How to use freight forwarding

Finding and choosing a freight forwarder


As with all aspects of international trade, it pays to do your research before choosing a freight forwarder to look after the transportation of your goods. Draw up a shortlist of at least three and compare them before selecting one.

How to find freight forwarders

There are many bodies that can help you search for freight forwarders, including:

  • experienced exporters - preferably those in your sector, whose freight needs are likely to be similar to yours
  • your trade association - it should be very familiar with the freight needs of businesses in your sector
  • freight-forwarding trade associations - particularly the British International Freight Association (BIFA) for UK freight forwarders and the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA) for those overseas

Bear in mind that while there's a relatively small number of major global freight-forwarding companies, there are thousands of smaller specialist operators.

How to choose a freight forwarder

The most important factor in choosing your shortlist of freight forwarders should be their experience with the routes and goods your business deals with. For example, if you transport goods that need refrigerated containers, ask for references from businesses with similar needs.

Other things you should find out about your shortlisted candidates include:

  • which ancillary services they can provide, and how they charge for them
  • how long they've been running and how well established they are - ask for references
  • how willing they are to explain the process to you as it unfolds - this can be a valuable learning opportunity if you're new to international trading
  • the overall cost for their services