A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution. Forwarders contract with a carrier to move the goods. A forwarder does not move the goods but acts as an expert in the logistics network. A forwarder contracts with carriers to move cargo ranging from raw agricultural products to manufactured goods. Freight can be booked on a variety of shipping providers, including ships, airplanes, trucks, and railroads. It is not unusual for a single shipment to move on multiple carrier types. International freight forwarders typically handle international shipments. International freight forwarders have additional expertise in preparing and processing customs and other documentation and performing activities pertaining to international shipments.
Information typically reviewed by a freight forwarder includes the commercial invoice, shipper’s export declaration, bill of lading and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, and/or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment.
The FIATA shorthand description of the freight forwarder as the ‘Architect of Transport’ illustrates the commercial position of the forwarder relative to his client. In Europe, some forwarders specialize in ‘niche’ areas such as rail-freight, and collection and deliveries around a large port.
Lloyd’s Loading List is the freight forwarding industry’s journal of record, first published 160 years ago as a UK export directory. Today it provides details of forwarders, NVOCCs and shipping lines/agents who serve over 10,000 ports globally.
Some forwarders handle domestic shipments only.
One of the earliest freight forwarders was Thomas Meadows and Company Limited of London, England, established in 1836. According to “Understanding the Freight Business,” written and published by the executive staff of Thomas Meadows and Company in 1972, the advent of reliable rail transport and steamships created demand for the fledgling freight forwarding industry. Trade developed between Europe and North America, creating additional demand. The first international freight forwarders were innkeepers in London who held and re-forwarded the personal effects of their hotel guests.
The original function of the forwarder was to arrange for carriage by contracting with various carriers. Forwarder responsibilities included advice on documentation and customs requirements in the country of destination. His correspondent agent overseas looked after his customers’ goods and kept him informed about matters that would affect movement of goods.
In modern times the forwarder accepts the same responsibilities. It operates either as a domestic US carrier or otherwise with a corresponding agent overseas or with his own branch-office. In a single transaction, the forwarder may be acting as a carrier (principal) or as an agent for his customer or both.
International freight forwarders, NVOCCs and customs brokers often charge for transferring documents to another transportation company at destination. This fee is a part of the ocean freight charges, being paid by the importer at the port of discharge in the International Commercial Term (incoterm) FOB (free on board), and by the exporter at the origin in the incoterms CFR (cost and freight) and CIF (cost, insurance and freight). This fee is separate from documentation fees charged by carriers and NVOCCs as part of the freight charges on a bill of lading and is separate from other fees for document preparation or for release of cargo. Some companies call this an administration fee, document fee, document transfer fee, but it exists in some form in most destinations and is well known to most shippers. Steamship carriers do not have this fee.
Originally posted on July 1, 2015 @ 11:12 am