10 Tips on How to Choose a Freight Forwarder


As a new importer/exporter choosing the right logistics partner or changing your current logistics provider can be a tough decision.

I worked 10 years as a logistics manager for a very large garment importing company before I joined  MTS Logistics. While I was working as a logistics manager I met with many forwarders who wanted to get my transportation business and now my job is quite the opposite. Being on both sides of the business gave me great knowledge in understanding what importers/exporters need from their logistics partner. I am going to tell you what I needed from my forwarders in the past and what ultimately made me decide which forwarder to work with.

Working as a logistic manger in the garment industry was stressful and at times challenging. Garment is very time sensitive cargo and being late with your delivery to the customer may cause your company extra money because of late delivery chargebacks  or even further, cancelation of the entire order. The clock is always ticking and you constantly need to be aware of your shipment status. Your boss calls and asks you about the shipment status for one of his most important customers. You  checked your shipment record but you don’t have the updated information, you call your freight forwarder and they said they don’t know if it has shipped. They tell you they need to check with their China office and will get back you tomorrow. Meanwhile your boss is holding on the other line for updated information from you. This is certainly not the service you want from your forwarder, they should be on top on of very shipment, with updated information.

Every industry has different expectations from a freight forwarder. Based on industry needs the expectations of a freight forwarder might change. For some corporations it is simply to bring the cargo from point A to point B with a competitive rate but for some it is more then a simple forwarding operation. They might expect you to provide additional value-added supply chain services if the need arises.

I believe the key word for me in the past when I was choosing my forwarder was “are they a trusted logistics partner?”. Now I am offering logistics services as a sales executive and my aim with my customers is to be a trusted logistics partner and be available whenever they need my assistance. All importers/exporters want to work with a trusted logistics partner who will help them grow their business. You want a forwarder working efficiently with excellent information flow who is always aware of your cargo status.

Here are some personal tips on how to choose a forwarder from someone who has been on both sides of the business, these are questions you should ask yourself before making your decision:

1. Is the freight forwarder’s company big enough to handle your global business? How many service contracts do they have?

If it is important your goods are shipped with the first sailing vessel then you should work with forwarders who have various carrier contracts. This is also very important in peak season when space become a problem. If your forwarder has more than one carrier option then the chance of your cargo getting on board will be higher. Your forwarder can always find an alternate option if they have various carrier contracts.

2. Can the freight forwarder handle the product you want to ship or do they specialized in certain commodities?

Make sure the freight forwarder has some knowledge of your product.

3. Does the freight forwarder have a good network of global agents at origin/destination ports?

A good network of overseas agents ensures a smooth information flow which helps you to know where your product is and help you to get your product in a timely manner.

4. Is the freight forwarding company financially strong?

Even though you are the paying party, you should always check their financial strength. Let’s say you made your payment for the freight to your forwarder then you find out your cargo has not been released because your forwarder couldn’t pay to the ocean carrier. This might delay your cargo release and accumulate other charges such as demurrage and detention which might cause you to pay more.

5. How is the communication level with the freight forwarder?

Are you getting personal service or are you calling a 1 800 number and keep waiting on the line to get one simple answer? Are they switching your call from one person to another or do you have one designated person who handles your cargo? Are they picking up the phone when things go wrong or are they are nowhere to be found?

6. What is the freight forwarder’s document turnaround time? Are you getting the information you need on time ?

7. Can they give you good references ?

Ask for references, to see if their other customers are happy with them and what their customer satisfaction level is.

8. Does the freight forwarder have cargo insurance?

9. Do they secure the best pricing with truck lines, air freight companies, and steamship lines ?

10. Please contact me at [email protected] for tip # 10

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Onur Akarca
Onur was born and raised in Turkey, where he got his Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. Onur worked as a Logistic Manager for a garment importing company for 10 years before joining MTS. He has been working in sales at MTS Logistics since February 2008. Having been on the other side as a logistics manager for a garment importing company helps him to understand what customers need from a logistics partner, especially for time sensitive cargoes like garment. Fun Fact: Onur loves skiing and soccer!