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A day in the life of a Freight Forwarder – find out how it all works

Previously I had posted an article “Who is a Freight Forwarder“..

If that article gave you a good introduction into the activities of a freight forwarder, this below article will give you a glimpse into “A day in the life of a Freight Forwarder“..

This is a guest post from a REAL LIFE FREIGHT FORWARDER..

Beep … ! Ping … ! Tringg …… ! Hello, How may I help you  ?!

So begins a day in the life of a Freight Forwarder.  The Freight Forwarder is nothing short of a multi tasker bringing together the shipper with the various other intermediaries in the supply chain process.

Essentially, what is it that the freight forwarder does ??

The Shipper has many challenges in the export of his cargo.  He has to make the sale, produce or procure the goods, liaise with the local regulatory authorities, prepare the documentation related to the shipment and banking, arrange the physical shipment and ensure that the Consignee receives the goods in apparent good order and condition.

Here is where the Freight Forwarder steps in …

The Forwarder assumes the responsibility of the logistics process involved with the shipment. 

a day in the life of a freight forwarderDepending on terms of the contract (Incoterms), the Forwarder performs the following tasks.

  1. Arrange the Transportation for the pick up of the cargo from the factory / warehouse of the shipper.
  2. Arrange the sorting, labelling, packing, palletization, etc at the Container Freight Station, if such services are required.
  3. Arrange the customs clearance process necessary to ensure the smooth export of the cargo.
  4. Arrange the booking of space with the Carriers.
  5. Ensure that the cargo is loaded on board in liaison with the Carrier.
  6. Completing the Bill of Lading Process on behalf of the shipper.
  7. Update the shipper about the shipment status at regular intervals.
  8. Arrange the destination delivery process which may include customs clearance and transportation to the Consignee’s premises.

While these above tasks seem fairly simple, there are many challenges in the process and there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip !!

Every country has its own unique set of issues in the export process.  Some of the reasons for the same may be infrastructural deficiencies related to road, rail and port network, Congestion, Strikes, Governmental Documentation bottlenecks, etc.

The Shipper’s expectation here is that Freight Forwarder circumvents these issues and adhere to the logistics plan that has been committed to the  Consignee.  The Shipper judges the efficiency of the forwarder based on his ability to find solutions to the problems in the supply chain process.

Here is where the struggle and the juggle starts …

  1. Transport vehicles are booked, they have to arrive the factory on time.
  • Is the truck reporting to the plant qualified to carry the weight expected to be stuffed, safety requirements of the plant viz a viz the vehicle reporting,
  • Is the trip insured ?
  • Is the driver trained to carry the specific cargo (Haz or OOG) ?
  • Has he picked up the empty container on time ?
  • Has he reported on time ?
  1. Customs Clearance teams have to be ready with the documentation as the vehicle approaches the port for gate in of the container.
  • Are all the documents in place as per the law of the land.
  • Does the cargo need any customs inspection ?
  • Are all the statutory permissions available so that the container can be gated in smoothly ?
  1. Booking Confirmation from the Carrier
  • Has the booking confirmation come from the carrier ?
  • Is the vessel coming in on time ? (Yes, many countries have port congestion, draft and weather restrictions)
  • Is the vessels gate open to match the transport vehicles arrival to the port area ?
  • Is the carrier facing any space issues due to over booking ?
  1. Shipping Line Documentation
  • Has your team been able to complete the Bill of Lading documentation with the carrier as per their cut off ?
  • Is the VGM process complete as per the carrier’s format and cut off ?
  • Has the BL been collected from the Carrier and dispatched to the customer ?
  1. Container Tracking and co-ordination with overseas agents.
  • Has your team sent the pre alert intimation to the overseas agents office ?
  • Has the arrival notice and customs clearance process been initiated ?
  • Has the delivery of the cargo been effected on time to meet the consignee’s schedules ?

While all these process are going on at the back office, the forwarder inherently remains a service provider and despite all the frayed nerves and heart burns, the motto always remains services with a smile …

No matter how unreasonable the shippers request may sound, or how the haulier failed to reach the factory on time, or the difficult customs officer who has to be convinced or the carrier who suddenly realised that the vessel is now full and they have no space left for your container, the forwarders has only one response always …..

Yes Sir ! your cargo will go on the planned vessel !!!!

For those seeking a thrill, beating the odds, racing the clock, feeling the lure of the unknown and that adrenaline pump while still at work, Freight Forwarding is where the action is !!


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiarhttps://www.shippingandfreightresource.com
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. A freight forwarder acts as an agent when he performs functions on behalf of, and under the instructions of, the principal (the exporter or importer). As an agent, the forwarder will procure the services of third parties who will perform the packing, storage, transport, handling and customs clearance of the goods.

  2. Dear sir,the article is excellent.Can you add some more details please? what are the liabilities clause of clearing forwarding agent, while he work for exporter/importer.If he arrange packing, loading and unloading of cargo and other up to what extend the freight forwarder responsible and liable for it?

  3. Thank you very much for this precise and easy to comprehend article! I enjoy how you write it out so clearly and industry related. Easily one of the best sites I have come across for learning about shipping!

  4. I am working documentations in Forwarder and found your website is very useful.

    Thanks and hope to learn more knowledge from your website 🙂

  5. It was once said here in the Houston Texas area of the United States, that if one survived three years in the international freight forwarding business, you were in it for life! It is still true, it takes a special type of character and personality to work in this business. I love it.

  6. An excellent article. An eye-opener for the novice and the uninitiated. Very well written too. Thanks for this. Definitely looking forward to more such.


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