A freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or other companies and may also act as a carrier. A forwarder is often not active as a carrier and acts only as an agent, in other words as a third-party (non-asset-based) logistics provider that dispatches shipments via asset-based carriers and that books or otherwise arranges space for these shipments. Carrier types include ships, airplanes, trucks, andrailroads.
Freight forwarders typically arrange cargo movement to an international destination. Also referred to as international freight forwarders, they have the expertise that allows them to prepare and process the documentation and perform related activities pertaining to international shipments. Some of the typical information reviewed by a freight forwarder is the commercial invoice, shipper's export declaration, bill of lading and other documents required by the carrier or country of export,import, or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment.
The FIATA short-hand description of the freight forwarder as the 'Architect of Transport' illustrates clearly the commercial position of the forwarder relative to his client. In Europe there are forwarders that specialise in 'niche' areas such as railfreight and collection and deliveries around a large port. The latter are called Hafen (port) Spediteure (Port Forwarders). A forwarder in some countries may sometimes deal only with domestic traffic and never handle international traffic.