B-1-7- Freight forwarders: an indispensable solution

Freight within the scope of cross-border transport is a special case. Carriers can intervene in transport and customs clearance procedures.

There are numerous solutions for getting goods from point A to point B, including land, maritime, rail and/or air transport. Transport can be cross-border or intramural, with or without customs clearance. There several types of service providers depending on the demand of the exporter and/or importer. For certain services, the service providers may be freight forwarders.

1-7-1- Freight forwarder: definition

In theory, the freight forwarder acts as an intermediary supporting the fulfillment of the customer's request and the organization of the transshipment between the modes of transport. The term freight forwarder is often misused to encompass all transport intermediaries, like, for example the forwarding agent. These terms have different legal ramifications. The forwarder is generally an agent.

Forwarders can support the transport of the goods, handling customs formalities, or organize consolidation and deconsolidation operations. They have become important stakeholders within the scope of international transactions. Their usefulness and expertise is now well-established, taking into consideration the complexity of transport logistics.

1-7-2- The large family of "freight forwarders".

It's important to note that two legal statuses apply to freight forwarders: agents and forwarders. We can distinguish five different kinds of forwarders:

  1. licensed customs agents,
  2. transport brokers,
  3. forwarding agents (charterers, consolidators, MTO's: Multimodal Transport Operators),
  4. ocean freight agents,,
  5. airfreight agents (IATA).

1-7-3- The freight forwarder role

Support transport. Support transshipment (loading and unloading from one mode of transportation to another in multimodal delivery) and payment (in cases of "Cash On Delivery"):
  • There is also the duty to advise, but above all, execute the customer's request,
  • The forwarder must also check state, weight and volume the goods.
  • The forwarder must support completion of customs formalities.
  • The forwarder must pay for all subcontracted transport.

1-7-4- Freight forwarder responsibilities

Each type of freight forwarder chosen presents a unique risk. As with all kinds of transport, a freight forwarder is responsible for the services provided, even if subcontracted.

1-7-5- The freight forwarder fees

The freight forwarders fees are inherent to the services provided. They can bill three categories of charges:
  • the charges on which they do not make commission,
  • the transport costs (carried out by the forwarder or a subcontractor),
  • the fees for services rendered.

1-7-6- Freight forwarder and Incoterms

The freight forwarder choice can be linked to the selection of Incoterms. Insofar as the Incoterms include customs clearance, the freight forwarder is obligated to ask which Incoterms are being used for your transaction.