Global supply chain logistics are more complex than ever, especially since competition is fierce and profit margins are slim. 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 global 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.
Different international freight forwarders offer varying services and experiences, and some may be stronger or better qualified in specific regions than others. For example, if you’re working with Asian factories for import or export, you need a freight forwarder specializing 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 process can include order fulfillment, consolidating items, managing customs brokerage, handling documentation following 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 is like an intermediary between customers and individual carriers. This role is crucial 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 worldwide depending on each country’s primary modes of transportation and their role in international trade. However, many use a combination of rail and truck routes to get the goods to the next airport or seaport. 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 potential during transit, including rerouting them if necessary.
Freight brokers only handle transportation within a specific country, meaning they are helpful up to a certain point but can’t assist in case of a customs issue or if a delay in international shipping occurs.
In other words, a freight forwarder is the best option for companies who want the most peace of mind possible for their order because they can help you until the delivery of your shipment is complete.
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 become more complicated as your business grows. These issues are further exacerbated if you experience problems with an individual supplier, an international crisis, or a weather or political 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 transportation cost savings in the future by reducing supply chain disruptions.
For example, at Asiana USA, our freight experts 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
The efficiency of an international shipment supply chain depends mainly on 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 knowledge and expertise to ensure that your shipments comply with the U.S. Custom and Border Protection reasonable care compliance requirements.
The freight forwarder’s skillset saves you significant amounts of time and money because they ensure your shipments have the correct classifications for you and do not violate laws and regulations (e.g., anti-dumping statutes, 201 sanctions, licensing violations, etc.)
Supply Chain Visibility & Information Management
A variety of shipping modes are available to move your goods across a global network. The more freight shipments you have in progress, the more challenging it can be to track each shipment’s specific location and ETA.
Since shipment visibility significantly 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 efficiently, 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 Incoterms, a set of codes developed by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and trusted by the worldwide freight industry.
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.
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 because they must follow all applicable hazmat shipping regulations, both international and domestic.
For example, federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) each have their own hazardous materials or dangerous goods regulations. Asiana USA can help you handle this and other specialized needs that arise.
What are the Different Types of Freight?
The main freight modes are rail freight, ocean freight, air freight, and ground freight (by truck). Each transportation method has its own array of characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Becoming familiar with them is necessary to pick the best one for your route and budget.
Different freight rates are available depending on the quantity of cargo you are sending. Less than Container Load (LCL) rates are great if you don’t have an entire shipping container worth of goods to ship or need to send small quantities of goods frequently. However, LCL rates 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 or have enough to fill at least one container. For example, when shipping by ocean, international ocean freight forwarders can use their relationships with carriers to find a rate that works best for the products you’re shipping, giving you peace of mind and confidence.
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 a situation without a forwarder at your disposal.
What May Happen if You Don’t Use a Freight Forwarder
When you try to handle international logistics entirely 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 shipping, including getting the shipment to the origin port, arranging for storage as needed, and getting it through customs and to the consignee’s door.
In this instance, the responsibility is on the freight forwarder agent for the entire process, eliminating any shipping stress and 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 primary import process, then leave the goods for you to pick up at a warehouse. This option is ideal for large companies who have the logistics infrastructure necessary to move items once they arrive at a port in the US.
Meet Your International Logistics Needs With Asiana USA
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 new supplier opportunities with our logistics solutions, knowledge, experience, and exceptional customer service. Contact us today for a freight quote or more information on our supply chain services.