A freight forwarder works out the logistics and makes sure all bases are covered in the process of transporting goods from A to B. Typical responsibilities include:
- considering and planning the most effective route for freight
- organising the transportation of freight between intermediate destinations – usually cargo terminals, port facilities or railway yards
- tracking the movement of freight using software and satellite technology
- reporting back to clients, keeping them up-to-date with the progress of goods
- deciding on the best way to package stock, taking into account factors such as weather, terrain and type of goods
- taking appropriate measures for the movement of delicate goods
- checking countries’ legal requirements to make sure all the appropriate documentation (eg insurance and customs forms) is filled out
- staying up-to-date with relevant political activities and legislation that might impact the transportation of freight
- organising payments or processes transactions on behalf of the client, such as freight charges.
Most freight in the UK is handled by third-party logistics (3PL) companies, which work on behalf of companies to organise the handling and transportation of goods. These include local, national or international companies. To discover potential employers, you could take a look at the members of the British International Freight Association (BIFA).
You don’t need a degree to begin a career in freight forwarding. However, a supply chain, transport or business-related qualification will provide you with knowledge and skills useful for this career path. A degree will also support your application if you decide to apply for graduate schemes, although many companies will accept applications from university graduates of unrelated disciplines.
If you decide not to go to university, you could carry out an apprenticeship with a 3PL company. Alternatively, a Higher National Diploma (HND) in a related discipline will help you to secure an entry-level position. The TARGETcareers website provides more information about alternatives to university, including apprenticeships and HNDs.
After working as a freight forwarder, many people progress to the position of senior freight forwarder before becoming a shipping manager or export office manager.
You can support your professional development through training courses or professional qualifications, which may be offered by your employer. Furthermore, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) offers qualifications in freight forwarding. Undertaking these will expand your skills set and knowledge, as well as providing proof of your expertise to employers.
Gaining chartered membership of the CILT will improve your prospects of career progression. You’ll need at least four years’ experience in the profession for this; you can find out how to become a chartered member on the CILT website.
- strong organisational skills
- attention to detail
- the ability to communicate effectively and clearly
- teamwork and an aptitude for coordinating your work with others
- knowledge and understanding of geography and cultural differences
- the ability to detect and solve problems.