Freight forwarding companies employ 138,200 people across the UK, which accounts for 8% of UK logistics employment

Supply Chain Recruitment Agencies Shipping & Freight Forwarding

Shipping & Freight Forwarding

A freight forwarder is an agent who acts on behalf of importers, exporters or other companies to organise the safe, efficient and cost-effective transportation of goods.

You will use computer systems to arrange the best means of transport, taking into account the type of goods and the customers delivery requirements. You’ll use the services of shipping lines, airlines and road and rail freight operators.

Companies vary in size and type, from those operating on a national and international basis to smaller, more specialised firms, which deal with particular types of goods or operate within particular geographical areas.


Activities vary depending on the type and size of employer but typically include:

  • investigating and planning the most appropriate route for a shipment, taking into account the perishable or hazardous nature of goods, cost, transit time and security;
  • arranging appropriate packing, taking into account the climate, terrain, weight, cost and nature of goods and also the delivery and warehousing of goods at their final destination;
  • negotiating contracts, transportation and handling costs;
  • obtaining, checking and preparing documentation to meet customs and insurance requirements, packing specifications, and compliance with other countries’ regulations and fiscal regimes;
  • offering consolidation services by air, sea and road, ensuring cost-effective and secure solutions to small shippers who have insufficient cargo to require their own dedicated units;
  • arranging insurance and assisting the client in the event of a claim;
  • offering tailored IT solutions and electronic data interchange (EDI) connections;
  • arranging payment of freight and other charges or collection of payment on behalf of the client;
  • utilising e-commerce, internet technology and satellite systems to enable real-time tracking of goods;
  • arranging air transport for urgent and high-value freight and managing the risk door-to-door;
  • acting as broker in customs negotiations worldwide to guide the freight efficiently through complex procedures;
  • dealing with special arrangements for transporting delicate cargoes, such as livestock, food and medical supplies;
  • arranging courier and specialist hand-carry services;
  • maintaining communication and control through all phases of the journey, including the production of management reports and statistical and unit-cost analysis;
  • maintaining current knowledge of relevant legislation, political situations and other factors that could affect the movement of freight.

At more senior levels, the role may also involve managing staff and overseeing activities within a department or specialising in a particular area, such as sea freight or air freight.

Salary (as a guide only)

  • Starting salaries are in the region of £15,000 to £18,000. With experience this can progress from £20,000 to £30,000.
  • At a middle management level, freight forwarders can earn £30,000 to £35,000, with this increasing to £35,000 to £50,000 at senior management level.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 35 to 40 hours per week. Normally Monday to Friday office hours for companies with more of a sea freight focus, but for some companies, for example those who specialise in air freight – this can be on a shift pattern as cargo is coming in 24/7.

What to expect

  • The work is mainly office based.
  • The dress code is normally smart as you may be meeting clients, but business-casual is acceptable in the office.
  • The working environment can be stressful, as much of the work is aimed at meeting tight delivery deadlines.
  • Travel within the working day and absence from home overnight are not typical.
  • In larger firms of freight forwarders, opportunities to travel or work overseas are becoming more frequent for experienced staff.

For more information on the industry, you can download an introduction into the logistic industry eBook here or visit the British International Freight Association (BIFA) website here –