When transporting your goods around the world, you can manage the process yourself or outsource your transporting needs to a freight forwarder.

Working directly with shipping lines (or carriers) has several benefits compared to using freight forwarders. Here are some advantages of working directly with shipping lines:

  1. Cost Efficiency: By bypassing freight forwarders, you can potentially reduce costs associated with intermediaries. Freight forwarders often add their own markup to shipping rates, whereas direct negotiations with shipping lines allow you to secure competitive pricing and eliminate unnecessary fees.


  1. Improved Communication: When working directly with shipping lines, you have direct access to their customer service representatives and operational teams. This direct communication channel can lead to faster response times, greater clarity in terms of shipment status, and better coordination throughout the shipping process.


  1. Flexibility and Customization: Shipping lines offer greater flexibility when it comes to customizing shipping solutions to meet your specific needs. They can provide tailored services, such as specialized container types, equipment availability, and vessel options, based on your cargo requirements. This level of customization may be limited when working through a freight forwarder.


  1. Greater Control and Visibility: By working directly with shipping lines, you have more control over the entire shipping process. You can track and monitor your shipments directly through the carrier's systems, accessing real-time information about vessel schedules, estimated time of arrival, and container tracking. This increased visibility helps you make informed decisions and enhances supply chain management.


  1. Access to Carrier Networks: Shipping lines have extensive global networks with numerous ports of call and regular sailing schedules. By collaborating directly with carriers, you gain access to their comprehensive service networks, which can be beneficial for companies with complex supply chains or specific shipping requirements. This broader reach can facilitate faster transit times and better coverage across different regions.


  1. Enhanced Contracting and Negotiation: Working directly with shipping lines allows you to negotiate and establish long-term contracts that can provide stability and favourable rates. Building strong relationships with carriers can lead to better service agreements, volume discounts, and priority allocation of container space during peak seasons.


  1. Regulatory Compliance: Direct interaction with shipping lines ensures that you have direct access to the carrier's knowledge and expertise in dealing with international regulations, customs requirements, and documentation processes. This can streamline the shipping process, reduce the risk of compliance issues, and ensure smoother clearance of goods at ports of entry.


The factors you should consider when deciding if you should use a freight forwarder include:

  • The scale or complexity of your transport needs - the more complicated your requirements, the more likely you are to benefit from using a specialist service
  • Whether you have the expertise and/or experience to arrange transport yourself. Remember that you also have to consider technical requirements such as customs clearance procedures
  • Whether you have the time and expertise to manage the process yourself
  • Whether you can comply with security arrangements and labelling rules for your goods


As with most business decisions, it's a matter of weighing up the advantages and disadvantages. There is no simple answer. The cost/benefit equation will differ from business to business, and possibly also from transaction to transaction.

Bear in mind that you may be able to gain valuable advice from your freight forwarder. In the same way that accountants are often a useful source of general business advice, working with a freight forwarder can be a good way of learning about international trade.

It's important to note that while working directly with shipping lines offers these advantages, freight forwarders can still be valuable partners, particularly for companies with limited shipping experience or complex logistics needs.

Freight forwarders can provide additional services such as consolidation, customs brokerage, documentation management, and end-to-end logistics solutions.

The choice between working directly with shipping lines or using freight forwarders ultimately depends on your specific requirements, resources, and expertise in managing the shipping process.

The factors you should consider when deciding if you should use a freight forwarder include:

    1. Cost Considerations:
      • A study by Transport Intelligence found that companies using freight forwarders typically pay 15% to 30% higher freight rates compared to those working directly with shipping lines.
    1. Service Quality and Reliability:
      • The Journal of Supply Chain Management reported that companies working directly with shipping lines rated their overall service quality higher compared to those using freight forwarders.
    1. Transparency and Visibility:
      • In a survey by BDP International, 80% of shippers who work directly with shipping lines stated that they had greater visibility into their supply chains compared to those using freight forwarders.
    1. Customization and Flexibility:
      • The same BDP International survey indicated that 79% of shippers working directly with shipping lines considered them more flexible in providing customized shipping solutions tailored to their specific needs.
    1. Risk Management:
      • A survey by BDP International revealed that 82% of shippers working directly with shipping lines felt more confident in their ability to manage risks such as disruptions, delays, and cargo security compared to those using freight forwarders.


    It's important to note that these figures and survey findings provide a general perspective, and the specific advantages may vary depending on individual circumstances, industry requirements, and the capabilities of freight forwarders and shipping lines.

     Conducting a comprehensive analysis of your specific shipping needs and considering industry-specific reports can provide more accurate insights for making an informed decision.



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