Agents and Distributors (2)

For many companies that do not have a dedicated shipping department, documentation handling represents costs and complications that escalate in proportion to the number of different countries they are shipping products to. Again, freight forwarders provide a useful service. Specialist customs agents can also be used, and freight forwarders may have their own customs specialists in the destination country.

Airfreight forwarders offer similar services specialise in the forwarding of cargo by aircraft. As with surface freight forwarders, airfreight specialists handle documentation, visibility and expedition, insurance, arrangement of ground linkages and warehousing, issuance of the airway bills, tariff charges, and other airway specific documentation and charges. Airfreight consolidators perform similar tasks to surface forwarders: obtaining lowest rates by shopping around and comparing quotes from different carriers. Airfreight agents work for the airfreight carrier and effectively market aircraft cargo space to prospective buyers.

Agents and customs brokers earn fees by clearing goods through customs so that the goods can travel onward to their final destination. Customs clearance in some countries is a licensed profession, so customs agents can be an expensive addition to overall freight movement cost. Trading companies, as preferred by many large Japanese companies, are efficient facilitators of transnational goods movement. However, large trading companies are reluctant to deal with ad hoc or low quantity orders, preferring contract based business with big companies for multiple or ongoing shipments.

Brokers can operate alongside customs agents, or in some cases can provide the services offered by customs agents. Brokers typically take the title (ownership) of goods and assume the import charges, having power of attorney from the shipper. Use of brokers can hasten the customs processes and unnecessary charges that might be paid in ignorance can be avoided, since brokers endeavour to keep abreast of every change in law, documentation, regulation, and customs control procedures.

In some cases, distributors may appoint brokers or agents. If the manufacturer possesses little or no knowledge about the business environment into which the goods are shipped, a local distributor might be able to address this deficit by providing valuable local knowledge. Therefore, partnering with the right distributor can be a highly strategic decision, especially if the manufacturer has long-term market conquest objectives. Distributors will have experience and contacts with national and regional retail channels and logistics providers. If distributors are offering products from multiple companies, they may have contracts with freight companies that allow them to move goods at discounted rates.