Firstly, what is a freight forwarder?
A freight forwarder is a company or individual that arranges for goods to be transported from one place to another. They arrange the booking of cargo space on ships, planes, trains and trucks, they coordinate the insurance of the goods and where necessary follow-up insurance claims for accidental damage or lost goods. They oversee all aspects of the transportation of the cargo, from packing and loading into the carrier, to consular and customs documentation.
Whilst this sounds pretty straightforward, there’s actually a lot going on behind the scenes to make sure that your product is delivered safely to its destination.
In addition to freight forwarders there are also customs brokers. Customs brokers typically deal with the import and export side of international deliveries, including commodity codes, and EORI requirements – while freight forwarders are specialists in the logistics.
However, many freight forwarders such as TPS Global, can also act as customs brokers, and pick up the end to end process of moving your goods including both logistics and customs requirements.
What added value does a forwarder bring?
Freight forwarders maintain solid relationships with global agents and pass the benefits on to you. Things such as efficiency, speed, and service are top priorities for all parties involved.
If you’re new to importing to the UK, or you just want the process to be as simple as possible, you might benefit from using a freight forwarder.
Here are some of the benefits a freight forwarding partner can bring –
- Cost savings – freight forwarders work with high volumes over the long term with carriers, so are able to negotiate better or lower terms. Forwarders are also working with multiple clients and can group shipments together for cost savings.
- Consistent communication – as a logistics service provider, your forwarder sends you detailed quotes and regular status updates. They’ll let you know which documents you’ll need to provide and when. They’ll quickly alert you of any problem, and just as quickly, work to resolve it. You’ll only need to deal with one person to arrange your shipment, rather than several different haulage and freight companies.
- Relationships with global agents – freight forwarding takes a lot of coordinating. Airlines, ocean carriers, and especially customs agents, require correct, complete, and timely paperwork—and the rules and requirements are always changing. Experienced freight forwarders have established relationships with carriers, brokers, and border agencies. As their client, you benefit from longstanding rapport and working relationships.
- Simplicity – freedom from multiple contracts, in today’s market, contracts are necessary for reliability and to limit liability. When moving cargo across the country or the globe, you could need to work with an air freight company, a sea freight company, and a road freight company. Instead of signing three different contracts with three different companies, a freight forwarder will handle dealing with the individual companies and you only have one contract with the forwarder.
- Peace of mind – rather than deal with several moving parts yourself—which can often include customs brokerage as well as transportation—hiring an experienced forwarder takes all the tedious decisions and details out of your hands. An experienced forwarder takes on the tasks of vetting carriers, comparing prices, and negotiating services. You’ll have one vendor and one point of contact and can relax knowing your goods are in safe hands.
- Flexibility and problem solving – freight forwarders are valuable when it comes to meeting tight deadlines and dealing with unforeseen obstacles. They have the resources to handle rerouted shipments or carrier delays. Ports can close suddenly due to major storms or government situations, causing shipments to be diverted. Solving this is all in a days a work for a freight forwarder.
- Additional services – utilising a forwarder’s warehouse or distribution centre to store goods can give you more control over your inventory, putting you an ideal position to offer faster shipping and make you more competitive in your industry. [LINK TO WAREHOUSING]
- Door to Door delivery – some freight forwarders such as TPS Global Logistics, handle the complete journey of your goods from manufacturer to consumer. Final mile delivery as it’s known, can include unpacking and assembling the products at the final destination, either residential or commercial properties.
A freight forwarder is like the middle man of shipping, they do the hard work and organisation so you don’t have to. Acting as the intermediary or broker between you and the shipping company, airline, rail or road haulage company. A freight forwarder will save you time and money, especially if you’re exporting large volumes of goods or high value items by sea or air freight.
Forwarders have all the contacts and knowledge you require to successfully import and export, they know how to help save you money and avoid problems. They also provide a single point of contact to help talk you through the process.
Using logistics professionals takes the stress out of international shipping.
For more information on freight forwarders and advice for UK businesses exporting goods visit the Government Department for International Trade
For many entrepreneurs starting out in importing, using a freight forwarder can prove a helpful investment.
