If you own an eCommerce business that sells internationally or imports merchandise abroad, you will need a reliable freight forwarder. They will help you manage the various demands of freight transportation and ensure compliance with the following:
- Import/export rules and regulations
- Documentary requirements
- Payment of taxes and duties
Although many freight forwarders are available, choosing the right one can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately, this article aims to provide you with some useful tips so you can sort the wheat from the chaff.
What is a freight forwarder, and do you need one?
A freight forwarding company acts as your agent. Besides organizing your shipments, they can also offer additional services, including making sure your goods are compliant with the laws of the origin and destination countries.
Suppose you plan to regularly ship goods overseas or import merchandise. In that case, you will need to enlist the services of a freight forwarder, especially if the items are perishable or of high value.
What services do freight forwarders offer?
The company’s size and capabilities often determine the services provided by a freight forwarder. Large international freight forwarders can handle most types of goods and offer all or some of the following services:
- Clear goods through customs and regulatory agencies
- Transport goods across countries and continents via land, air, or sea
- Arrange insurance
- Provide warehousing facilities
- Manage distribution throughout your supply chain
Smaller freight companies will provide similar or specific services but to a lesser extent.
How to choose a suitable freight forwarder
You must partner with a freight company that can fulfill your particular requirements. In this regard, you should consider the following factors.
1. Understand the different types of freight forwarders
While many companies offer general freight services, some specialize in transporting specific goods, such as:
- Fresh produce
- Bulk materials
- Refrigerated food
- Hazardous items
There are four main categories of freight forwarders:
- Online – These companies operate on the internet and may offer something basic or fully comprehensive service.
- Consultative – They offer the most comprehensive but costliest services. They can also manage difficult shipments in adverse conditions.
- Low-cost – They often provide limited services, such as a single transportation mode, but they offer the lowest prices.
- Global – Large freight companies operate in several countries and often with their own logistics operations.
2. Evaluate the freight forwarders based on a set of criteria
Before choosing a freight forwarder, draw up a list of your transportation requirements. For instance:
- What services do you want the freight forwarder to cover?
- Do you require specific transportation, storage, or handling of your goods?
If your goods need to be transported by air or sea, you should evaluate the freight transport company based on the following factors:
- What type of specialized services, if any, do they offer?
- Are they capable of handling every process, from custom brokerage to final delivery?
- Do they use their staff or independent contractors?
- What kind of carriers are they – a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) or a full container load (FCL) company?
- If the company is FCL, do they handle dry bulk, breakbulk, or project cargo?
- If NVOCC, can they operate in all the regions you conduct business?
Although it is a straightforward process to search for a freight forwarding company online, it can be quite challenging to verify their reputation and quality of service. One way is to reach out to other businesses with experience in importing and exporting goods. You could also contact a reputable freight forwarders association and ask if they can provide you with some recommendations.