Freight Forwarder Guide

If you are a business involved in import and/or export, you’ll probably need freight forwarder to help you manage the shipping, customs clearance of the goods, as well as handling all the relevant documentation involved. If you’re not sure of what a Freight Forwarder is, think of them as travel agents for freight.


Freight forwarders come in all shapes and sizes - so what do you need to look for'


How do I choose the best freight forwarder for my business, products and markets'

There is no ‘silver bullet’ answer it all depends upon what you are shipping, how frequently, and to and from which countries. However, if what you want is to have a benchmark which helps you identify credible Freight Forwarders, there here are 7 points to consider.


1) What accreditations do they have'

Industry accreditations are a great indicator of the credibility of a Freight Forwarder.

Some accreditations are awarded by Government Agencies and provide concrete proof of credibility and compliance. Trade bodies, like membership of associations such as FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations), BIFA (British International Freight Association) or IATA (The International Air Transport Association) is a strong indication that the company operates in an ethical manner, and is compliant with the applicable legal requirements.

An AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) accredited freight forwarder brings the added benefits of being able to take advantage of certain simplified customs procedures. An internationally recognised accreditation issued by customs, holders of the AEO status are deemed to offer secure and efficient supply chain security standards.


2) How qualified and experienced is their team'

The rules and regulations associated with shipping can be a real minefield. Are their people professionally qualified' Professional freight forwarders will be able to advise you on the best incoterms under which to make your shipment, advice on commodity codes, or confirm that all the relevant documentation is in place - all to ensure a smooth shipment of your goods.


3) Can the freight forwarder offer flexibility'

Do they have a broad experience of the different modes of transport (road, sea, rail, air) and routes for the shipment (quickest, most cost effective to or from a specific country, etc). Is there a need to plan shipments around the impact of cultural festivals and holidays' What if you are suddenly presented with unexpected circumstances such as port strikes, your ideal freight forwarder will have the capability to offer alternative solutions to enable the smooth transit of your goods.


4) Does the freight forwarder provide a commodity solution or a tailored service'

Will they visit your business, understand your needs' Or do you take the risk and provide the consignment details' The correct documentation, packing details, weights and dimensions will all impact upon the options available to you. Often by selecting what appears to be the lowest cost option there are hidden costs or unknown risks. It’s always worth ensuring there is due diligence on the freight forwarders part to fully understanding the products being shipped.


5) Can the freight forwarder provide the option of a door-to-door service'

A reputable freight forwarder will have extensive coverage to a vast number of destinations, with a wide range of carriers. Through these contacts, the freight forwarder will be able to provide you with a variety of high quality service options and prices to meet your supply chain needs, whether you are moving full loads to Europe or part loads to China.

Being able to utilise the same company for moving your goods from the point of delivery to your end user, enables a fluid and unified approach. It means at any stage of the supply chain process, you will know who to go to for any questions or queries that you may have.


6) Does the freight forwarder explain the difference between Liability & Insurance'

Under the standard limited liability, damaged or lost cargo is assessed by weight, not value. So in all likelihood, your compensation could be dramatically less than the commercial value of the goods. You may want to investigate full value cargo insurance if the cargo is a vital component to the success of your company.


7) Can the freight forwarder offer any Added Value Services'

Whether they have custom bonded warehousing, so you only pay the import VAT and duty on the components you need, when you need them. Or can they offer some other tailored solution specific to your needs' It’s worth building a relationship with your proposed freight forwarder, as the price paid typically isn’t where the greatest savings can be achieved.


How can you be sure you’re getting the best value from your freight forwarder'

Whilst it may be tempting to commission the services of a freight forwarder who offers you the cheapest rates, consider why they are charging less than everyone else. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Where you might save on initial costs, you’ll likely pay for in delays, additional charges and poor customer service. For the ultimate supply chain service provision, instead look for a freight forwarder that offers a good service at competitive rates who is willing to invest time to understand your business, products and shipping needs.

Call 01332 289220 and speak to one of our Freight Forwarding experts about your specific needs, get free advice and a ‘no obligation’ quote.

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