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Shipping goods internationally is a complicated and multifaceted process. For many businesses that rely on shipping internationally, freight forwarding companies provide a critical service, using their vast network of logistical connections to arrange and plan for goods to be shipped to their destination. By handling the logistics of certain key sections of the shipping process, freight forwarders help companies succeed globally.

While freight forwarding is a common practice among international businesses, the service can be confusing and leave potential customers with numerous questions. Learn how freight forwarders use their knowledge and expertise to help simplify international shipping and logistics.

What is a Freight Forwarder?

A freight forwarder is an intermediary agent that organizes shipments of goods from the manufacturer to a market or customer for a fee. While freight forwarders do not ship or transport the goods themselves, they facilitate operational logistics through their network of contracted freight carriers.

Most freight forwarding companies contract with several carriers to move international freight. These involve various shipping methods, including airplanes, ships, trucks, and trains.

Clients contract freight forwarding companies to eliminate the stress of arranging shipping logistics. Typically, freight forwarding companies offer end-to-end processing, meaning they handle the logistics from the goods’ place of origin to their final destination.

Individual countries regulate the freight forwarding industry. The exporting and importing countries, as well as any countries passed through in transit, will have applicable regulations. For example, Australia’s freight forwarding industry is regulated by Australian agencies, including the Australian Logistics Council. In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), under the direction of the Department of Transportation, regulates freight forwarding.

Your freight forwarder will ensure your shipment complies with regulations and customs enforcement in each country.

What Services Does a Freight Forwarder Offer?

Shipping goods internationally involves several important steps and is a highly individualized process. Depending on time constraints and the inventory’s origin, destination, and nature, freight forwarders may use various shipping methods and related services to ensure the goods arrive safely at their intended destination. Some of these services include:

Air Freight

One of the most common shipping methods involves moving goods via air. Many companies use air freight due to significantly shorter transit times than other freight options.

For example, international shipments up to 150 lbs. can sometimes be delivered within 24 hours using air freight, with most shipments taking no more than a few days. Air freight is also one of the more reliable shipping methods.

While air freight is often used for lighter loads that must be shipped quickly, there are some drawbacks to the shipping method. Air freight is more expensive than most other types of freight and involves several size, weight, and weather restrictions. There are also restrictions about what type of goods you can ship via air.

For example, you cannot ship aerosols or explosive substances by air. As a result, most businesses choose to use sea freight for most shipments.

Sea Freight

Sea freight is the most common shipping method for freight forwarders. It involves shipping goods in shipping containers over the sea. An estimated 90% of all goods are transported using ocean freight.

In many circumstances, sea freight is the least expensive and safest transport method, with air freight often costing five times as much as a similarly-sized sea freight shipment.

Shipping goods using sea freight is usually preferred over air freight when shipping larger quantities and weights of goods. This is because sea freight allows shippers to transport goods as a full container load (FCL) or less container load (LCL), often at a fixed rate. In contrast, air shipments are charged based on the volumetric (dimensional) weight or chargeable weight.

The primary drawback to sea freight is its slow shipping times. Most sea freight shipments will take a few weeks to arrive, while air freight shipments are completed in as little as one or two days. As a result, most time-sensitive shipments are completed using air freight.

Land Freight

Another option for shipping goods is land freight, which involves using trucks (road freight) or rail cars (rail freight) to transport goods. While road freight is relatively inexpensive compared to air shipping, it is much less efficient over longer distances and takes longer for shipments to arrive at their destination. It is also significantly more expensive than sea freight and offers a limited shipment capacity.

Rail freight is a better choice for longer-distance land shipments, with rail shipments capable of holding up to 400 trucks worth of cargo.

Land freight, particularly using trucks, also poses a higher risk of damaging shipped goods. The increased risk of damage associated with land freight is due to the nature of the transportation methods. Road freight involves significantly more turns, bumps, and stops than air and sea freight, which can potentially damage fragile goods.

Similarly, rail freight sometimes involves bumpy railroads, which can disturb and damage goods in transit. Due to these factors, it is typically reserved for domestic freight to transport the goods within its country of origin or destination country.

Land freight is also sometimes used to transport dangerous goods, such as flammable or potentially-explosive items. These products can be dangerous to ship using air freight due to pressure and temperature variance. They can also be shipped by sea but must be labeled as a Class 1 Hazardous Material and packed and stored to reduce the risk of ignition or degradation.

