange the complete shipment. Only agree to this arrangement on DDP incoterm (or DDU if your storehouse is described as the “Named Place for Delivery”). Incoterms are included in further more detail in the Shipping Basics section.

This alternative may look striking as you don’t have to organize the shipment. You lose any shipment authority, which is dangerous, given that you are the most affected player. Besides, it’s doubtful that a Chinese forwarder arranging the whole shipment could come in with a much economical cost than a US forwarder would impose.

  1. Supplier’s Freight Forwarder (To the US)

Having the supplier and their forwarder organize the shipment as far as the US port of entrance might sound striking, and it is mutual planning. However, it also habitually a disaster waiting to occur for the importer.

Look how it’s relatively common for suppliers to provide this alternative with the forwarder offering ludicrously low rates that importers delightedly accept. At times, there is someone in the factory getting a bribe from this forwarder.

When the ship reaches the US port, the forwarder earns his margin, lost with those absurdly low rates, by offering the importer a ridiculously high bill for local port costs. The forwarder is successfully holding the shipment captive, so the importer is required to pay.

  1. Your Freight Forwarder

Your forwarder organizes most or all of the shipment. They take responsibility from the time the ship or plane is loaded, from the foreign port, or the factory floor.

This is the most acceptable option as you have well control over the shipment and the freight costs.

Most of the importers task through a US forwarder, but you could practice a Chinese forwarder in concept.

Any of these four options you choose, you should ponder how the incoterm changes how much freight costs you will need to pay and how you should settle based on landed cost, not on buy price alone. The Shipping Basics section elaborates on how to do this.


Forwarder Selection

There are about 100,000 freight forwarders worldwide, and you need to describe your crucial selection standard. Take a look at the most common factors to consider.


Specialized Shipping

Many forwarders don’t want a pact with vehicles, household removals, bulk commodities similar to wheat, or oversized shipments. You possibly won’t be looking to import any of these things. Still, you may be observing to import a product that air or ocean carriers describe as perilous cargo. Don’t be tricked by the name because it includes seemingly trained products like toys with batteries.

Look for the forwarder’s terrestrial description. Larger global forwarders can include the world, but smaller forwarders generally restrict their extent to a few popular countries with a professional relationship with a local forwarder. The smaller international forwarders that you come along with will mostly organize shipments directing from China to the US.


Forwarder Size

Name-brand global forwarders have the power to protect reasonable rates and special treatment from the big air and ocean carriers, as well as a broader physical global footmark. That means they appeal to larger customers, who naturally get special treatment. Take the most recent Freightos annual unknown shopping survey. All of the top twenty forwarders were demanded to quote, but only seven bothered to mention a small business. You should probably ignore any larger forwarders where your prime point of contact will be a 1-800 number.

In contrast, smaller forwarders classically have more time to devote to smaller shipments and with their smaller clients, but they may have less striking prices or fewer technological tools to help accomplish or trace your shipment.



While choosing on price alone can be a distorted strategy, predominantly when you’re trying to save $200 on a shipment of $200,000 of goods. For example, some forwarders deduct the foremost shipment to secure the sale but make it back on the following shipments. Further, to make their quote price even more striking than honest competitors, the obscure forwarders changes in the terms and conditions.

Forwarders who conduct on price almost certainly do so at the cost of service. That may not be an issue if, for example, they are services that are not required by you. But that will arise an issue if general customer service levels are diminished. If there is an error with your shipment, you need your forwarder to be on top of your shipment. If one quote comes unimportantly economical than the others, be very cautious and see if you can ascertain why.



Your shipment expands your business, so you require someone to consign in charge to synchronize airlines, ocean carriers, and (mostly) customs representatives don’t take in favor of the wrong, incomplete or late paperwork. You have a risk of paying more than you settled for if your forwarder is not on top of your order. Small forwarders usually provide fewer support tools. As a result, almost 50% of importers still now utilize spreadsheets to trace shipments.

A good advance demonstration of a forwarder’s customer service extent is how long it takes them to reply to your quote appeal. If that takes a week or more, it doesn’t predict well for frequent and translucent communication during the shipment.

A few starter forwarders have built their business model on process computerization. Their unified customer-facing systems certainly create a more significant user encounter. They’re new and still building capacity, covering their geographic coverage. As of mid-2018, only two digital forwarders can presently manage China-US door to door shipments, but more are joining the game.

Besides, while it may not be deceptive, most large providers have cultured tool stacks for shipment perceptibility. Nevertheless, these may be kept for more significant customers.


Multiple Selection Criteria

That makes for quite a few selection criteria. However, evaluating forwarders has been difficult until now because freight forwarding is still mostly offline.

But that’s changing fast. With prompt online freight marketplaces, the quote’s details act as the filters for some of your selection standards, and the modest quote selection structures add the rest. Using a freight marketplace takes the time and conjecture out of picking freight quotes and forwarders.



Freight forwarders are specialists who know how the complete shipment procedure works and offers a wide variety of services and support.

While settling with a supplier, you should make sure that the forwarder arranges the shipment, at the minimum, from the foreign port.

Besides the price, you should regard service, forwarder rating, and any outstanding obligation your shipment may have while choosing freight quotes and forwarders.


Next Read Request for Freight Quote

How did we do?

Freight Process Steps

Request for Freight Quote