The role of a freight forwarder is to help importers and exporters transport their goods.
The freight forwarder's core responsibilities
Most freight forwarders are likely to specialise in particular service areas, modes of transport or markets. Freight forwarders are often seen as the travel agents of international trading.
If you have a consignment of goods you need to move from country A to country B, a forwarder will identify and book the best routes, modes of transport and specific carriers for you dependent on your requirements. Many transport and logistics operators also offer freight-forwarding services.
Using a forwarder can cut your costs. Because they arrange for the transport of huge numbers of consignments, they can consolidate loads going to a single destination to keep freight charges down for individual traders. You should compare prices from a range of suppliers to find the best level of cost and service for you.
Other services freight forwarders provide
Freight forwarders typically offer a wide range of secondary trade-related services as well as their core transport ones. These include:
customs clearance - forwarders can complete customs paperwork on your behalf, and pay any taxes or duties owed
other documentation issues - eg Bills of Lading, or any documents required by banks before payment is released
insurance - many forwarders will be able to supply insurance services
logistics and supply-chain management of value-added activities
Bear in mind that you'll also be able to use your forwarder as a valuable source of information and advice about the international trading process. This can be particularly useful for businesses that are new to international trade.
For example, you can ask a forwarder as part of your contract to help you ensure your goods are properly packaged and labelled for export.