A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent, also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution. Forwarders contract with a carrier or often multiple carriers to move the goods. A forwarder does not move the goods but acts as an expert in the logistics network. These carriers can use a variety of shipping modes, including ships, airplanes, trucks, and railroads, and often multiple modes for a single shipment. For example, the freight forwarder may arrange to have cargo moved from a plant to an airport by truck, flown to the destination city, then moved from the airport to a customer’s building by another truck.
International freight forwarders typically handle international shipments. International freight forwarders have additional expertise in preparing and processing customs and other documentation and performing activities pertaining to international shipments.
Information typically reviewed by a freight forwarder includes the commercial invoice, shipper’s export declaration, bill of lading and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, and/or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment.
The FIATA shorthand description of the freight forwarder as the ‘Architect of Transport’ illustrates the commercial position of the forwarder relative to its client. In Europe, some forwarders specialize in ‘niche’ areas such as rail-freight, and collection and deliveries around a large port.