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While importing and exporting can be a very lucrative business, if you are conversant with international shipping, then you know how stressful the process can be.

Not only can making the wrong choices cost you money, but you can also end up with goods that cannot be used or find yourself in legal trouble due to incomplete paperwork.

This is where freight forwarders come in. A freight forwarder plays a significant role in the logistics industry, ensuring the smooth transit of goods from one location to another.

Freight forwarders provide the know-how and resources to help you avoid these potential pitfalls as well as ensure that your goods get from A to B safely, securely and in the best possible conditions.

If you want to learn more about what freight forwarders do and how they can improve your operations, keep reading.

What Is Freight Forwarding?

what does a freight forwarder do

Freight forwarding is the process of arranging for the transportation of goods from one area to another. It involves coordinating with different carriers and ensuring that your shipment arrives at its destination in a timely, cost-effective manner.

Freight forwarders deal with several types of freight, including air freight, rail freight, ocean freight, and basically all typical logistics channels.

In other words, a freight forwarder is an individual or company that can help you manage logistics processes on your behalf.

What Does a Freight Forwarder Do?

International freight forwarders are responsible for helping clients coordinate the transportation of their goods from one point to another.

Freight forwarders act as a liaison between exporters and transport agencies; they navigate the complexities of international trade, including customs procedures, documentation, and regulatory requirements.

They handle all the details, including:

  • Negotiating with shipping companies to ensure lower freight charges and competitive rates;
  • Making sure that shipments comply with customs regulations;
  • Preparing and filing relevant documentation needed for imports and exports;
  • Tracking shipments in transit and ensuring that they arrive at their destination on time;
  • Monitoring inventory during the entire process;
  • Providing optional services such as cargo insurance, packing and repacking of goods, storage and warehousing;
  • Freight consolidation to reduce the number of shipments.

These are a few common freight forwarding services that you can expect when working with a freight forwarder. However, depending on the company you’re working with, you might get more services as part of their standard package.

How Does Freight Forwarding Work?

The freight forwarding process begins when the shipper contacts a freight forwarder to arrange the transportation of goods.

Most freight forwarders have a similar process and provide a comprehensive range of services, including tracking transportation, preparation of shipping and export documents, warehousing, booking cargo space, negotiating freight charges, freight consolidation, cargo insurance, and filing of insurance claims.

Here is a breakdown of the process that you can typically expect from a freight forwarding company:

1) Export haulage

Export haulage is the transportation of goods from the location of the shipper to the freight forwarder’s warehouse or the origin warehouse.

Companies that offer transportation services often handle this process, but the freight forwarder will coordinate with them to make sure that the goods are delivered safely and on time.

2) Export customs clearance

Before goods can be exported out of the country, customs agents need to give approval. This is what export customs clearance entails.

The freight forwarder will also help the shipper with export customs clearance. This involves filling out the necessary paperwork and documents for the shipment.

3) Origin handling

At this point, the goods are received and unloaded at the origin warehouse.

The goods are inspected for damage and confirmed if they match the order.

If everything looks good, freight forwarders check for restricted items such as flammable liquids, alcohol, food and other perishable items, drugs, or dangerous objects.

4) Freight tracking

Once the goods have been cleared and loaded onto a ship, many freight forwarders track the container’s location and make sure that it arrives at its final destination on time.

This is done using GPS tracking devices or other methods such as checking with shipping companies.

In the case of delays, the forwarding agent will communicate with the transportation agency or carrier to measure the effects.

5) Import custom clearance

Upon arrival at its destination country, the shipment undergoes a thorough inspection by local authorities to validate the accuracy of the documentation submitted by the freight forwarders, ensuring it corresponds to the shipped product.

They also check for all necessary legal prerequisites for entry into the country. In certain cases, import customs agents may charge fees, and these expenses are covered by the freight forwarder, who eventually invoices the shipper for reimbursement.

4) Destination handling

Once the goods get import customs clearance, the freight forwarder will work as a liaison between the shipper and transportation services to ensure that the goods arrive at their final destination.

At this point, they receive the necessary paperwork for the shipment, including invoices, certificate of origin, bill of lading certificate, inspection certificate, export packing list, and declaration documents.

