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Global supply chain logistics are more complex than ever, especially since competition is fierce and profit margins are thin. Cargo costs fluctuate regularly, and even import regulation and tariff changes can catch you by surprise if you’re busy handling the other aspects of your business.

International freight forwarders specialize in facilitating international commerce. They can handle intermodal transportation needs for many businesses at once, and their experience and knowledge can make them powerful assets for your business.

Not all international freight forwarders have the same experience, however, and some are stronger in some regions than others. For example, if you’re working with Asian factories for import or export, you need a freight forwarder that specializes in Pacific routes and is familiar with local ports.

What is Freight Forwarding?

Freight forwarding is when one company takes responsibility for most or all the shipping-related steps in the logistics process on behalf of a client. This can include order fulfillment, consolidating items, managing customs brokerage, handling documentation in accordance with shipping regulations, and more.

The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) shorthand description of the freight forwarder role is an “Architect of Transport” that pieces together an ideal route and combination of providers to get goods to you as safely as possible. You can also think of freight forwarders as travel agents for your goods, helping you find shippers and coordinating their delivery to you.

Freight forwarders do not physically take possession of goods. The commercial position of the forwarder relative to the supplier and recipient is more like an intermediary between customers and individual carriers. This role is very important when dealing with the complex combination of local and international transportation routes between a supplier, the ports, and the recipient’s warehouse or fulfillment center.

Freight forwarding looks different around the world depending on each country’s main modes of transportation and their role in international trade. However, many use a combination of rail and truck routes to get the goods to an air or sea port. With many years of experience, freight forwarders can choose a route that minimizes the risk of delays and gets goods to their destination without damage.

Freight Forwarders vs. Freight Brokers

Freight forwarders manage international logistics from door to door, taking care of the export and import documents. They streamline the entire process and handle any issues that arise while goods are in transit, including rerouting them if necessary.

Freight brokers only handle transportation within a specific country. This means they are helpful up to a certain point but can’t assist if a customs issue arises or a delay in international shipping occurs. A freight forwarder is the best option for companies who want the most peace of mind possible for their order.

Freight brokers only handle transportation within a specific country. This means they are helpful up to a certain point but can’t assist if a customs issue arises or a delay in international shipping occurs. A freight forwarder is the best option for companies who want the most peace of mind possible for their order.

Why You Should Work With a Forwarder

Even if you have a staff person who can dedicate their time to freight logistics, their job will only grow more difficult as your business grows. This is especially true if there’s a problem with an individual supplier, an international crisis, or a weather emergency that disrupts shipping.

The additional expertise of a freight forwarding company can help with customs clearance and other potential obstacles to global trade. Even if you’ve dealt with these obstacles on your own before, they change regularly.

Limit Supply Chain Disruptions

Adding the increased flexibility and expertise of a freight forwarder to your supply chain can result in significant cost savings in the future by reducing supply chain disruptions. For example, at Asiana USA, we ensure your goods are correctly valued and are familiar with the First Sale Rule to help you save money on the landed cost of imported merchandise and reduce custom fees.

Guaranteed Trade Compliance

Supply chain efficiency for international shipments relies upon trade agreements, global trade regulations, and tariff classifications. Large multinational companies may have a trade management team to ensure that every shipment is compliant; however, this is not often financially viable for smaller businesses.

A freight forwarder leverages their extensive expertise to ensure that your shipments comply with the U.S. Custom and Border Protection reasonable care compliance requirements. This saves you time and money spent on correct classifications and ensures that you don’t receive fines for violating anti-dumping statutes, 201 sanctions, and licensing requirements.

Supply Chain Visibility & Information Management

When a variety of shipping modes is used to move your goods across a global network, it can be tricky to keep track of where shipments are and when they will reach you. Since shipment visibility greatly improves the accuracy of your planning, you can control your business’ output and production schedule better.

A freight forwarder helps you keep track of this information more easily, especially if all your shipments are with the same forwarder.

Gain More Control Over the Import/Export Process

Outsourcing shipping logistics to a freight forwarder can give you greater control over the shipping process. Importing and exporting goods depends on a set of codes developed by the International Chamber of Commerce. These Incoterms designate who is responsible for assuming the risk and cost of the shipment. With the right Incoterms, you can reduce your financial responsibility and limit your risk.

Navigating Incoterms can be challenging; Asiana USA can help you decide on the best Incoterms for your shipment, ensuring that you pay the minimum amount of duties and taxes on your goods as possible.

Get the Best Freight Rates

Some freight forwarding companies offer rock-bottom prices for their services. However, they usually have fewer offices or may cover fewer countries.

You can get better service by finding a company that provides stellar supply chain management without compromising your profit margin. At Asiana USA, we use our expertise and vast network of carriers to get you the best shipping rates possible.

Provide Specialized Shipping Support

In some cases, shipments require refrigerated storage, heavy handling equipment, or other specialized support. Your shipments may also need specialized support if they contain hazardous products. They need to follow international shipping regulations as well as domestic regulations from each federal department like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Asiana USA can help you handle this and other specialized needs that arise.

What are the Different Types of Freight?

The main types of freight modes are rail freight, ocean freight, air freight, and trucking. All these types of freight are useful in different scenarios depending on the route and your shipping budget.

There are also different freight rates available depending on the amount of goods you are sending. Less than Container Load (LCL) rates are great if you don’t have a full shipping container worth of goods that need to be sent or if you send small quantities of goods frequently; however, they charge a slight premium due to the labor required to consolidate shipments.

Full Container Load (FCL) rates charge a flat rate for a full container, which works well if you have multiple metric tons of goods to send. Freight forwarders can use their relationships with carriers to find a rate that works best for the products you’re shipping.

What are Your Options for Working With a Freight Forwarding Company?

The easiest way to understand how freight forwarding companies work is to compare it to what shipping all by yourself can look like.

Going it Alone Without a Freight Forwarder

When you try to handle international logistics completely by yourself, you may struggle to find trusted warehouses, carriers, customs brokers, and other services. You may also face challenges with making sure the commercial invoice, bill of lading, and other essential documentation reach its destination.

Your Freight Forwarder Arranges the Entire Shipment

Your freight forwarders’ contract covers door-to-door shipment, including getting the shipment to the origin port, arranging for storage as needed, and getting the shipment through customs and to your door. This places the responsibility on the freight forwarder agent for the entire process, eliminating any shipping stress, allowing you to focus on other core aspects of your business.

Your Freight Forwarder Arranges Only the Overseas Shipment

It’s also possible for your freight forwarder to only handle overseas export logistics and the main import process, then leave the goods for you to pick up at a warehouse. This is a great option for large companies who have the logistics infrastructure necessary to move items once they arrive at a port in the US.

Need a Freight Quote?

Asiana USA is an industry leader specializing in routes between Asia and North America, with offices in the USA, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and China. We have a deep understanding of shipping and the import and export of goods between countries.

We understand our clients have a profit margin to protect and that United States import regulations and tariffs pose a challenge. We can give you a personalized quote for the ocean and air freight that gets your international shipments to you reliably and at a price that fits your budget through either a common carrier or a combination of carriers.

Whether you’re sending several dozen small packages or full containers, we can walk you through our services. Grow your business and seek out new supplier opportunities with our logistics solutions, expert knowledge, and exceptional customer service. Call us today at (855) 500-1808 to learn more.

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