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What Does a Freight Forwarder Do and Do You Need One?

As simple and to the point as they may sound, these are two great questions to ask and ones we are frequently confronted with – particularly by UK companies who’ve never used the services of a freight forwarder before.

Often, firms have reached a stage in their business development where the on-going services of an experienced freight forwarder have become an absolute necessity. For others, it might be panic stations because of a sudden requirement to move items from one country to another or across continents. This happens a lot!

So the short answers posed in the headline are as follows: firstly, a company that’ll forward freight for you (we’ll flesh out this response below)) and, secondly, yes you do - especially if you are in the business of imports and exports, or even if you need to transport cargo or important documentation once in a while.  

The alternatives aren’t that straightforward.  Going it alone and doing DIY freighting is a risky strategy that could cause irrevocable damage to your Company.   This is a specialist area you simply can’t afford to play around with.  For every successful importer and exporter, the likelihood is there’s a reliable freight forwarder behind them.   

In the same way you wouldn’t choose a plumber to re-wire a house, or an electrician to act as your accountant, in the highly competitive world of imports and exports, there’s little room for error. Time is most definitely money – you simply can’t afford to have precious cargo sitting forlornly on a dockside or in an airport warehouse for weeks or months on end because the paperwork’s up the pictures.     

The procedures, protocols and regulations that relate to international freighting can be mind-boggling. So much so, that the term ‘red tape’ could have been invented solely for our industry!

The objective is to let someone who knows the ins and outs of logistics take care of everything on your behalf. That’s precisely what a reputable freight forwarder will do for you – take the weight, so to speak. 

So as freight forwarders, what do we actually do?

In a nutshell, a freight forwarding company will oversee the worldwide movement of cargo, packing, crating, documentation and customs clearance for both imports and exports. They’ll be your interface with the various transport operators charged with moving your freight – whether it be by ship, plane, truck or train.   

Freight forwarding services should also include looking after storage and warehousing, booking space with cargo carriers, negotiating freight charges, organising freight consolidation (that’s where the forwarder pulls together several smaller shipments to be assembled and transported together, resulting in more economic freight rates and better security), the ability to track online the status of all loads and movements during transit, plus any associated insurance and, last but not least, in the event of mishap, being responsible for filing any insurance claims.  

There’s an awful lot that goes into bringing all these strands together and, although it might not always be plain sailing to do so, (pardon the pun) these are all services that the bona fide freight forwarder will perform on your behalf.

Drawing on existing relationships with an assorted collection of trucking companies, air freight handlers, shipping operators and rail firms, the freight forwarder is there to negotiate the most cost effective, reliable and time efficient method to get your goods to their intended destination.

Basically, that means doing everything, save physically moving the freight for you.

Left to their own devices, how many companies could realistically cope without the invaluable interface of an experienced freight forwarder used to dealing with global logistics and conversant with customs procedures, not just in the UK and Europe but worldwide?

In some industries, the role of intermediaries and agents is rightly called into question - football being one such example.  In the case of freight and logistics, however, freight forwarders are worth their weight in gold. International transportation – especially involving valuable, priceless merchandise - should never be left to chance. 

What benefits will a reputable freight forwarder bring to my business?

Once the physical movement of goods is under way – whether by road, sea, air or rail – things should be relatively straightforward.

It’s often the bit before departure and upon arrival that can cause the biggest problems.  The devil is in the detail! The role of your freight forwarder is to take the lead, to ensure all the relevant ancillary services are taken care of, such as checking that all necessary export and customs documentation is valid and complies with local regulations, bills of lading are present (that’s acknowledging receipt of cargo and title to it) and that any international forward payments have been made. In other words, to provide a seamless exporting service that would have otherwise been difficult to negotiate.

If they are worth their salt, freight forwarders will have a great network of local shipping agents at the port of entry, will be your eyes and ears on the ground, dealing with all local paperwork and customs and ensuring that any onward transportation of goods to a factory or warehouse is effectively coordinated.  

Is using a Freight Forwarder Cost Effective? Absolutely. Firstly, a reputable one should be able to negotiate the best transportation discounts on your behalf and, secondly their charges for services provided should be modest in proportion. A case of your money well spent.

If you need a Freight Forwarder – you’ve just found one!

If you are looking for a reputable freight forwarder with a few miles on the clock, you’re in luck!  

At The Efficient Freight Company, we have a team that’s been in the industry since the seventies, during which time we’ve worked hand-in-hand, as trusted partners, for companies of all shapes and sizes, across a myriad of industries throughout the UK and overseas.  We’ll guarantee great customer service as well - whether you are a first timer or a seasoned campaigner. 

So if you are in the important export business, or just starting out, we’re here to help. Your goods really shouldn’t leave home without us!

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