5) Import haulage

This is the final stage of the freight forwarding process.

Here, the product reaches its ultimate destination after departing from the import warehouse.

Similar to export haulage, freight forwarders decide on transportation methods based on factors such as the nature of the product and the distance between the warehouse and the destination.

The duration of the import haulage is influenced by factors like mileage and the chosen mode of transportation.

Typically, recipients can expect to receive their shipment within hours to a few days after it departs from the warehouse.

Now that you know how the freight forwarding process works, you may be asking the question, “Why should I hire ocean freight forwarders?”

Why Should You Hire a Freight Forwarder?

At first glance, freight forwarding may seem like an unnecessary expense. However, taking the risk of managing your own logistics can be costly.

Moreso, hiring experienced international ocean freight forwarders can bring numerous benefits to your business. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider working with one:

  • Freight forwarding companies have access to reliable networks of carriers, which means that they can provide you with competitive rates and secure space on vessels, trucks, and planes.
  • They are well-versed in the rules and regulations of international trade, which means that they can ensure your shipments comply with customs requirements quickly and efficiently without any delays or additional costs.
  • Freight forwarders have access to the most up-to-date tracking technology which allows them to keep an eye on your shipments and provide you with real-time updates.
  • An ocean freight forwarder can help you choose the best route for your shipment, ensuring that it arrives at its destination safely and on time.
  • They are experienced in dealing with unforeseen events such as inclement weather or mechanical issues, meaning they can quickly find a solution to any potential issue.

Hiring a freight forwarder can help you reduce logistics costs while ensuring that your shipments are handled safely and quickly. This will give you peace of mind, knowing that your goods are in good hands.

What Should I Look for in a Good Freight Forwarder?

When searching for a reliable freight forwarder, there are several key aspects to consider:

  • Experience: Look for a freight forwarder that has extensive experience in international shipping. They should be familiar with the regulations and requirements of the countries you’re shipping to and from.
  • Network: A good freight forwarder will have a strong global network of contacts and partners. This can help ensure your shipments are handled efficiently and safely, no matter where they’re going.
  • Services: Make sure the freight forwarder offers the services you need. This might include sea freight, air freight, warehousing, customs clearance, and more.
  • Customer Service: Excellent customer service is crucial. Ensure the freight forwarder you choose prioritises communication and is available to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
  • Insurance: Check if the freight forwarder offers comprehensive insurance to protect your goods in case of damage or loss during transit.
  • Reputation: Do some research to find out what others are saying about the freight forwarder. Reviews and testimonials can provide valuable insight into their reliability and professionalism.

Freight Forwarders vs. Freight Brokers

It’s important to note that freight forwarders are not the same as freight brokers. While a freight forwarder is responsible for organising and overseeing the entire shipment process, a freight broker only connects shippers with carriers or intermediaries – they don’t actually handle the cargo themselves.

How MF Freight Can Help You

At MF Freight, we specialise in freight logistics and can provide you with a comprehensive range of services to meet your needs.

We deal with all kinds of freights and can handle shipments with different requirements. Our experienced team of professionals is well-versed in international trade regulations and will make sure your cargo arrives safely and quickly at its destination.


Shipping goods internationally doesn’t have to be a nightmare. By partnering with the right freight forwarder, you can keep costs low while ensuring that your shipments are handled safely and efficiently.

At MF Freight, we have the experience and resources to make sure your products arrive at their destination in perfect condition. Contact us today to find out how we can help you!

Freight Forwarding – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the role of a freight forwarder?

A freight forwarder is a company that helps coordinate the transportation of goods from one place to another. This includes everything from arranging for the shipment to be picked up from its origin, organising export and import customs clearance, preparing paperwork, and making sure it arrives safely at its destination.

What are examples of industries that need a freight forwarder?

Any company that exports or imports goods on a regular basis can benefit from the services of an experienced freight forwarder. This includes industries such as manufacturing, retail, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and more.

What is the difference between a freight forwarder and a shipper?

A freight forwarder is a company that helps coordinate and manage the transportation of goods from one place to another. A shipper, on the other hand, is a company or individual that contracts with a carrier (shipment provider) to transport their goods.

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