As of 2020, the U.S. has over 15,264 Freight Forwarding Brokerages & Agencies. This makes the choice of the best freight forwarder an uphill task for shippers.
International cargo shipping is much more than just putting goods on a container and dropping them at the next port. The entire affair is overly complicated, and even more complicated if you’re exporting goods in bulk for your business. Luckily, freight forwarders come into play to help you navigate the convoluted world of international cargo shipping and get your products to you in time.
However, even though a freight forwarder can handle most of your shipping logistics, they don’t do everything. As such, it’s important to firmly understand what you’re getting into when you settle for freight forwarding services, including what they do and what they don’t.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at who freight forwarders are, what they do, and how you pick the best from the bunch.
What Is Freight Forwarding?
The name “freight forwarding” pretty much says all there is to freight forwarding. Freight forwarding is a service where a third party company forwards your freight to you.
Freight forwarders are the link between you and the transportation services that get your cargo to you. Unlike what most people think, freight forwarders deal with other transportation services apart from ocean freight. They also handle rail services, air shipping, and land transportation.
Freight forwarders handle most aspects of shipping logistics. Some of their services include:-
- Documentation and regulation compliance
- Warehousing and other special storage services
- Ocean and air freight transportation
- Cargo insurance
- Shipping consolidation
These are just a few of the services freight forwarders offer to their clients. However much freight forwarders do, they don’t handle everything to do with shipping. You still have to liaise with the shipping company to streamline other aspects of the product shipping.
How to Pick the Best Freight Forwarder
Finding a freight forwarder isn’t the most difficult thing to do. A simple Google search will expose you to hundreds of freight forwarders. The tricky part is finding the best one for the job, and that’s where most individuals fail.
Of course, you can just choose to settle for any freight forwarder and save yourself some time, but you’ll likely regret the decision. Subpar freight forwarders don’t just have poor customer service; they can also delay your shipment and cost your company a bundle.
So if you’re scouting for freight forwarders, here’s how you find the best one:-
Certification Is Everything
You most certainly don’t want to leave your expensive batch of goods in the hand of unscrupulous people. However, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you settle for a freight forwarder without proper certification.
So before you sign any paper, first ask to see some credentials. Find out whether their workers are competent enough for the job. If they have proper certification, ask for a few references to give you a good picture of the company you’re dealing with.
When a company is hesitant about presenting their documents and other credentials, that’s a definite red flag. You’re better off looking for another freight forwarder.
You should never overlook experience when looking for a freight forwarding company. In most cases, the experience of a freight forwarder goes hand in hand with the quality of service. So the more the experience, the better their services will be.
As mentioned above, international cargo shipping is a very complex trade. Plus, aside from the complexities, there are plenty of unexpected events that may interfere with the movement of freight. Such events include worker strikes, port shutdowns, issues with customs, and the likes.
A company with adequate experience knows how to handle these events so that they don’t disrupt the movement of goods. Such companies act quickly to find alternative means to get your goods to you, possibly using other routes or other modes of transport. If the disruption is unavoidable, they’ll arrange for proper storage so that you don’t incur massive losses should your goods be perishable.
Not to dismiss the newer freight forwarding companies, but if you don’t want to risk your freight, then you should leave it to experienced freight forwarders.
Versatility of Services
Business needs are not the same across the board, and so are shipping needs. For instance, you can’t compare automobile shipping with food shipping. Though both involve moving goods from one region to another, the shipping requirements are very different.
Versatility, in this case, means the ability of a freight forwarding company to handle shipments from a wide range of businesses. You’re better off with a company that can handle different types of shipping requirements. That’s because it means the company can handle a variety of tasks including but not limited to:
- Inventory management
- Customs handling
Companies that have dealt with many types of businesses are likely to have a large variety of services in their repertoire. To get the most out of your freight forwarder, find one that’s industry diverse.
You need a freight forwarding service that’s already established itself in the international cargo shipping industry. That means the freight forwarder must have a robust network of suppliers, shipping companies, and agents across the world to be worth your consideration.
A freight forwarding company with a solid network can comfortably handle your freight from the moment they get on the transporting vessel to when it gets to you. Shipping logistics are difficult to handle without a good network of all the involved entities. So if you want to avoid delays or other unexpected charges, then choose a freight forwarder with a vast network.
Only Settle for the Best
The country isn’t short of freight forwarding companies, but you only need the best freight forwarder to handle your shipping. Hopefully, you are now in a better position to choose a freight forwarder to do your bidding. It’s also a good idea to explore all your options before you settle for a company.
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