A freight forwarder is a company that arranges the import or export of goods. To put it simply, they get things from Point A to Point B using whatever mode of transportation is necessary. Freight forwarding can involve using one or more carriers and shipping methods for just one shipment. Air cargo, ocean freight, trucking and rail are all options.
While a freight forwarder doesn’t actually move freight themselves, they provide knowledge & expertise to move your shipments quickly. They ensure your shipment’s compliance with customs clearance, cargo insurance and all documentation. They share networks and negotiate the best rates and path for your shipment, supporting the growth of your business.
Can I ship internationally without a freight forwarder?
I recently had someone ask, “how hard would it be for me to do this myself? Could I set my business up for international shipping without anyone else?”
OF COURSE you can! BUT – a freight forwarder can be a powerful tool for your business, especially when it comes to international eCommerce. Partnering with a freight forwarder allows you to expand internationally without having to think about logistics all by yourself. You have a partner who is an expert in compliance and logistics and can help you find the most efficient and cost effective path for your freight.
For example, you buy a shipment of leather handbags from Italy for your 4 retail store locations in Los Angeles. Getting your handbags from Point A to Point B could involve transporting them from Italy to the UK by train, then shipping them in an ocean freighter to New York, and flying them to Los Angeles.
You would need to ensure you had all the correct documentation and packaging required by both the customs officials in the UK as well as customs officials in the US. You would also want to ensure you were getting the best shipping rates for each step of the journey, and that you could track your shipment along the way.
Sound like a headache? An expensive headache?
A freight forwarder would save you time and money using:
1. Knowledge and expertise
As experts in their fields, they know the fastest, most reliable and cost effective method to get your goods where they need to go at any time. They also know how to handle emergency situations such as delays, re-routed shipments and bad weather in order to decrease the impact to your delivery.
A good freight forwarder should be a NVOCC, or non-vessel operating common carrier, and licensed for ocean and air freight. You can check for licensed freight forwarders on export.gov.
2. Ensure compliance
Shipping goods internationally means strictly following the rules and regulations of each country the goods will enter. Having a freight forwarder handle your international shipments means they ensure you are fully compliant with any import or export documentation, any local customs documentation, taxes and other regulations. When you have an experienced logistics partner handle compliance this protects you from hefty fines and legal action.
3. Share networks
Freight forwarders have an international network of carriers and providers. This helps them find you the most reliable solution at the best price. With these established relationships and experienced teams to handle paperwork, a freight forwarder can cut days or weeks off your import process.
4. Support growth
A partnership with an experienced freight forwarder will make international expansion possible without having to create an entire logistics department. You’ll be able to source products internationally or break into a global market without having to worry about the rules, regulations and logistics of getting goods in or out of the US.
By using a freight forwarder, you add an experienced and knowledgeable logistics team to your business – enabling you to grow profit margins, customers and brand recognition.