A freight forwarder is an individual or company that dispatches shipments via asset based carriers and books or otherwise arranges space for those shipments. Common carrier types could include waterborne vessels, airplanes, trucks or railroads.
Freight forwarders typically arrange cargo movement to an international destination. Also referred to as international freight forwarders, they have the expertise that allows them to prepare and process the documentation and perform related activities pertaining to international shipments. Some of the typical information reviewed by a freight forwarder is the commercial invoice, shipper’s export declaration, and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment.
As an analogy, freight forwarders have been called travel agents for freight.
In the U.S., a freight forwarder involved with international ocean shipping is licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary.