Have you just made your first international sale and wonder how you should go about shipping your goods overseas? Or are you considering exporting, but not sure of how best to deliver your goods to a foreign country? Consider the benefits of a freight forwarder, described by expert Jeff Coppersmith and as “your international transportation department.”

What is a freight forwarder?

A freight forwarder is a licensed company that can help you make the necessary arrangements to get your product from your door to your buyer’s door. Often, the logistics of transporting your product is up to you as a seller – but a freight forwarder can provide help ensure that you export economically, safely, and in compliance with U.S. and foreign government laws.

What exactly can a freight forwarder do for me?

Freight forwarders aren’t required to get your product transported, but they can provide a lot of assistance throughout the entire process. A freight forwarder can also come in handy if you need to consider the following characteristics – is your product:

  • Time-sensitive? – If not, shipping via ocean is the way to go, although there will be a difference in cost depending on if the ship goes directly to the destination or makes stops elsewhere first. If your product needs to arrive more quickly, then air transportation is the best option.
  • Hazardous? – Your freight forwarder will be aware of any special requirements if your product is hazardous. Your choices for transportation may be limited and you may incur a greater cost to ship it.
  • Super heavy or super-sized? – Sometimes special equipment or permits are required for oversized or weighty products. Your freight forwarder will help tailor arrangements to accommodate your shipment.
  • Breakable or temperature-sensitive? – These conditions also require special packing considerations for which your freight forwarder can help make preparations.

Another consideration is how much room your goods will take up – a full container or a few boxes or pallets? Not sure? A freight forwarder will help make the determination. And if you can consolidate your items with another shipper, a freight forwarder can work toward those arrangements to save on cost.

A freight forwarder will arrange for your product’s pickup; deliver it to the ship or airplane; and file and process certain necessary documentation. Once your goods are shipped, the freight forwarder will process additional documents if needed, including a certificate of origin, insurance certificate, and notarization – all in compliance with the terms of your letter of credit – and present it to the bank.

Bottom line: a freight forwarder will help you figure out what’s best – and most cost-effective – for your business and your product’s voyage to its destination. You’ll get the help you need with required documentation and the peace of mind knowing that licensed experts are helping handle the process.

Where do I find a freight forwarder near me?

According to, freight forwarders can be found in most metropolitan areas. Local business telephone listings often feature a freight forwarder or transportation heading. The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America also provides exporters with information on their members. Additionally, you can check out trade associations and local Chambers of Commerce.

Want to learn more about how freight forwarders can help you export your product? Visit for informational videos, resource links, and more.

About the Author(s)

 U.S. Small Business Administration  (SBA)

The SBA is an independent federal agency that works to assist and protect the interests of American small businesses.

U.S. Small Business Administration
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