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5 Things to look for when choosing a Freight Forwarding partner

5 Things to look for when choosing a Freight Forwarding partner

It’s crucial you find a credible and reliable UK freight forwarder if importing or exporting is a part of your business growth strategy.


Why do you need to use a freight forwarder?

If you want to import or export, then you'll need to understand the process, paperwork and regulations involved in international trade. A freight forwarder acts as the intermediary or broker between you and the shipping lines, airlines, rail and road haulage companies. As well as saving you time and money, a good freight forwarder will provide advice on routes, loading, customs declarations, insurance requirements, payment methods, and much, much more. If you are exporting or importing large volumes of goods or high value items, whether by sea or air freight - then it's highly advisable you work with a reputable freight forwarder.

Did you know the UK freight forwarding industry is unregulated?

A freight forwarding company could look the part because they have a great website. They may even have extensive experience in managing shipments and documentation. If they work from a home office, it's likely they have ultra-low overheads, which is reflected in their lower cost shipping fees. Alternatively they could be one of the global giants of logistics, a brand you recognise and think you can trust.

What makes the difference between a good freight forwarder and a poor one for your business and goods?

Everything always sounds great, until something doesn't go to plan. Then you find out the hard way, what you really needed to know. If you don't know the difference between a good freight forwarder and a poor one for your business, how can you make an intelligent decision on ‘who to partner with?’

What makes a good freight forwarder?

The freight industry is complex. Finding the right freight forwarder to support you with your import or export needs, could make a significant difference to your businesses growth and profitability. Below are the 5 areas you need to benchmark your prospective freight forwarding partners against to understand how they compare within this framework, will help you make a more informed, intelligent decision on who to select.


1. Relevant experience and track record

There are many variables when it comes to freight forwarding, which is why it's essential to ensure your chosen freight forwarder has experience that applies to the service areas you need.

How experienced are your prospective freight forwarders in the specific countries, transport modes, industries and products that you need them to facilitate?

Do they have case studies and client testimonials to support this?


2. Accreditation

Because the freight forwarding industry is unregulated, accreditations are probably the best indicator of standards and professionalism. In the UK, the most common accreditations relevant to a high quality freight forwarder are:

  • The British International Freight Association (BIFA)
    Members adopt a code of conduct, and trade under a nationally accepted set of standard conditions, which are backed in the insurance sector.
  • AEO Accredited Freight Forwarder
    As an AEO accredited freight forwarder gives quicker access to more simplified customs procedures and in some cases the potential to ‘fast-track’ your shipments through some customs, safety and security procedures.
  • United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA)
    The UKWA is Britain’s leading trade organisation for the logistics sector, full members include warehousing and logistics providers as well as manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers.
  • The Road Haulage Association (RHA)
    The Road Haulage Association is dedicated to the interests of the road haulage industry. It is the only trade association in the United Kingdom dedicated solely to road haulage.
  • International Air Transport Association
    The International Air Transport Association (IATA) supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability.


3. Relevant network of carriers and agents

Your freight forwarder’s network needs to be relevant to the countries that you’ll be exporting to or importing from. A reliable and established international network is essential because this helps to facilitate a more streamlined end-to-end shipping process. The larger the network, the more likely the freight forwarder can meet your needs.

A freight forwarder with the choice of multiple carriers will be able to select the best option to suit your shipment. Carriers are the organisations performing 'actual carrier' duties. They transport your goods from port of loading to port of discharge under their own or chartered vessels or aircraft.

A freight forwarder with agents in the destination country of your goods means they have someone local - someone who speaks the language and understands the local process and relevant options. Their role is to deal with any issues, for example; clearing customs or managing your shipment’s onward journey.

Through their knowledge and experience, combined with a strong network of agents and carriers, your chosen freight forwarder should be able to offer flexibility for your shipments. Whilst smoothing the passage through the myriad of processes and regulations required by the different countries.


4. Do they provide a full 'door to door' cargo shipping solution?

If your moving goods to or from anywhere in the world, there is typically no generic off-the-shelf service. Which is why any freight forwarder should want to understand your specific product and shipment needs. Every business is different and their products come with unique logistics requirements. A good freight forwarder becomes an extension of your business – and should feel like your very own logistics department. They provide the expertise to support your international business growth strategy and your efficient importing or exporting.

Can they help you with customs clearance?

What kind of additional charges could you risk running into?

Are there any specific requirements at destination you need to be aware of?

How do you need to pack and prepare your cargo?

If you need to ship by a certain date or need cargo to arrive by a certain date, what are your best options?

Your UK freight forwarder should provide a seamless 'end-to-end solution' and whilst highlighting any risks, should also provide solutions to minimise them or insure against them. Should any issues arise during the shipment, no matter how complicated they should have the skills to deal with them.


5. Compliance, Clarity, Collaboration, Communication and Cost

The freight forwarding process can be extremely complicated, and this is where the 5C's come into play:


Who is responsible for Compliance? Your freight forwarder is your representative, but they are not you. The documents you provide them must be accurate. Your freight forwarder should work with you to help you determine the correct terms, but you know your business and product best. Your freight forwarders role is to arrange and manage the transportation of goods—not to serve as your company's compliance officer.

Ultimately, compliance is your responsibility. So take control of your export or import compliance by choosing your freight forwarder wisely. Make sure you maintain control of and responsibility for your shipping - because you can’t outsource liability.


Because any industry is rife with jargon and acronyms, understanding what's important and why, is essential. Your freight forwarder should navigate you through the technical, legal and industry specific language minefield - ensuring you understand the terms, documentation and regulations which impact your shipment.

Who is responsible for what, when and how, should be clearly set out and understood.


From the first two C's, you will begin to understand this whole process is a collaboration. The relationship goes beyond simply transactional.


Reliable, timely and consistent communication from your freight forwarder is crucial. With long distances and transit times for your cargo to travel through, not to mention multiple transport modes, there is always the potential for challenges and delays along the way. In most instances, your freight forwarder may not have control over issues that arise, it's their job to keep you informed and present options when and where relevant.


The best freight forwarders will strategise with you, exploring ways to decrease your international shipping costs and help you understand their pricing structure. For example, certain services such as documentation and customs-related charges may be included by some forwarders but not by others.

There are always destination costs for shipments. The costs however, vary from port to port and shipment to shipment. Some of the more common destination surcharges include release fees, terminal handling charges and other delivery charges if your shipment is door-to-door.

Sometimes, it may be worth it to pay a little bit more to get a faster transit or a direct service for better reliability. Some shippers prefer to get their cargo to destination as soon as possible, while others prefer a more affordable option.



A freight forwarder does more than help you move your goods from A to B in the most cost effective method. You will want to make sure the people you work with are a right fit for your business. Different freight forwarders operate differently. So before deciding, it’s always best to clear any doubts you have about their services, their locations, and even their network.

As the focus on business switches to reliability, it's now more than ever that businesses need to work with trusted partners.  Spatial Global is an award-winning international freight forwarding company in the UK, providing UK and international mailing services and worldwide e-commerce fulfilment, warehousing and logistics. For over 35 years we have been developing high quality logistics and delivery solutions for customers across different business sectors and geographies - and regarded as one of the UK's foremost independent global mailing service providers.

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