There are many factors to consider while choosing a freight provider. A customer has to weigh different options and services to get to a decision. Consider you lock a deal with a freight forwarder, and the forwarder only deals with ocean freight forwarding. Maybe you need air freight or rail freight in future, at that time you will have to look for another forwarder, and you will be jumping from one provider to another. Therefore, it is necessary that you know what freight services for import and export are you looking for and plan accordingly.
Onur Acarca, a logistics professional who has 24 years of experience in air and ocean freight forwarding says that the keyword for choosing his international cargo service provider was “are they a trusted logistics partner?.”
Let’s look at some of the essentials you should look for when choosing a freight provider.
Suitable for your requirements
It is important that your products are shipped on time and delivered on time. When you are looking for international cargo service providers, the volume of your shipment must be in your mind. If shipment volume increases with seasonal demand and your freight forwarder is unable to meet the requirement, you should find a forwarder who will be offered capacity in that range.
Another consideration to find whether your logistics partner is suitable for you or not is to know whether they have the expertise to ship your product, or at least they know about your product and how they can handle it. For example, shipping seafood requires refrigeration and sometime it may even to the extent of providing -60º C temperature to deliver products intact. Check with your provider if they have adequate knowledge of the industry and can offer solutions.
You should also ensure how many carriers your logistics partner has service contracts with. If your air or ocean freight forwarding service provider does not seem capable enough to meet your demand, maybe you should find another one that could offer services to you. Onur reminds us that if your forwarder has more than one carrier option to deliver the cargo, then, the chance of your cargo getting on board will be higher.
Although, you should also keep in mind that a higher number of service contracts with carriers do not guarantee that you will find space and required services.
A wider network also helps to know about customs issues, port strikes, trade regulations and other issues that you may not have adequate knowledge of. Research and look for their network strength while researching ocean freight forwarding service providers.
Choose freight services for import and export based on the financial strength of the service provider. If your freight forwarder is unable to pay for the services to the carriers, then, even after you have paid in full, your product would either get delayed or would be returned, eventually causing a delay. And such delay can accrue charges. Therefore, ensuring the financial stability of your international cargo service provider is also important.
You will hear very common advice that you should not choose freight service for import and export based on price. At the same time price would be a pain point for you. Who doesn’t want to save? Settling for a low price or sorting by the lowest price may not be a viable option in the long term.
Freight forwarding is a complex process: umpteen rules, with minute details that may create problems in clearing shipments. So, a cheaper service may look appealing for a while, but in the long run, your strong relationship with your logistics partners will benefit you. Your freight forwarding service provider will pass their expertise and experience to you, to your benefit.
Communication with freight forwarders tells you a lot about how the services are going to be. A prompt reply to your queries means the freight forwarder is customer-centric and your shipment is safe.
However, when you ask for updates, and your international cargo provider is nowhere to be found, it means there is a lack of service and you should be aware of such companies.
Freight forwarders equipped with digital platform offer visibility. You can view your shipment from origin to destination with full transparency on a single platform.
It saves you paperwork and time by having instant price quotes and other options.
Digital platforms are a validation that freight service providers are equipped with technology, and providing customers with the visibility of their shipments and are ready to be accountable and transparent about their processes.
Another thing is convenience. Just think, about how much time it saves and how incredibly convenient it is to get everything on one platform.
Things to remember for a shipping quote
• Where are you shipping the product from and where?
• The mode of transport and type of shipment (FCL, LCL, Airfreight, Oceanfreight etc.)
• How many times or how often would be sending goods?: this creates a win-win situation for both shipper and freight forwarders, as you want a deal that benefits you in the longer and freight forwards to want customers who are regular. You can get discounts on your shipments.
• What volume do you ship? Again, like how frequently you ship, can form a lasting relationship with your logistics partners. If you ship high volumes, the shipper has every incentive to focus on you. When their customer brings high volumes, freight forwarders can consolidate their resources, and that is beneficial to them.
• Do you have oversize shipments or hazardous materials?- many freight forwarders do not like to get into shipping complicated and highly regulated materials such as oversized machines and hazardous or radioactive materials. You should know your air or ocean freight forwarding service provider has the expertise to deliver these shipments.
It is essential that your freight forwarder understands what it takes to get the freight to the destination:
• knows how to obtain necessary certificates: freight forwards are getting shipments across the globe, so they should be well-equipped to deal with the certificates necessary for sending such shipments and prevent any delay or blockage in the process.
• Do they review and prepare documents? You do not want to entangle with regulatory compliance on your own, rather would like the company to tackle. So, keep in mind to take this into account.
• Do they make amendments to the documents? For example, if you made a mistake describing a good, would the freight forwarding company change this on request? Customer-centric freight forwarders offer flexibility.
• Insurance: insurance varies in price depending upon the deals they give you. Insurance only covers ocean freight, not air freight, while other only air, not ocean, may mean that you may not get a proper deal. Finding suitable insurance that offers comprehensive insurance with affordable prices should be your aim.
• Payment: payments can be a pain point. Your shipments may get delayed, and your costs may increase. And if your deliveries should have been time-bound, then a bad customer experience may be another outcome.
• Negotiation: freight services for import and export do not have a fixed rate. A freight forwarder with wider network and deeper reach can offer you better rates. Some even offer discounts during peak seasons if you are their regular customer.
• Packaging and loading: some freight forwarders just ship and deliver. Packing is your job. However, highly specialised and with proper infrastructure, many of them also pack and load. If you do not want to spend money on building infrastructure for packaging your products, you should find a freight service for import and export that would also offer them.
One way to know how good a freight forwarder is is to look at reviews. A freight forwarder with better reviews should always be on your list.
There are many factors that go into choosing the right freight service for import and export. When you are looking for an international cargo service provider, you should partner with a freight forwarder who would take care of the minute issues would make shipping seamless, be it air or ocean freight forwarding.