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Ocean Freight Forwarders & Everything You Need to Know About the Ocean Freight Forwarding Process

Everything you need to know about using an ocean forwarder to ship your cargo with ocean freight.

Ocean Freight Forwarding Companies

Sending a letter in the mail is easy — envelope, stamp, mailbox.

International freight? Not so much.

Thankfully, there are ocean freight companies that can facilitate the process, enabling you to get your goods where they need to go stress-free.

But, similar to the postal service, there are different routes you can take to deliver your goods; from Express to air and ocean.

In this article, you will learn the benefits of an ocean freight forwarder and how to determine if ocean freight is right for you.


What is an Ocean Freight Forwarder?

A freight forwarder is a person or company with the know-how to safely and effectively transport your freight from point A to point B.

While freight forwarders don’t generally own the trucks, ships, or airplanes necessary to move your cargo, they serve as middlemen who know every step of the complicated shipping process and can ensure that your goods get to their destination.

Some forwarders specialize in air freight, while others work exclusively with ocean freight.

An ocean freight forwarder specializes in moving freight via cargo ships. This specialization enables ocean forwarders to know precisely how to complete any shipment and build the relationships necessary to get the best ocean rates, which they can then pass on to their customers.

Ocean Freight Forwarding Services

Despite how crucial freight is to the world economy, it’s a pretty difficult field to navigate.

That’s why even the most seasoned of shipping professionals rely on a sea freight forwarder’s services for their ocean shipments.

An ocean forwarder knows what goods can be shipped, the correct procedures for shipping them, all of the paperwork required for shipping, how to get your cargo on a vessel, and what to do in case something goes wrong.

That means that with the right ocean freight forwarding services, you can be confident that your freight is in good hands and worry about the more important parts of your business.

Looking to compare ocean freight quotes?

Does an ocean forwarder charge less than an air forwarder?

Unsurprisingly, ocean rates are less expensive than air rates. But there are tradeoffs.

If speed is a priority, you may want to look elsewhere. Ocean shipments take over one month to be delivered, whereas air shipments take a few days.

Reliability is also a factor that should be considered. While air shipments run on a very tight schedule, it’s not uncommon for freight ships to take longer than expected to embark.

That said, there is a reason why 90% of cargo is sent via the ocean. It is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to send goods internationally. It’s also the best (and sometimes only) way to send oversized and hazardous items.

How do I calculate ocean freight rates?

You can calculate ocean freight costs and fees by using our freight rate calculator. Simply enter your dimensions and weight to get an instant estimate. If your shipment is large enough, you may want to look into container rates.

If you’re ready to book a shipment, you can log in to Freightos for an instant freight quote.

Who are the Top and Best Ocean Freight Forwarders?

Ocean freight, integral to global trade, thrives in a fragmented market, with the top ten ocean forwarders commanding just 43% of the industry. Our list of premier ocean freight forwarders helps navigate this complex landscape. These firms are renowned for their reliability, superior customer service, global presence, and innovative solutions. They excel in managing logistics, optimizing supply chains, and ensuring efficient cargo transportation. The right choice depends on individual needs, cargo type, destinations, and regulatory compliance. Careful evaluation and due diligence are essential for selecting the perfect partner for your ocean shipping requirements.

See our list of some of the best ocean freight forwarders below: 

  • Kuehne + Nagel
    A clear leader, whose ocean freight revenues are estimated to be around 65% larger than its nearest rival. But in a highly fragmented market, its share is estimated at just 9.2%.
  • DHL Global Forwarding
    Although coming in second, DHL’s ocean freight revenue is smaller than their air and truck operations. In 2015, DHL Global Forwarding ocean freight revenue reached $3,850M.
  • Sinotrans
    China’s largest freight forwarder is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange but is wholly owned by the government. Much of its ocean freight business takes place in the coastal cities of Eastern China.
  • DB Schenker
    Headquartered in Germany, the freight giant employs nearly 100,000 employees around the world. In 2015, its ocean freight volumes were 1,942m TEUs.
  • DSV
    The Danish company’s acquisition of another leading sea forwarder UTi approximately doubled the ocean freight forwarding revenues of DSV a year ago. Their 835,487 TEUs of ocean freight in 2015 brought in $1,7580 m in revenue.

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