If you’re new to the process (or more appropriately, the ordeal) of international shipping, then you may not yet understand how vital a freight forwarder can be to making sure your humanitarian supplies get where they’re going on time and intact. To aid your process, we identified some things you should consider when choosing a freight forwarder for your humanitarian aid supplies.
What are Freight Forwarders and Why are They So Important?
Simply put, a freight forwarder is an independent agent who is an expert in organizing freight movement including arranging transportation, import, and export regulations, preparing all the necessary documents, and tracking the logistics to make sure your products get to the final destination as planned. They don’t actually move the freight themselves, but they coordinate all the other involved parties and handle the details to move your shipment as efficiently as possible.
The best freight forwarders also tend to have experience navigating issues that may arise (even when everything is done correctly) and can literally be the difference between keeping your shipment on track or falling behind by days or even weeks. And as we all know, when it comes to delivering humanitarian supplies and disaster relief, timing matters and every day counts.
Finding a good freight forwarder is like finding a great supplier. They become your partner in every shipment and work just as hard as you do to ensure that your order gets where it’s going.
To help you compare and assess different forwarders, we chatted with Gordon Brown at MEBS Global Reach, LLC and created a list of the top seven things you should consider before selecting your go-to freight forwarder.
Key Considerations when Selecting a Freight Forwarder:
- Their experience shipping into developing countries, and more specifically, your point of delivery. Discuss their experience in understanding export and import regulations of your commodity into these locations.
- Whether they are familiar with shipping aid cargo for NGO’s, UN Agencies or USG-funded projects including their understanding of donor-funded procurement policies including their experience with routing, processing duty exemptions and clearing duty/tax-free, air cargo, and U.S. Flagged regulations.
- Their familiarity with the nature of the cargo you will be shipping. Some forwarders specialize in certain load types including dangerous/hazardous goods, expedited, high-value, cold chain, etc.
- Their recommended routing and mode of transport including intermodal, ground, air, and ocean and their ability to handle the entire shipping logistics process as well as the handoff.
- What delivery options they use including to port of entry and whether they also organize in-country transportation to get your products to the final destination.
- What additional services they can provide including insurance, expediting, warehousing, site services, relocations, and general cargo.
- Consolidation and warehousing abilities, i.e. receiving at the country of origin – which can include cargo packing; cargo handling; storage options to consolidate orders from different vendors, if desired; and storage at the destination should there be a change in the political, social or environmental climate.
Not Sure Where to Start?
There are numerous service providers in the freight forwarding industry including some you may already be familiar with like UPS, DHL and FedEx for small and medium sized shipments. For larger LTL and full container shipments, providers include SBS Logistics, Kuehne + Nagel Inc, and MEBS Global Reach, among others.
Freight forwarding is one aspect of the humanitarian relief process where your research will really pay off. Take the time to scout different providers and make a list of those that you’re most interested in. Then try to interview at least your top three to determine which agent and company are the best fit for your organization and can help you handle all your shipment needs.