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What is a Forwarding Agent for International Freight?

Oct 24, 2010

If you are positioning your business to compete in international markets then the services of a quality forwarding agent to expedite the shipments of your international freight is an essential piece of the puzzle.  The right forwarding agent will save you many hours of work and will search a wide spectrum of carriers to find the best rates, fastest speeds, and most secure transportation for your cargo.  They will put together a freight quote based on your exact needs including the freight class of your international freight.  The work they do for you could only be done within your company by hiring a qualified shipping director with broad experience in shipping international freight.  That individual would likely end up working through a forwarding agent anyway due to the complexities involved in moving consignments into foreign countries.

FF-150x150.jpgForwarding agents are also known as freight forwarders and sometimes transportation brokers, though the latter may offer fewer services than a multi-dimensional agent.  Those that ship by plane are called air freight forwarders and those that specialize in ocean freight may be known as non-vessel operating common carriers, or NVOCC.  When you contact freight forwarders, regardless of the means of transport, they will work with you to find the right way to get your international freight to its destination.  While the cost factor is usually at the top of the priority list when pursuing a freight quote there may be situations where time is of the essence and in those instances they will find the fastest means of moving your international freight to its destination.

Cargo is shipped in standard-size containers, usually 20 foot or 40 foot.  While larger loads may fill an entire container you will often find that you have a smaller load to ship.   In these instances your forwarding agent will contract the services of Ltl carriers (less than load carriers) that specialize in finding room inside shipment containers that are partially filled.  These ltl carriers also work with many transporters and are the best way to find space as quickly as possible.  Freight quotes that involve Ltl carriers are among the easiest to process in this global industry.

The list of details related to international freight shipping that a forwarding agent takes care of is extensive.  It starts with the basics – finding the best available Ftl or Ltl carriers to get your cargo to the right destination in a timely and secure manner.  The logistics of moving cargo from a port in New York to one in Hong Kong almost boggles the mind, especially when you factor in the potential need for warehousing, getting the goods to or from the docks, and the lengthy checklist of documentation required to make the process free of glitches.  A skilled forwarding agent will comprehend all of the details involved in the process and plug the factors into a freight calculator to in order to provide you with an accurate freight quote.

If you are planning to use a freight forwarder for your shipment then you should know that many of them offer a simplified freight calculator on their websites that you can use to plug in information and receive a freight quote almost instantly.  These freight calculators take into account the most significant aspects of shipping your goods including the freight class required. For instance, the best freight forwarders will also handle details related to paperwork (Commercial Invoice, Declaration of Origin, Shipper’s Export Declaration) including forms required specifically by the destination country.  They will also take care of obtaining the necessary insurance to protect your international freight while securing transportation from the port to the point of sale or distribution.

With the extensive logistics involved as well as the sheer volume of international freight that moves every day it isn’t surprising that over 2 million transportation jobs exist in Europe alone.  Multiply that many times over when you add to the list transportation jobs in U.S., Asian, South American and African ports.

When you pursue your company’s opportunity to reach a global market you’ll find the systems in place to get your products in front of consumers literally around the world.  Find a forwarding agent you can rely on for an accurate freight quote on each shipment of international freight and you’ll find a valuable partner in expanding your business as far as you want to take it.