Role of Clearing and Forwarding Agents in Air Cargo

Clearing Forwarding Agent Air Cargo

Though typically a more expensive means of transport than by sea, air freight is quick and ideal for moving goods that are time sensitive and have tight delivery schedules. A freight forwarder will oversee this entire process, negotiating rates, coordinating transport and assisting with the necessary customs formalities.

They will ensure that goods are accompanied with the right paperwork and that they are customs cleared and ready to be delivered to the chosen destination.

To understand the role of clearing and forwarding agents, let’s examine the process of, for example, export shipping by air:


  1. Pre-Shipping. Rates based on dimensions and weight will need to be established. Goods will need to be properly packages and labelled and the necessary paperwork will need to be provided for shipment.
  2. Forwarding out. Once booked with the freight forwarder they will coordinate the shipment with the chosen carrier and arrange for your goods to be collected and transported to the depot ready to export.
  3. Air transport. Your items pass UK customs, are loaded onto the plane, carried to the destination country, and unloaded.
  4. Forwarding in. Your shipment is processed by receiving country’s customs, picked up by a pre-arranged person/company, and delivered to the recipient.
  5. The recipient will receive and unpack goods.


Every time the shipment changes hands (from you to forwarder, forwarder to customs, customs to air transport, etc.) there is paperwork processing and confirmations. A mistake at any point can have your shipment held until corrections are processed. A good forwarder will ensure that paperwork is checked and that customs declarations are made promptly and accurately.

With over 2 million tonnes of air freight shipped per year in the UK alone, airports and freight terminals are processing a lot of cargo every day and importers have to make sure that everything is in order with their consignments if they are to be handled as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A forwarder will make sure that goods are entered in advance, that the right paperwork is in place and that the process runs more smoothly. Goods moved by air are typically urgent and customers cannot afford to incur delays and additional charges from the airlines. A good freight forwarder will oversee the whole process, track shipments, minimize delays, and liaise closely with customs authorities and airlines on your behalf.

If shippers and importers are inexperienced or don’t have the time to manage the process correctly it can easily lead to missed flights and additional charges. With such little time allowed at airports for customs and for connecting flights these movements are time critical throughout every stage of shipment.


Here are some of the duties of a Clearing and forwarding agent:


  • Arranging transport from your doors to the warehouse or storage facility and/or from storage to the airlines
  • Arranging for the air transport- times, loading, costs, and paperwork; overseeing the loading and unloading of goods in transport
  • Assist you in preparing all necessary documents for importing/exporting in the UK and the country of origin or country of receipt
  • Business systems integrated with Department of International Trade and other legal offices to ensure your paperwork and shipment is processed timely and properly
  • Business contracts and systems with carrier and transport businesses allows them to negotiate rates that save you money, enables them to track your shipment once it leaves your doors until delivery to the consignee and vice versa.

In addition, every country puts cargo through a customs clearance process; the rules, regulations, and laws vary between countries and sometimes between ports/airports within a country. This can make the customs process intricate and difficult for someone who is inexperienced or even out-of-date with the current procedures.

Forwarding and clearing agents are well-versed in these requirements and can save you time and money. Customs assistance and other required documentation can include tariff classifications, audits, detailed costing of shipments, Import or Export Declarations, Air Waybills, Certificates of Origin.

Trusting your shipment to a forwarding and clearing agent can ensure your freight is well-handled, providing you peace of mind to focus on other important business tasks.