Freight forwarders are international shipping specialists who offer businesses advice, assistance and useful contacts when exporting. Their expertise and knowledge of distributing goods abroad will prove invaluable, and they will often save you time and money.

A forwarder offers the following services:

1. Preparing price quotations

  • Advice on freight costs, consular fees and costs of special documentation
  • Help in preparing the pro-forma invoice

2. Handling and transportation

  • Advice on different methods of shipping
  • Advice on the different types of packing, labelling and containers available
  • Arrange for the packing, labelling, and containerising of your goods at the port
  • Book shipments on vessels and aircraft
  • Arrange for loading and unloading of your shipment at the port
  • Issue delivery orders
  • Arrange for insurance
  • Track shipments
  • Arrange for customs clearance
  • Arrange for warehousing or delivery
  • Prepare documents for collection of payment under the letter of credit

3. Regulations

  • Help you understand the relevant regulations
  • Assist you in obtaining an import licence

4. Documentation

  • Assemble all required documents
  • Prepare export declaration documents
  • Prepare bill of lading
  • Review documentation for accuracy
  • Ensure that goods comply with customs export documentation regulations

Some freight forwarders specialise in arranging shipments to certain countries, while others focus on particular types of products.

Criteria for choosing a freight forwarder:

  • Location of the freight forwarder's office (in relation to your shipping port)
  • Experience in handling products similar to yours
  • Experience in similar modes of transport
  • Experience and knowledge of your export market
  • Credit rating
  • Shipping rates
  • Delivery schedules
  • Insurance provided
  • Recommendations from other companies
  • Membership in professional associations or organisations
  • Fees and additional charges

Source a freight forwarder by:

  • Visiting your local Chambers of Commerce to request a list of forwarders
  • Searching the Yellow Pages
  • Asking an experienced exporter in a similar sector to recommend a forwarder

Your responsibility

Even when using a freight forwarder, it is your company's ultimate responsibility to ensure correct documentation and procedures are adhered to. Export training in procedures and documentation is recommended for staff involved in the exporting process. Contact the Institute of Export for further details.