Freight Forwarding: A Quick Guide

Nov 2, 2020 Lilia Khovrak Lilia Khovrak

A freight forwarder’s job extends across the entire shipping journey. The work begins with providing the best available routes and freight rates, whether for domestic or international shipping. Then, once you’re ready to transport goods, freight forwarders will coordinate with all parties from the point of origin to the final destination to make sure the customer’s cargo arrives safely and on time.

Some of the responsibilities of a freight forwarder include:

  • Dealing with necessary documentation and customs clearance procedures
  • Organising the pick-up and delivery process
  • Tracking your shipment and providing regular updates
  • Arranging for space on the shipping carrier’s vessel

As a leading marketplace for freight quotes, can help you connect with the right forwarder for your shipping needs.

The key players in cargo forwarding:

When it comes to ocean freight shipment, there are different players involved in the process. Each party plays an important role and has its own set of responsibilities to ensure that the cargo is delivered from Point A to Point B. Here are the key individuals involved in international shipping:

The freight forwarder: A cargo forwarder is the connecting bridge between a shipper and receiver. They deal with moving items from port to port and other transport hubs using the roads, air, or sea. Freight forwarders oversee the whole shipping process and offer door-to-door delivery. They can handle all the freight logistics of international trade for you, from booking cargo space to tracking goods and negotiating charges.

The freight broker: A freight broker is an intermediary between the shipper and the shipper’s service carrier. They help to facilitate communication between you and the carrier. Working with a broker means you don't have to negotiate prices with the carrier or worry about route planning and freight tracking. Freight agents can assist you in finding the right carrier and provide regular updates about your cargo.

The shipping carrier: A carrier transports goods from the point of origin to the final destination. Freight shippers are responsible for any loss of goods or damages incurred during transportation.

The customs broker: A customs broker is a licenced individual who ensures that your shipment meets all the transport regulations. They know entry procedures, rates of duty, taxes, and other payments. The licenced customs broker is a representative of the customs department in the country of import. If your shipment does not meet the requirements for customs clearance, it can be held at the port indefinitely or confiscated.

Freight Forwarding: The Core Services

  • Warehousing: This is an important component when it comes to supply chain management. Freight forwarders all over the world use warehouses to store goods and cargo. In addition to storage, forwarders also pack and prepare the goods for transportation at their freight storage warehouses. Freight forwarders have different types of freight warehouses depending on the goods that are stored, like raw manufacturing materials, finished goods, climate-controlled warehouses, and more.
  • Customs Brokerage: This refers to the process of facilitating the transport of goods across international borders. Since different countries operate under different rules for transport, freight forwarders can help you with customs clearance at each point of entry and exit. They effectively communicate with the border agents and governments to ensure that your shipment has followed all the right procedures.
  • Documentation: When shipping your cargo internationally, the paperwork can be quite extensive. There are different freight documents required, including Bill of Lading, Letters of Credit, Certificate of Origin, and more.
  • Cargo Space: It is important to use the right carrier for the shipment of your cargo and that’s where a freight forwarder can help. They have the knowledge and skills to negotiate with carriers for optimal cargo space and secure an effective schedule. They can also provide you with various options for intermodal shipping.
  • Cargo Insurance: Cargo insurance indicates that the cost of your cargo will be covered if it incurs any damages or gets stolen in transit. Depending on your shipment, freight forwarders can assist you in getting better insurance coverage for your goods. They also offer services when it comes to filing an insurance claim. Visit to request cargo insurance rates.
  • Cargo Tracking: Freight forwarders use a variety of tools and software for tracking your cargo. Whether it’s air, sea or land transportation, forwarders can track your shipment during each stage of transit.


Choose the Right Freight Forwarder: A Checklist

Selecting the right freight forwarder can make all the difference for a successful shipment. Here are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Type of shipment: Depending on the type of your shipment, you will need a specialized forwarder to transport your cargo. For example, if you are looking to ship dangerous goods, you will need to find specific freight forwarding companies that deal with hazardous materials.
  • Global Network through freight forwarding associations: Since freight forwarders are responsible for the shipping process from start to finish, it is essential that they have a strong network of connections on a global scale. The forwarder needs to have contacts in the country where you are shipping your cargo. This allows for transparency and effective communication during the transit process. Connect with freight forwarders from all over the world with our Digital Freight Alliance membership.
  • Cost: A freight forwarder with good industry experience and strong relationships with shipping agents and carriers will be able to provide you with the best cost-effective shipping cost options. They are the ones who are likely to find the best deals for you for shipping your goods.

Who are the Top Ocean Freight Forwarders?

Ocean freight forwarders are those that specialise in the transport of goods through cargo ships. They have expert knowledge about the shipping process and can assist you with shipping documentation and customs procedures.

These are the top 5 freight forwarders in Asia, Europe, and North America:

Rank 2020
Ocean Containers
1Kuehne + Nagel Inc.
2Sinotrans Ltd.
3DHL Supply Chain
4DB Schenker USA
5Panalpina Inc.

Do you need a freight forwarder?

It can be risky to arrange for a shipment without the help of a freight forwarder. The shipping process is a tedious one and requires the services of someone with industry experience and knowledge. Starting from the documentation and booking cargo space to customs procedures at the cargo’s destination, there are quite a few things to be cautious about, and this is where a freight forwarder can help.

Much like any business, strong and effective communication is key to building a relationship with your freight forwarder. This ensures that you will receive a reliable freight service throughout all stages of transit.

How to Request Freight Quotes?

Once your cargo is ready to be packed, you’ll need to optimise the space for your cargo to ensure that all your goods will be stuffed properly. Our SeaRates’ Freight Calculator is a web-based tool that provides a 3D simulation as to how the items will be packed into the container.

After your goods are packed, you can get freight quotes from all over the world when selecting a forwarder for your shipment. To get the most accurate shipping quotes at a quicker pace, it is best to provide all the required information upfront. Here are some of the details you need to provide when requesting a freight quote:

  • Contact Information: The full addresses of both the pick-up location and the cargo’s final destination must be provided. Other information like the port of origin and landing port may also be needed.
  • Cargo Details: The details of your shipment like total weight, dimensions, and volume are necessary. You will also have to mention whether your shipment contains pallets or stacks.
  • Commodity Description: The product names and their codes as listed on the commercial invoice must be provided. You may also be asked to give a full list of all the items, as mentioned in the shipment’s packing list.

Once you have selected your freight forwarder, it is important to arrange a meeting and discuss the next steps regarding your shipment. They need to send you the required documents for the paperwork and inform you about shipment updates and any potential issues regarding the cargo.

Lilia Khovrak is a professional content manager from Odessa, Ukraine. Loves life by the sea. Dreams to see Paris and eat a croissant on the thresholds of Notre Dame de Paris. Hates to read meaningless articles.