The freight forwarder or forwarding agent is an indispensable member of the international trade and transport community; the freight forwarder arranges for the international shipment of merchandise. Like travel agents – but dealing with cargo rather than passengers – freight forwarder use their knowledge of varying freight rates to offer the shipper the bet ―package deal‖.
In addition to booking freight, freight forwarders may also handle export and customs documentation, insurance and port and terminal charges. Small exporters often consult with their freight forwarders before quoting a Price in a tender for a particular international transaction.
The terms ―freight forwarder‖ and ―forwarding agent‖ are generic terms encompassing a variety of specialized functions, within the profession. Some forwarders offer a wide range of these functions, whereas others restrict themselves to a single speciality or particular geographical coverage. These various functions are summarized below. In addition, it is important for traders to understand that forwarders may act as either agents or principals, with differing legal consequences.