A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), 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 the logistics network. 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.
Lloyd’s Loading List is the freight forwarding industry’s journal of record, first published 160 years ago as a UK export directory. Today it provides details of forwarders, NVOCCs and shipping lines/agents who serve over 10,000 ports globally.
Some forwarders handle domestic shipments only.