A shipping agent is an individual or entity that is responsible for the handling and transportation of cargo. They oversee a wide range of tasks to ensure that the goods arrive in a safe and timely manner. They are also well-versed in international shipping regulations and can offer advice on customs clearance and shipping procedures.
They represent the interests of their customers which includes the importer, exporter and the shipping line, if applicable.
Responsibilities of a Shipping Agent
The key responsibilities of a shipping agent are as follows:
- Arrange berthing and unberthing of the ship
- Procure required documents from the relevant authorities
- Ensure taxes and duties are paid and discharged
- Attend to the needs of the crew onboard
- Arrange for repair works and husbandry of the ship
- Negotiate favorable rates for importers, exporters and the shipping line
- Act as an intermediary between ship owners and local authorities during the port of stay
- Liaise with all the parties involved
Shipping Agent vs Freight Forwarder
While shipping agents and freight forwarders have overlapping responsibilities, there are a few differences that set them apart:
- Mode of transportation
Shipping agents usually specialize in a single mode of transportation such as ships or planes. However, freight forwarders tend to provide multi-modal transportation options. This means that they are able to arrange for sea freight, air freight or trucking.
- Types of services offered
In addition to providing shipping solutions, freight forwarders often provide logistical support such as warehousing, inventory management and packing services. This is in contrast to shipping agents who are only involved once the cargo has been consolidated and is ready to be shipped.