Do I need to use a freight forwarder?
It is not compulsory to use a freight forwarder when you’re moving a shipment, you can go directly to a carrier rather than work with a freight forwarder.
If you do decide to organise your own forwarding for UK importing, these are the steps you need to cover:
- Arranging transport from the origin – such as your supplier’s factory or warehouse – to the port or airport for shipment
- Preparing documents, licenses and all relevant paperwork for export at the point of origin
- Negotiating, booking and loading cargo for sea or air freight
- Setting up insurance and tracking delivery as needed
- Preparing documents, licenses and all relevant paperwork for UK customs authorities
- Arranging haulage and delivery to your agreed location in the UK
Are there any disadvantages to using a freight forwarder?
There can be some downsides to choosing a freight forwarder. You do need to bear in mind the following:
- Using a freight forwarder can increase the overall costs of your shipment
- Using a freight forwarder means you don’t have control over the details of your shipment – you’ll be leaving all the details to a third party and need to trust them
- If you have the connections needed to arrange and negotiate your own shipment and haulage locally, you might be able to get better deals keeping the process in-house
- If you use a large forwarding company, for a relatively small shipment, your needs might not be prioritised
- Not all freight forwarders cover every market – and not all markets are well regulated. You’d need to check the credentials of your chosen supplier to make sure they can actually deliver what they say they can
How much does it cost to use a freight forwarder?
In most cases, you’ll agree a quote with your freight forwarder for the entire end to end process of moving your shipment from its origin to your store or warehouse. The costs for this are made up of multiple elements.
It’s crucial you get an itemised quote from your freight forwarder, so you can see what is – and isn’t – covered.
In additional to arranging the transportation of your shipment. Many freight forwarders will also deal with all customs clearance paperwork.
It’s important to know exactly what services your chosen provider can offer. You can then compare quotes, before signing a contract with your chosen provider.
An itemised quote and contract typically lists charges for things like these:
- Transport costs – often covering haulage to a port or airport at the supplier location, air or sea freight costs, and local transport in the UK to get to your delivery point. Costs might be calculated using cargo weight or volume – or both
- Product specific costs – very heavy items might need a crane for loading, perishable items might require refrigerated transport, or hazardous items could mean additional precautions and licenses are needed
- Palletisation or packing. Depending on how you’re shipping your items, they might need to be put on pallets to be loaded into a container, or packed for air freight
- Storage if needed before and after shipping
- Extra fees for specific routes, such as the Panama Canal, for peak delivery times, or because of the costs incurred when using specific ports
- Documentation costs, including export and import paperwork
- Insurance and surcharges to cover things like fluctuations in the price of fuel, or the currency exchange rates
- Administration or handling fees – payable to the freight forwarder specifically, and likely to be in the region of £15-35 for simple consignments £50-70 for more involved work.
Is a freight forwarder right for me?
If you’re new to importing, or working with a supplier in an area where you’re not well connected, or simply want to make the import process go as smoothly as possible, using a freight forwarder is a good idea.
As you become more familiar with the export and import processes from your suppliers, and if you can build up a network of local haulage companies, and sea or air freight providers, you might become more confident about going it alone.
However using a freight forwarding agency can take a load off your mind, in the knowledge that a specialist has picked up the haulage, shipping and even customs processes for your goods. You can then get back to growing your business, whilst your shipment is in good hands.
Another benefit of a freight forwarder is that they can offer you options, from advising you on the best mode of transport, to using their extensive knowledge and experience to ensure everything runs smoothly. With a freight forwarder there is always a back-up plan, if your shipment misses the boat, or if there are problems due to adverse weather or port/airport closures.
A freight forwarder will find alternatives and not just cancel the job.
TPS Global Logistics are a company of experienced freight forwarders, our awarding winning logistics services include twice winners of the Queen’s Award winners for International Trade.
As an independent family run business we can guarantee our customer service. There are real people here to help with any questions you may have, no automated services, your TPS account manager will keep you updated every step of the way and can help with anything you may need to know.