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10 Crucial Questions To Ask Your Freight Forwarder

The freight forwarding industry is constantly growing, with plenty of new companies competing for business alongside established names like John Good Shipping. If you’re looking to use a freight forwarder to organise your shipments, you may be wondering how to choose which freight forwarder is right for you, especially with so many companies to choose from! To help make it easier, here are ten questions you should ask potential freight forwarders to ensure you have all the information you need to make the right decision.

1. Why should I entrust my shipping to you?

Sometimes, the simplest questions get the most revealing answers. Asking an open question like this invites the potential freight forwarders on your list to sell the best features of their service. And as they’re the experts in the freight forwarding field, these could be features that you hadn’t considered, that can aid and even add value to your business. It will also allow you to get a feel for how good the customer service is – for example, how knowledgeable are the agents and are they happy to spend time answering your questions? A friendly rapport can go a long way towards good working relationships, so test the waters before you commit to any partnership.

2. Do you offer the kind of shipping that I need?

If you know what kind of shipping you require, then it makes sense to confirm that it’s a service offered by the freight forwarder – and this isn’t as simple as finding a freight forwarder that provides shipping by sea. For example, you may not require the standard Full Container Load (FCL) shipping and instead want to ship smaller cargo on a Less than Container Load (LCL) basis. Or maybe you require Roll-on Roll-off (RORO) shipping for wheeled cargo? Perhaps you need to ship specialist cargo such as perishables that have to be temperature controlled, or dangerous goods that are subject to increased shipping regulations? Checking that your freight forwarder has the right facilities and expertise will save you from wasting time or settling for a second-best service.

3. What relevant experience do you have?

Anyone can set up as a freight forwarder, so asking about experience is essential. A freight forwarder with many years in the business will have previously encountered pretty much any issue you can think of and will be able to avoid or minimise its effects. On the other hand, a brand new freight forwarding business may still be learning as they go. You’ll also want to ask specifically about the type of cargo that you want to ship. A freight forwarder with ten years experience in a niche area may be a better fit for you than one with 20 years more general experience. Of course, a very long-standing freight forwarder – such as John Good Shipping with over 180 years experience – is likely to be an excellent all-rounder, but it’s still a question worth asking.

4. Do you hold any accreditations?

As formal qualifications and certifications are not required to set up a freight forwarding business, looking for a forwarder with accreditations can really help you to sort the best from the rest. John Good Shipping is proud to have numerous accreditations under its belt, including affiliations with the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA). It is also a licensed International Air Transport Association (IATA) cargo agent and is registered as an IATA Dangerous Goods regulated agent. A freight forwarder holding plenty of accreditations from quality partners should instil confidence in potential service users.

In addition, John Good Shipping has worked extremely hard to attain Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status.

5. Will my shipments be insured?

The question of insurance is one that’s often over-looked until further down the line, but it’s vital that your goods are protected as they make their journey across the globe. Knowing who is responsible for your goods if something goes wrong while they’re being shipped is essential and looking at marine policies should always be the recommendation.

6. Will you complete all the required paperwork?

The paperwork that goes with importing and exporting can be complicated and confusing, so a freight forwarder that will handle some or all of this on your behalf will save you time, stress, hassle and potential mistakes. You should also ask whether a freight forwarder is an AEO (Authorised Economic Operator), as this means that it can get your goods through customs quicker.

7. Do you offer port-centric logistics?

Port-centric logistics are becoming increasingly popular as a way to streamline the shipping process and potentially save money and freight miles. If you’re interested in an at-port storage and distribution service, then you’ll want to choose a freight forwarder that offers this at your preferred port of arrival. If you’re going to be shipping by air, ask about similar services close to the relevant airport.

8. How extensive is your network?

The best freight forwarders have a well-established and extensive network, ensuring smooth movement of cargo worldwide, and also indicating good relationships with partners. If you know where you want to move goods to or from, it’s worth asking about the strength of a forwarder’s contacts in that particular area. With a network spanning 42 countries, John Good Shipping is a prime example of a freight forwarder with excellent global reach.

9. Can I track my shipments?

Nowadays, most people expect to be able to track their goods in real-time. Whether you’re importing goods for your own business use, or stock that will be delivered to an end-customer, knowing where your cargo is, and when you can expect it to arrive, is very useful. Not only will it help you to plan your own business schedule, but it’s also information that you can use to provide a better service to your customers. John Good Shipping has a handy online tracking system that you can use whenever you need to.

10. What is included in the quote?

When choosing a freight forwarder, it’s better to think in terms of value rather than cost. Not all freight forwarders offer the same service package, so ensure that you know exactly what’s included in the price you’re quoted. Equally, you don’t want to be paying for a service that you don’t need. Checking what’s included and what services are available at an add-on cost will enable you to build a freight forwarding package to suit your business requirements and budget perfectly. A freight forwarder that’s focused on offering the best service to its customers will have no problems answering your questions honestly and helping you to do exactly that.