Freight forwarders are companies that broker freight on a multitude of different carriers. The primary advantage of using freight forwarders is their flexibility. They can move small boxes to large crates of exhibit materials anywhere in the world at just about any speed you need. Unlike other carriers, the freight forwarder can choose a carrier to meet your specific needs and will often use two or three carriers along the way. Some of the largest freight logistics companies in the world are freight forwarders. In fact, many are also customs brokers, ensuring a smooth transition though international borders.
The criteria for choosing the right freight forwarder are the same as for choosing a customs broker (see page 44): You want a company that has experience in the convention and meetings industry as well as in the country where your event will be held. Shipping internationally is very different from shipping within the United States. There are restrictions, permits, and bylaws that change from country to country. Even terminology in the shipping industry changes quite dramatically from one continent to the next.
Moreover, having your carrier or freight forwarder in your time zone when you are at your event is very important. Unlike customs, where most of the challenges should have presented themselves days prior to delivery, the freight forwarder's timing is down to the hour. This is when you need to know the status of your delivery as they are bringing it to you.
Ideally, you want to pick a freight forwarder who is also a customs broker. However, the likelihood that freight forwarders are licensed in every country you are working in is slim. Typically, they will have working relationships with brokers in the country you are working in. This is OK, but be sure to get the name and contact number for the actual customs broker that you will be dealing with on site.
In most cases, carriers willtheir overseas work to other cartage companies. This means that the company that delivers your material will not ordinarily be the same as the one that picks it up. Your local freight forwarder will always be responsible for the entire journey, but if there is a problem when you are overseas, you will want to talk to the actual company that has your freight. Therefore, get the name, number, and contact person at your destination. And find a company that you can contact 24/7.