It’s widely recognised that international trade, especially on a larger scale, is incredibly complex. Understanding duties required paperwork and restrictions per country takes enough energy, let alone compensating for an ever-changing market too. At Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services, we have over 25 years of experience and a team of dedicated and skilled individuals who work passionately with each and every client. We’re here to help you better understand the logistics behind this complex system and make it work to your advantage. In today’s guide, we’re going through some of our more frequently asked questions to give you a clearer understanding of the process in its entirety.

What Is a Freight Forwarder?

One of the most common questions we get asked, a freight forwarder is an agent who helps you move shipments internationally. They are a professional body with experience and contacts within the international trade market who assist you in sourcing paperwork, organising fee payments and ensuring cargo reaches its end destination safely. They sit separately from your business but work within your logistics to help you achieve delivery goals and high customer service. A freight forwarder will negotiate, book, set up insurance, arrange haulage and reduce the risk of you being tapped with fees or fines.

What Is the Difference Between a Freight Forwarder and a Broker?

A freight forwarder tends to have contacts or ownership of vehicles that can bring your goods from your warehouse to their own holding location before shipment. A freight broker is there to pair customers with logistic companies that sell freight services. They are an independent contact that forms part of a multiple logistic setups. Freight forwarders offer more services alongside just finding a carrier to take your goods to the destination country. However, the roles are somewhat interchangeable and it is down to personal preference who you choose to work with.

How Much Does Freight Forwarding Cost?

As with all changeable services, freight forwarding costs will vary from business to business. The exact cost depends on how involved you need the agent to be. If they are in control of organising the entire process, from initial haulage through to delivery, the fees will be higher than if they simply help you to organise paperwork. Equally, the fees will depend on how often you use their services, how complex the logistics are and the needs of each cargo movement. It is difficult to put an exact price on our services, however, we do have a ‘request a quote’ service that can help you to budget.

Do I Need a Freight Forwarder?

As we mentioned above, international trade is challenging and complex. And, whether you’re a business that has long been shipping their goods internationally or if you’re just starting off, it’s easy to make mistakes. A freight forwarder brings a wealth of experience and contacts within the market. This helps you to get the best deal and to organise a smooth-running logistical process. They help you to get paperwork in order and to ensure that your goods won’t be hit by delays during shipment. While international trade is certainly something that can be handled in-house, it pays to have an understanding of the benefits of looking externally.

How Do I Choose the Right Freight Forwarder?

Choosing a freight forwarding agent is a vital consideration and should be backed with plenty of research. We’ve written a blog post with 5 questions to ask your freight forwarding company which gives you a better understanding of what to look for. We recommend finding out exactly what services your options offer. What additional fees may you face if there are additional services you need? Do they have a specialism in the area you need to ship to? Are they equipped to offer a full package or will you need to plan for additional suppliers to get your goods to the end destination? There are many things to understand and questions, but once you find a good agent, you’ll have the backing of a well-experienced professional as part of your team.

Can I Ship a Container Without a Freight Forwarder?

Absolutely. As we mentioned above, it’s possible to organise international freight in-house. However, you’ll need to make sure you do in-depth research. Also, working with a freight forwarder gives you access to better rates and shipping allocations that could help to speed up your delivery times. If you choose to do this in house, you will have to contact shipping lines directly while also ensuring you have all documentation on hand.

What Documents Do I Need for International Shipments?

The exact requirements will depend on the destination country and the goods you’re shipping. However, general shipping documents include a Bill of Lading, Insurance Certificate, Commercial Invoice and Shipper’s Letter of Instruction. Information for all of these can be found online or a freight forwarder can help to ensure all relevant information is included. These documents are vital and will cause delays to your shipment if they’re found to be filled in incorrectly or not available to the customs agent.

Do I Need Freight Forwarding Insurance?

If you choose to work with a freight forwarder, the agent will have public liability insurance. However, you need to check to what extent this insurance covers your shipments and the goods involved. Freight Forwarding insurance normally only covers errors and omissions as well as legal liability. You will need to invest in insurance to protect the goods during transit if this is not already included in the package. Don’t overlook this fact – damaged or lost goods can significantly impact your brand image.

Who Issues a Bill of Lading?

In normal situations, the carrier of the goods will issue a Bill of Lading once they take ownership of the shipment. This legal document acts as a receipt, a title of the goods and a contract of carriage. It is a legal requirement. If it is lost, stolen or destroyed, a new bill cannot be obtained.

How Long Do I Need to Keep a Bill of Lading?

As a legally binding document, the Bill of Lading acts as proof of ownership. It is needed in order to secure the release of the shipment and as a legal means of claiming ownership. You should look to keep this document stored safely and accountable for at least 7 years.

Who Is Responsible for Cargo Damage?

In normal situations, and under the contract for carriage, the carrier is not responsible for loss or damage to goods UNLESS these are internationally caused. Some insurance documents place the responsibility on the carrier if the goods are valued at over a certain amount. This is why it is very important to ensure you have appropriate insurance in place. Again, a freight forwarder can help you with this, providing advice and guidance when it comes to protecting the goods in transit.

These are just some of the questions we get regularly here at Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services. If you have any more questions or are wondering how we can help your international trade logistics, please do get in contact here today.