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Freight Forwarding

A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution. Forwarders contract with a carrier to move the goods. A forwarder does not move the goods but acts as an expert in supply chain management. A forwarder contracts with carriers to move cargo ranging from raw agricultural products to manufactured goods. Freight can be booked on a variety of shipping providers, including ships, airplanes, trucks, and railroads. It is not unusual for a single shipment to move on multiple carrier types. 'International freight forwarders" typically handle international shipments. International freight forwarders have additional expertise in preparing and processing customs and other documentation and performing activities pertaining to international shipments.

Information typically reviewed by a freight forwarder includes the commercial invoice, shipper's export declaration, bill of lading and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, and/or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment. The FIATA shorthand description of the freight forwarder as the 'Architect of Transport' illustrates the commercial position of the forwarder relative to his client. In Europe, some forwarders specialize in 'niche' areas such as rail-freight, and collection and deliveries around a large port.

International ocean freight forwarders arranging for shipments to and from the US must be licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission as Ocean Transportation Intermediaries.[4] An Ocean Transportation Intermediary is either an ocean freight forwarder or a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC). An ocean freight forwarder is an individual or company in the United States that dispatches shipments from the United States via common carriers and books or otherwise arranges space for those shipments on behalf of shippers. Ocean freight forwarders prepare and process documentation and perform related activities pertaining to shipments. An NVOCC is a common carrier that holds itself out to the public to provide ocean transportation, issues its own bills of lading or equivalent documents, but does not operate the vessels that transport cargo. Companies may obtain both licenses and may act in both capacities. The U.S. legal distinction between the two is that a freight forwarder acts as the agent of a principal (typically a shipper or consignee) and the NVOCC is a transportation company (carrier) that is physically responsible for the carriage of goods and acts as its own principal. Companies acting strictly as an Ocean Freight Forwarder typically do not issue their own contract of carriage (bill of lading) and as agent are generally not liable for physical loss or damage to cargo except in cases of errors in judgment or paperwork or fiduciary responsibility. NVOCC's act as ocean freight carrier and issue their own bill of lading and are legally responsible for physical loss or damage in accordance with the terms and conditions of their bill of lading and tariff. Similar to other countries, freight forwarders that handle international air freight frequently obtain accreditation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a cargo agent; however, they must obtain an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) certification from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

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