Freight forwarders – do your research

Do your research
Do your research

As with all aspects of international trade, it pays to do your research before choosing a freight forwarder to look after the transportation of your goods to or from Africa. Draw up a shortlist of at least three and compare them before selecting one. This article explains how to find and choose the right level of service for you.

There are many bodies that can help you search for freight forwarders, including experienced exporters, preferably those in your sector, whose freight needs are likely to be similar to yours; your trade association as it should be familiar with the freight needs of businesses in your sector and freight forwarding trade bodies, particularly the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the established trade body for UK freight forwarders and the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) for those overseas. Bear in mind that while there's a relatively small number of major global freight forwarding companies, there are thousands of smaller specialist operators.

The most important factor in choosing your shortlist of freight forwarders should be their experience with the routes and goods your business deals with. For example, if you transport goods that need refrigerated containers, ask for references from businesses with similar needs.

Other things you should find out about your shortlisted candidates include the ancillary services they can provide, and how they charge for them; how long they've been running and how well established they are – remember to ask for references; how willing they are to explain the process to you as it unfolds, as this can be a valuable learning opportunity if you're new to international trading; and the overall cost for their services.