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NDTO News Article

Using Freight Forwarders for Exports

Transportation of goods is essential for many companies, but even more so when those goods travel internationally. There is a whole slew of logistics, paperwork, methods of transport, and procedures to be carried out when getting goods ready for import or export. This is where a freight forwarding or a freight management company can play a pivotal role. There are variations between the two types of forwarders, and depending on your business needs, both can be a reliable asset to have when shipping via ocean, air, or railway.

Freight forwarders specialize in arranging the movement and storage of goods from one business to another. They are middle-man experts who take on the challenges of arranging goods for transport (especially internationally). Using their vast networks of contacts, they can often negotiate lower rates for shipping and have ample experience for when things go awry. To be clear, freight forwarders do not actually move goods. They are the logistical support to facilitate the movement of goods. Companies that offer freight forwarding will typically set up shipment, book cargo space, track cargo, warehousing, and prepare shipping documents and required paperwork. They may also assist with customs clearance, insurance, and storage.  Freight forwarders can often ship under their own bills of lading, and they may even have agents in the destination to handle additional logistics on the ground, such as parcel or document delivery. There is a wide variety of services offered across these companies, so be sure to ask what exactly they can provide.

Freight management companies have a more robust approach.  They are often referred to as third-party logistics (3PL) service providers and are basically a way for a company to outsource the shipping and logistics arm of their business when they prefer to focus on other priorities in-house. Along with all of the benefits of a freight forwarding firm, the  3PL can take on all of the company’s supply chain management, packaging, storage, national and international regulatory details, distribution services, parcel deliveries, and shipping insurance. The freight management company handles all aspects of a company’s shipping and logistics from start to finish.

When selecting a forwarding or managing company, be sure to identify your needs and clarify exactly who is taking care of what. There are many regulatory hurdles when it comes to transporting unique goods. It can be beneficial to hire a forwarding company that works specifically with that type of cargo or strictly regulated goods like alcohol, batteries, or perishables. Also, confirm who will be in charge if things do not go as planned. Many forwarding companies do not take responsibility for shipping delays as these are often due to uncontrollable factors such as weather or port delays. But, keep in mind the expertise of the forwarding companies is invaluable, as they deal with the hurdles of shipping internationally on a regular basis. The forwarder may be able to identify a resolution quickly to keep the goods moving. It is good practice to maintain a positive relationship with the forwarders.

Both freight forwarders and 3PL’s have a vast network of contacts and are experts at negotiation rates, booking cargo space, and logistical strategies to simplify the process. Freight forwarders can be hired for special projects or unique shipping needs such as cold supply chains or hazardous materials. They are often used in tandem with a company that is familiar with shipping and logistics but has some special needs. They are also a great resource for a company not yet comfortable with international shipping. Freight management companies are often engaged for a holistic approach to shipping overseas.

Whichever route you choose to take with a freight forwarder or 3PL, make sure you are providing as much detail as possible, and be sure to ask what other services are available. For assistance with finding a freight forwarder to fit your needs, reach out to the North Dakota Trade Office team for more information at