Freight Forwarding 101 – Everything You Need to Know About Freight Forwarding

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Freight forwarding is the high-efficiency method of shipping goods from one destination to another by way of various transport carriers, including sea, air, rail and road. A freight forwarder is the go-between representative who acts as an intermediary between a shipper and the shipper’s preferred transportation service carrier.

If you are a small or large business that manufactures products (or an individual with a load larger than what is permitted by standard parcel delivery companies) and you are in need of national or international shipping, it could benefit you greatly to learn more about the advantages of having a freight forwarder working behind you, as opposed to doing it alone. Hiring a forwarder to import and export goods on your behalf can make the process much less daunting and stressful.

Benefits offered by a Professional Freight Forwarding Company

Freight forwarders assist on all levels of the shipping process, from the packing and storing stages, up to and including the intensive customs procedure. While forwarders do not physically move goods themselves, they are experts in the logistics of getting the goods in question from point A to point B, anticipating and avoiding any unnecessary pitfalls along the way.

Here are some of the major benefits offered by a professional freight forwarder:

  • Successful, experienced freight forwarding companies will offer a strong network of business contacts. This will help you to get the best rates for your individual shipping project, and ensure that your goods arrive safely and securely in a timely manner.
  • Freight forwarders maintain a professional level of personal communication and customer service—they not only want your business, they want to maintain the professional relationship in the long-term too. It is in your best interest to maintain an open and honest working relationship. Your forwarder is responsible for handling your precious cargo: make sure that you choose a company you can trust, preferably one with great customer service and an established reputation within the industry.
  • In addition to the basic service of shipping, freight forwarders can assist with other aspects of the process, including: packaging, storage, insurance, inventory management and import/export documentation. Note: additional services may not be included in your original quote, so be sure to inquire. If extras are not required for your first project, it is always good to know for future reference.

Understanding the Shipping Procedure Followed by a Reliable Freight Forwarder

As you might imagine, freight forwarding involves a lot of paperwork, especially when you are shipping goods to and from overseas. If you are shipping for the first time, your freight forwarder will be able to provide you with information regarding all of the relevant documents required for this and subsequent deliveries. These include:

  • Customs declaration / commercial invoice
  • Bill of lading contract
  • Export license
  • Export packing list
  • Certificate of origin statement
  • Inspection certificate
  • Shippers export declaration document

Once you have the proper documentation ready, your forwarder will be able to manage the logistical movements of your shipment.

In order to get a sense of how long it will take to transport your cargo, you should be aware of the key stages of the freight forwarding process:

Step 1: Export haulage—the transfer of goods from its origin to the freight forwarder’s storehouse

Step 2: Export custom clearance—the goods in question obtain clearance to leave its country of origin

Step 3: Origin handling—the unloading and inspection of the goods against its written documentation

Step 4: Import customs clearance—customs paperwork for goods is reviewed by receiving authorities

Step 5: Destination handling—the handling of goods once it arrives at its destination (this includes transfer to any storehouse or depot)

Step 6: Import haulage—the transfer of goods from the storehouse or depot to its ultimate destination

How to Handle the Unexpected?

So now you know the benefits of shipping with a trusted and reliable freight forwarder. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan? What if your business requires greater expertise? Here are some troubleshooting tips to know before you ship:

Not all goods are good to go

All reputable freight forwarding companies follow strict regulations. If you attempt to ship prohibited goods (knowingly or unknowingly), you may find yourself facing heavy fines and/or legal repercussions. While each country has its own list of prohibited import/export items, freight forwarders are generally restricted on:

  • Dangerous goods (flammable, biohazards, biological waste, toxic items)
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs (illegal or pharmaceutical)
  • Foodstuffs
  • Perishable items
  • Weapons

If you legally produce any of the above, chances are you are already aware of the legalities surrounding transport—but always double-check, as international laws may change.

Delays are unavoidable—and inevitable

Freight forwarders are not responsible for shipping delays. Machinery can stall, overheat, breakdown; weather can be brutal and unforgiving; port entrances and/or exits can become choked with traffic and drastically affect schedules. As with any method of goods delivery, these events can spring up—unfortunately, they are not the fault of the forwarding company. Believe your forwarder when they voice their frustration to you: they don’t want your deliveries to take any longer than planned—their reputation, and repeat business, depends on it.

Keep your records current

Prior to handing over your goods to a freight forwarder, it is very important that all documentation and transport paperwork is valid and up-to-date so as to avoid any unforeseen delays. The last thing you, or anyone, wants is to experience a delay at customs due to a missing signature.

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Specialists can be helpful

Whilemost freight forwarders can ship just about anything, some companies are just a little better at handling certain, specialized goods. If your cargo happens to require extra care, it is best to be upfront about it. Finding a freight forwarding company that specializes in exactly what you are looking to ship is crucial. For example, a smaller operation might be able to commandeer a trawler and transport your scrap metal halfway around the world, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the best option. Do a little bit of research to ensure that your goods are in good hands.


In conclusion, freight forwarding is an essential business tool that offers efficiency and safeguards against traditional shipping processes. Establishing a relationship with a freight forwarding company that not only delivers on turnaround, but also recognizes your business needs and expectations is key to shipping success.

If you are planning to import or export goods to and from UAE, then don’t forget that with Qafila, a digital freight forwarder in the UAE, you can do it quickly and in a hassle-free manner all with the power of a click.

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