Questions to ask a freight forwarder

08 March 2019

The freight industry, especially ocean freight, is complex and you’ll want to be sure that the people you work with are the right ones for your shipping needs.

Choosing the right freight forwarder to trust with your goods is key to streamlining importing and exporting. Get it right by asking these questions before putting your cargo in someone else’s hands.

Are you accredited?

Accreditations aren’t essential to become a freight forwarder, however they are a sign that a freight forwarder takes their responsibilities seriously as accreditations are a benchmark of high standards and professionalism. Here at Allseas we take our responsibility seriously and are proud to partner with the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and the Energy Industries Council (EIC). We’re also a licensed International Air Transport Association (IATA) cargo agent, a regulated agent for Aviation Security and we’re IOS 9001 accredited.

Who is responsible for insuring my goods?

There is always the possibility of something going wrong, especially when a consignment has to travel thousands of miles, having the correct insurance cover is essential to help cover any potential disasters. Asking who is responsible, whether it’s something your chosen freight forwarder does and includes in the upfront cost, or if it’s an add-on service, or if this is something that you must organise yourself. Some freight forwarders will offer freight insurances as an additional service, allowing customers the option of convenient and flexible insurance coverage.

How much experience do you have?

A freight forwarding company can be set up without formal qualifications or certifications, which means that there is a constant influx of new freight forwarding business to choose from. Before choosing a freight forwarder, you must ask yourself, are you happy to trust your cargo to a freight forwarder with little to no experience? As well as checking how long your chosen freight forwarder has been in business, it’s also worth asking how much experience they have that’s relevant to what you want to ship.

Are you able to ship my type of cargo type?

Finding a freight forwarder that specialises in what you would like to ship is always a smart move, however not all freight forwarders will specialise in any specific type of cargo. While most good freight forwarders will be capable of managing shipments of any kind, they will probably have teams of specialists in place to deal with clients in particular sectors. Allseas are award winning specialists in handling Project Cargo, LCL & FCL and Supply Chain Management.

How extensive is your network?

It is important for a freight forwarder to have a reliable and established international network. This helps to facilitate the shipping process for their clients for a more streamlined end-to-end process. The larger the network, the more likely the freight forwarder will be able to meet shippers’ demands and requirements. Don’t forget to ask specifically about the contacts they have in the countries you wish to ship between. Here at Allseas, we have an extensive worldwide network of partners operating within our established S.O.P & KPI systems.

Who is responsible for organising the relevant documentation?

Using a freight forwarder is meant to help reduce the stress and hassle of importing and exporting goods, amongst other things, so it’s important to ensure that your chosen freight forwarder will take care of all the relevant documentation for your shipment on your behalf.

This also ties in with “How much experience do you have?” as an experienced freight forwarder will have the know-how to complete export and import formalities at all main UK ports.

Will I have to pack and prepare my own cargo?

There will be some freight forwarders that will offer packing services, these services may be in-house or outsourced to an external company, other freight forwarders may not, which means it will be up to you to pack the cargo. Choosing a freight forwarder that will provide packing services will make the process easier for you.

If I need to ship by a certain date, or need cargo to arrive by a certain date, what are my best options?

If you have urgent cargo, be sure to let your freight forwarder know immediately so they can plan for it. Getting your cargo onto the first-available sail date may incur higher prices.

What is included in the cost?

Ask your freight forwarder “what is included?” instead of simply asking “how much?”.  A freight forwarder with a strong and extensive network will be able to offer the most cost effective solutions, and benefits such as specialised storage facilities, bonded warehouses, online tracking and quicker Customs clearance which can all add value.


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