Small Business Guide to Freight Forwarding

Rosa Turchio Blog, Freight Forwarding

Exporting products to end customers can be a difficult and challenging process that many businesses face. In order to overcome these obstacles, businesses often hire specialists known as “freight forwarders.”

What a Freight Forwarder Can Do For Your Business

Freight forwarders act as intermediaries between transporters responsible for getting products to customers overseas, and the companies that hire them. Some of these transportation services include carriers, handlers, and customs officials.

With this in mind, there is always one clear objective between all of these different transportation services: ensure the delivery of undamaged products by specified dates. 

Items go through several hands on their journey from suppliers to customers. How many hands largely depends on the final destination of the shipments and the nature of the products sold. No matter how many hands the shipment may go through, the goal of timely and safe delivery is always the same.

Freight forwarders can help with packaging your goods for shipment internationally, proper package labelling, and preparing proper documentation (which can help make customs clearance easier).

Every freight forwarder aims to get product to the customer on time and undamaged. Due to the complexity of shipping items overseas, some freight forwarders also offer insurance services that can cover losses in the event that a product breaks during shipping.


Preparing products for export can be a difficult task, with varying degrees of complexity. Hiring a freight forwarder can help your business navigate the channels that come with packaging products for shipment.

For instance, packaging products for shipping within the same country (like Canada or the United States) can be considerably more simple than packaging products for extended transportation overseas. 

Packaging items that often end up in large cargo containers adds an extra layer of complexity to the shipping process, since these items may be loaded and unloaded multiple times along their route.

Items shipped overseas in cargo containers may also be stored in extreme temperatures – both on the low and high end. 

When packages are shipped by sea, they may experience volatile weather which can jostle ocean freight ships and cargo. Items shipped by air often require lightweight packaging in order to keep costs down, as air freight can be a fast but costly shipping solution.

Package Labeling

Freight forwarders can help correctly label packages, ensuring they have the following information:

  • An itemized list of products in the shipping container
  • Country of origin
  • Port of entry details
  • Any details required in the language of the destination country
  • A warning about any hazardous items
  • Correct weight of the package, reflected in both pounds and kilograms

Ensuring your package has all of the necessary information requirements helps make its journey as quick and safe as possible.


Having correct packaging and package labeling is only one piece of the puzzle when shipping items overseas. Shipping items to overseas destinations by air and ocean often requires an incredible amount of complex documentation which requires specialized knowledge that a freight forwarder can offer. 

When considering a freight forwarding company, make sure they’re able to provide the following:

  • Bill of Lading (BOL) – The BOL is a legal document issued by a carrier to a shipper that details the type, quantity and destination of the goods being carried. It also serves as a shipment receipt when the carrier delivers the goods at a predetermined destination.
  • Commercial Invoice – This invoice is a bill for the goods presented from the seller to the buyer. It is used to determine the true value of goods when assessing the amount of duties to be paid to customs upon arrival.
  • Certificate of Origin (COO) – A document declaring in which country a commodity or good was manufactured
  • Inspection Certificate – Used in order to signify that shipped goods have been inspected to certify that they conform with the terms stated on the sales contract.
  • Export License – This license is a government document that authorizes the export of goods in specific quantities to a specific destination.
  • Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) – This standardized U.S. document contains export statistics for shipments exceeding $500 in value.
  • Export Packaging List – A detailed packaging list which itemizes each item in the shipment, the type of packaging container used, and the gross weight and package measurements.


A freight forwarding company can streamline shipping operations and make sure customers receive items in a timely manner while making sure the items arrive without incident. Freight forwarders can help provide exporters with all the necessary (and exhaustive) documentation and act as a liaison between all of the transportation companies involved in the supply chain.

To learn more about how freight forwarding can benefit your supply chain, get in touch with us today.