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What Do Freight Forwarders Do?

Freight forwarders arrange the shipment of goods for complex movements required by international trade. Shipping offshore items usually involve multiple carriers, multiple modes, and the preparation of documentation for many parties. A freight forwarder simplifies this process by arranging shipping from origin to destination when a shipper does not have the contacts and/or expertise to complete the shipment efficiently. They advise on freight costs, port charges, consular fees, costs of special documentation, insurance costs, handling fees, import/export requirements, proper packing methods, and more. In some cases, they will also provide custom brokerage services and help clients with custom documents and the processing of duties.


Besides simplifying the shipping process and providing expertise, freight forwarders also have the advantage of serving many clients and can consolidate shipments that could result in lower carrier rates than a shipper can obtain on its own. Their scale also gives them the capacity to negotiate with multiple carriers to determine the best option for their clients acting like a distributor of carrier services.


CIFFA or Canadian International Freight Forwarders Associations represents about 240 regular member firms ranging from large multinationals to small and medium-sized Canadian firms. Members are held to a code of ethics and a standard of professionalism to ensure the reliability of the industry.


In summary, a freight forwarder's duties include:

  • document preparation

  • package, pack, label, document, and load cargo

  • determine the best mode of transport and routing

  • booking with specific carriers (including pick up, carriage, delivery)

  • provide shipping insurance

  • assist with export and import requirements

  • track and trace shipments as requested

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