There are different types of freight forwarders, depending on the activities they carry out and also the title they have that allows them to be accredited in certain Official Registers, which is obligatory to carry out certain activities. From the highest to the lowest level of services, the following types of operators and agents can be distinguished as freight forwarders:
- Consolidators/NVOCC (Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers)
This function involves grouping or assembling diverse shipments from various customers so as to make up full container loads, thus obtaining lower freight rates. Some consolidators offer regular shipments on seagoing vessels that they do not own; these are referred to as NVOCCs.
- Multimodal (or intermodal) transport operators (MTO´S)
A multimodal transport operator offers ―one-stop shopping‖ for traders. This enables traders to completely outsource or sub-contract their export logistics to a single service provider. Multimodal transport operators typically offer ―door-to-door‖ transport, with coverage of all related functions such as insurance, customs, warehousing, etc.
- Customs brokers
These parties act as the agents of exporters and importers in order to process customs declarations and other formalities and pay duties and taxes. Because they may be liable for very large payments of duties or fines, customs brokers are usually bonded by banks or insurance companies. Traders should take care to give precise directions and limits to customs brokers to
avoid incurring liability in the event that an unexpectedly high tariff or fine makes it uneconomical to process a particular shipment.
- Port (sea port, airport or cargo terminal) agent
This agent represents the shipper at the point where the goods are transferred from one transport mode (typically, from a truck or lorry) to another (as to a seagoing vessel or airplane).
- Air freight agent (air waybill agent)
These agents process shipments for airlines and may have the authority to issue air waybills. Frequently, the air freight agent also handles custom clearance.
- Road haulage brokers
Road transport is characterized in many countries by the proliferation of small service providers. Road haulage brokers acts as intermediaries between road carriers and shippers and are usually paid by commission.
- Loading brokers
These brokers act as the agents of ship owners to obtain and process cargo shipments. Commonly, a freight forwarder will represent the shipper while a loading broker represents the ship owner, so that there are two intermediaries between the customer