Role of clearing and forwarding agents in sea cargo

Clearing Forwarding Agents Sea Cargo

Moving cargo by sea is more cost effective than air freight and is often the most suitable method of transport for international goods for both LCL and full load cargo.

The freight forwarder oversees the entire process of cargo movement, organizing the most suitable port schedules and negotiating the best rates available on the market.

Having the proper paperwork and being able to track your shipment from place to place is key to avoiding issues like having your cargo held or misplaced during this process. A freight forwarder is the key to managing this process and will liaise with the shipping lines, keep you informed of the status of any shipments and assist with the documentary requirements.

Though technology has come a long way in assisting with the paperwork and tracking of international shipments, a clearing and forwarding agent is specially trained and qualified to handle those things for you as they are complicated and, as an industry influenced by business, technology, and government policy, procedures can change often.

To better understand, here is a look at the typical importing/exporting process:


  1. Export Shipping and handling. This is where the goods are packaged and prepared by the shipper in the country of origin using the proper packaging and labels. Then, the shipment is picked up by a forwarder and hauled to a warehouse where it is stored to await loading and shipment. At the appropriate time, the cargo will be transported to the origin port and be loaded onto the ship.
  2. Customs processing. The freight is examined for accuracy, paperwork and fees are processed, and the cargo is cleared for shipping.
  3. Sea transport. The cargo is transported from origin country to destination country. Sometimes, freight can travel to several different ports during this process and be transferred to and transported on different ships until it arrives in the destination port. If you opt for a direct service the freight forwarder will move the cargo directly from the origin to destination pots without transshipment.
  4. Customs processing. When the cargo is ready to arrive at the destination port, the freight forwarder will check all the paperwork and make the appropriate declarations to customs excise. They will assist with calculation of duties, classification and the calculation and payment of any applicable duties and taxes. A good freight forwarder will help make sure that your goods are classified correctly, entered into customs in advance and subsequently cleared as early as possible to avoid delays and additional fees that may be levied by the shipping lines.
  5. Import handling and delivery. Freight forwarders not only organize customs clearance but also ensure that cargo is picked up from the quay and delivered to the importers chosen destination. A freight forwarder provides full post landing service where they will contact the delivery points and coordinate the haulage. A good forwarder will liaise with the shipping companies on your behalf and arrange soonest possible transport to or from the quay.
  • Arranging transport from your doors to the warehouse or storage facility and/or from storage. Arranging for the sea transport- times, loading, costs, and paperwork.
  • Assist you in preparing all necessary documents for importing/exporting in the UK and the country of origin or country of receipt, such as tariff classifications, audits, detailed costing of shipments, Import or Export Declarations, Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origin, Bill of Entry, and more
  • 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 make deals that save you money, enables them to track your shipment once it leaves your doors until delivery to the consignee and vice versa.
  • Customs processing, obtaining marine insurance and handling insurance claims for damaged/lost items, etc.


As previously described, every country puts cargo through a customs clearance process; the rules, regulations, and laws vary between countries and sometimes between ports 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 stay abreast of policy and other changes affecting the industry. They can offer the best guidance and service for your shipping needs.

Trusting your shipment to a forwarding and clearing agent can ensure your freight is well-handled, saving you time and money that can be focused on your business.