What is a Freight Forwarder?

A freight forwarder arranges transportation of shipments on behalf of a customer who has nominated control of their goods to the freight forwarder.  A freight forwarder will not own and run their own sea freight, air freight or road freight services, the major carriers and hauliers run these services.  Your freight forwarder will use their contacts with these carriers and hauliers to book your cargo onto the shipping services on your behalf.

A freight forwarder will negotiate your freight rates and other costs that come with international shipping for you.  Once you have confirmed you wish to process, the freight forwarder will book in your cargo, collect funds from yourself for the entire forwarding service and then pass these on to the carriers and/or hauliers for you.

Knowledgeable in international trade, documentation and customs requirements, your freight forwarder should be advising and assisting you with more than just the logistics of your international shipments.


What should you look for in your freight forwarder?

Well Established

Ensure that your freight forwarder has a legacy within the industry, it may only mean they have been around for 5 years or they may have been around for 25 years plus.  A well-established company will generally mean that they have a good reputation (the logistics industry is mostly about reputation) and that they also have the experience and knowledge of the industry, which are key for ensuring that your shipments go smoothly without any issues.

Mercator was founded in 1991, our first customer 25 years ago is still our customer today.

Well Connected

Most freight forwarders will claim that they have contacts across the globe with other freight agents.  Do a bit of research into your freight forwarder.  Ensure that you have chosen a forwarder which is part of a genuine and reputable global freight forwarder network.  Some networks insist on membership only available via recommendation from existing members, one strike and you are out, and limits on the size of the company allowed to join.  All of these requirements will protect the end user, that’s you, the customer.

Mercator is a founding member of the global network MarcoPoloLine (MPL) which was founded over 10 years ago.  Currently the network is made up of 351 offices in over 99 countries.

Perfectly Formed

You may think that using a huge freight forwarder will give you more protection, a better service, and cheaper rates.  However, there is a lot positive to be said for SME sized freight forwarders.  If your chosen forwarder is a member of BIFA (British International Freight Association) they will be required to have a freight liability policy, just the same as the larger firms.  If you are dealing with a small company, chances are that your shipment will be assigned just to one person, so you will not be passed from pillar to post when you are phoning to discuss your shipment.  If the smaller freight forwarder is part of a global network, they have the same reach that a worldwide freight forwarder has and can offer the same services.  Remember that cheaper does not necessarily mean that it is a better choice, you get what you pay for.  If a “like for like” quote is coming out drastically cheaper from another firm, check to make sure that it really does include everything and you will not get a large bill at the end which you were not expecting.

At Mercator we are registered as a freight agent with BIFA.  All our customer accounts are appointed during the first shipment to one of our experienced team.  Our status within MPL the global network means we can offer from door and to door deliveries in over 99 countries worldwide.  All our quotes provided for a service will include everything so there are no nasty surprises.


Keep an eye out for the freight forwarders based in the UK who are not members of BIFA (British International Freight Association).  Being a member of BIFA means that the freight forwarder will need to follow a code of conduct and certain conditions of trade specified by BIFA.  BIFA is in place to protect consumers when it comes to international trade.

Mercator has been a member of BIFA since we were founded in 1991.

Knowledgeable and Experienced

Not only is it important to make sure that the freight forwarding company you wish to deal with has been established for a number of years, it is also worth finding out how much experience your personal contact at the company has within freight forwarding.  Being a freight forwarder is a specialist role, whilst you do not require specific qualifications, years of experience will give you an idea of how competent your forwarder will be when handling your shipment.

At Mercator all of our freight forwarding team have spent the majority of their careers in the industry, we have a total of 107 years of collective experience between 4 members of staff.

Connected with Carriers

Make sure that your freight forwarder books your shipments directly with the freight carrier, and not via another forwarder, who books through another, who books through another etc.  Not only will not booking direct take much longer if there is a problem with a shipment, it could also end up very costly as each person handling the booking will add their own charge onto the cost.

As Mercator is well-established in the freight arena, we have direct contact and accounts with the major carriers, ensuring that we have the most control of the shipments we arrange and are not incurring unnecessary fees for our customers.


“I’ve learned that the best business relationships are those nurtured over time, with people who truly care about doing a great job for the long-term – and not just those who offer a quick fix, lowest price or fastest short-term delivery.  In my experience, those who undercut or over-promise tend not to be there for your business in the longer run.” – Liz Earle



If you are importing a shipment into the UK and your agent at your good’s origin has nominated an agent in the UK and you are not happy with them, you are not required to appoint them to carry out your UK clearance and delivery.  For a nominal fee (usually around £60) you can request for your shipment to be “handed over” to another freight forwarder of your choice to complete your shipment.  We regularly deal with this kind of situation where the customer appoints us to carry out the clearance and delivery for them.

The bottom line is, it’s your shipment, you can choose who you want to work with in order to transport it swiftly, safely and without hitches.

If you are looking to appoint a reputable, reliable and experienced freight forwarder, get in contact to discuss your requirements: +44 2392 756 575, or email sales@mercatorcargo.co.uk


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    Please note we are unable to handle personal shipments.