You will also need to heed the packaging and marking requirements set forth by the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.

Domestic Freight

Domestic freight is the shipping of goods within a country. Like international freight, domestic freight involves several potential shipping methods. It may involve air, land, or sea freight, depending on the distance the goods must be shipped.

Domestic transportation of goods is typically the final leg of the shipping process, used when goods have reached their destination and must be shipped within that country to a distribution center or customer’s doorstep. Freight forwarders often use railroads for longer domestic shipments, while shorter shipments are usually completed using road transport.

Beyond these different shipping methods, freight forwarders may also offer:

  • Import customs clearance and export customs clearance
  • Container weighing (Verified Gross Mass)
  • HS code classification
  • Export documentation
  • Quarantine and fumigation services
  • Marine insurance

Benefits of Hiring a Freight Forwarder

Some business owners may be uncomfortable handing over control of vital shipments to a third party. However, freight forwarders can be useful and provide several advantages over handling freight operations in-house.

Asiana USA offers global logistics services to U.S.-based clients, allowing us to leverage our international connections to ship your goods internationally. Some of the biggest benefits of hiring a freight forwarder include:

High-Quality Tracking Systems

Often, the freight forwarder will allow you access to your goods’ real-time tracking information, giving you peace of mind that your shipment is on time and safe. Asiana USA offers total system visibility tracking and tracing, allowing you to check for shipping updates at any time.


Hiring a freight forwarder is often much less expensive than handling all shipping tasks in-house since the forwarding company establishes a special relationship with the companies they contract. These savings are passed on to their customers, cutting costs considerably over the long term compared to using a shipping company.

Get a free quote today to see how much money Asiana USA’s international freight forwarding services can save your operation.

Documentation and Inventory Management

Freight forwarders are highly knowledgeable in regional and national shipping policies, taxation, and regulations. By hiring a freight forwarder, you will not have to waste time and effort understanding these details.

You will also receive detailed and accurate documentation of the entire shipping process, allowing for precise inventory management processes.

The Freight Forwarding Process

Since freight forwarding usually involves shipping goods door-to-door, it is a complicated process that involves several stages. In a typical international freight forwarding shipment, the forwarding company will perform each of these important steps for you:

Export Haulage

This stage involves moving your goods from your warehouse to another warehouse, often owned by or related to the forwarding company.

Goods Received

During this stage, the freight forwarding company will inspect each item to ensure it has arrived safely.

Submitting Documentation

The forwarding company will submit documents (including shipping manifests) to customs enforcement, who must approve shipping out of the country. While the exact documentation needed to complete an international shipment will vary based on the type of goods being shipped and the destination country, you will need to submit a commercial invoice, bill of lading (B/L), certificate of origin, and packing list in most circumstances.

Import Haulage

This process involves shipping the goods and receiving the inventory at the designated location. The destination country will need to sign off on all the goods entering the country, and all documentation will be forwarded to the goods’ destination for handling.

How to Choose the Right Freight Forwarder

While there are many freight forwarding companies worldwide, choosing the right freight forwarder for your needs can be difficult. First, you’ll need to consider your shipping destination. Many forwarding companies specialize in shipping to and from certain countries, so focus on finding a freight forwarding company specializing in shipping to your destination country.

Asiana USA primarily handles international shipments between the United States and Asia and has offices in New York, Los Angeles, China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. This has allowed Asiana USA to develop strong relationships throughout Asia, making them a leading forwarder for shipments involving the continent.

Since different types of products require different shipping methods, it is also vital to ensure your freight forwarder specializes in shipping the types of goods your company needs to move. Asiana USA specializes in shipping several different freight types, including agriculture, footwear and apparel, automobile parts, electronics, consumer goods, and furniture.

The best forwarding companies, like Asiana USA, offer vital services in addition to shipping, like inventory management, shipment tracking, and customs clearance. To ensure you get the best possible rate, request a quote on your shipment with Asiana USA.

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Partner with Asiana USA for Reliable Freight Forwarding

Transporting goods internationally is complicated, but it is an essential component of many supply chain operations. To make the process easier and more efficient, most companies can benefit from freight forwarding services. The supply chain professionals at Asiana USA have the knowledge, connections, and expertise necessary to handle all aspects of your freight forwarding needs.

If you are shipping agricultural products, apparel, auto parts, electronics, consumer goods, or furniture internationally, contact Asiana USA at (855) 500-1808 today to ship your goods safely, quickly, and reliably.

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