Q: What is a freight forwarder?
A: Freight forwarding is a service used by companies that deal in international or multi-national import and export. While the freight forwarder doesn't actually move the freight itself, it acts as an intermediary between the client and various transportation services. Sending products from one international destination to another can involve a multitude of carriers, requirements and legalities. A freight forwarding service handles the considerable logistics of this task for the client, relieving what would otherwise be a formidable burden.Freight forwarding services guarantee that products will get to the proper destination by an agreed upon date, and in good condition. The freight forwarding service utilizes established relationships with carriers of all kinds, from air freighters and trucking companies, to rail freighters and ocean liners. Freight forwarding services negotiate the best possible price to move the product along the most economical route by working out various bids and choosing the one that best balances speed, cost and reliability.A freight forwarding service generally provides one or more estimates to the client along with advisement, when necessary. Considerations that effect price will range from origin and destination to special requirements, such as refrigeration or, for example, transport of potentially hazardous materials. Assuming the client accepts the forwarder's bid, the freight is readied for shipping. The freight forwarding service then undertakes the responsibility of arranging the transport from point of origin to destination.One of the many advantages of using freight forwarding is that it handles ancillary services that are a part of the international shipping business. Insurance and customs documentation and clearance are some examples. As a consolidator, a freight forwarding service might also provide Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) documentation, or bills of lading. Warehousing, risk assessment and management, and methods of international payment are also commonly provided to the client by the freight forwarding service.A good freight forwarding service can save the client untold time and potential headaches while providing reliable transportation of products at competitive rates. A freight forwarding service is an asset to almost any company dealing in international transportation of goods, and is especially helpful when in-house resources are not versed in international shipping procedures.Q: Why are the shipping rates so volatile? A: While there are several factors involved, the primary is market demand. Traditionally from Dec through April for imports, especially from Asia to the U.S., it is called the "slow season." Because the retail market slows down after Christmas. However from mid January through early February there is an upsurge of cargo moving to beat the Chinese New Year deadline whereby factories all over China shut down for weeks. This usually keeps rates high as there is always space problems for cargo getting on vessels. From May through November this would be the "peak season" where there is a big demand for cargo moving into the U.S., so the Carriers raise the rates during this period, with the GRI (general rate increase), and PSS (peak season surcharge).Another factor is fuel, or what is called the Bunker Fuel factor. This is a floating surcharge that the Carrier's can change when oil prices rise or fall. It is called the BAF.Another factor is when the Carrier has increases in costs such as when Terminal costs rise, especially with Unions, congestion problems, etc. Or when the U.S Rail costs increase for similar reasons. This is where the Carriers can add in new surcharges which have happened in the past and eventually get absorbed into the "all in " rate quoted.Most recently the primary reason for rate increases, was a knee jerk response to the tremendous downturn in traffic and volume as a result of the current U.S. recession since '08. This downturn caused many carriers to lose about 50% of their previous volume and while their costs remained the same or higher, and their revenue all but disappeared, they found themselves the beginning of this year looking at an average of $500, 000,000 in losses per Carrier. So from late '09 until May of '10, most Carriers put a large portion of their fleet out of commission off the coast of Singapore. Thereby creating a vessel shortage, or a false space problem. This gave them all excuse to raise their rates again, in order to salvage their businesses. This type of thing is not normal.Q: What are the usual methods of freight payment ? A: Most freight payments are done with a Company check. However you can also pay with wire transfer or credit card (subject to administrative fee). Payment is sent right around the time the freight is due to arrive, clear customs and be released.Q: Can I get payment terms? A: Yes. You would fill out a credit application that we would send you ahead of time, with all necessary banking information and references. Once your credit is approved, you would be granted the appropriate credit amount and length of time.Q: What can I do to prevent delays and ensure a smooth process of the shipment? A: Firstly, make sure your supplier overseas (on imports) or if you are the supplier for an export shipment, creates all of the necessary documents correctly (packing lists, commercial invoice, original bill of lading-OB/L) and in a timely fashion, so that all documents are provided with the necessary banks and sent to you (the importer) or your buyer-consignee on the B/L (if you are the exporter) at least 1 week before cargo arrives the destination so that everything can be processed through customs ahead of schedule and freight can be paid along with presentation of the original B/L. One factor that usually slows this process down is when there is discrepencies between the buyer and supplier and since the goods are not paid for, the OB/L has not been surrendered by the Supplier to the Consignee (buyer)Q: Can I get cargo released without presentation of the OB/L? A: This can be a touchy subject, as you may be a long time importer with a long time relationship with a particular supplier overseas, however a situation arises and for whatever reason you have not paid your supplier because they were supposed to give you credit, but there was a misunderstanding, they are not honoring the agreement, the next thing you know the cargo arrives and if you don't get it released it goes into demurrage and or you may lose your customer because they have a deadline, and so on. So you desperately need that cargo released. So the ONLY way this can happen WITHOUT the OB/L is to somehow settle the matter with the supplier, get them to authorize the release in writing to the shipping agent in the port of origin, or direct to the U.S. Office that is holding the cargo. This can act in Lieu of an OB/L. This is no other legal way or one that doesn't jeapordize the liability of the shipping company to be sued by the supplier if they release without their written consent.Q: How many containers do you move a year? A: About 7,500 a yearQ: Do you handle international household moves? A: Yes. However we are not an international moving company. We are an international shipping company. We can help you ship but we can't help you load. An empty container can be delivered to your premises and you will be responsible for loading it properly.Q: Can you ship my vehicle internationally? A: Yes, with conditions. See above regarding household moving.Q: Any advice for a first time shipper? A: We have 5 tips for you.Tip #1: Save container transport cost by preparing to load your container in less less than 2 hrs. When the driver shows up to your site, the first 2 hours are included in your fees. We recommend staffing up and preparing in advance to load the container as quickly as possible to avoid overtime charges.Tip #2: Prepare Shipping Container Contents for Extremes Containers are subject to extreme conditions. There are wild swings in temperature and humidity inside the container - they go through the Panama Canal and sometimes around the Cape. Containers are subjected to triple digit heat and humidity to sub-zero temperatures while in storage or in transport.Tip #3: Carefully Declare ANY Organic Cargo Plants, Edible Plants, Vegetables and Fruit are all treated differently depending on the origin and destination of the shipment. If customs finds any undeclared organic cargo, the can quarantine your container and charge you daily holding fees.Tip #4: Properly Insure Your Cargo Plan for “attrition”. All of the contents don’t always make it all of the time. There will be some "attrition" - containers get inspected, sometimes by unscrupulous dock/deck hands...this isn't REALLY considered stealing, as the items in transit, technically are the property of the shipping company*. See our blog entry on securing, insuring and properly declaring your container contents to manage risk of inspection, suspicion, mistakes and "attrition".Tip #5: Understand that Freight Forwarding is both an art and a science. Many companies and handlers are involved in moving your container, here are just a few possible examples: Trucking company(ies) outbound (your door to the port of origin or train yard), Crane Operations transferring container from truck to train, and train to ship. That's just to get the container to the ship, then the reverse happens on the other side...it's a REALLY rough ride, even in good weather.
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