Freight Forwarder:

  • Essentially secures the business of various exporters and importers and has the ability/facility to store cargo belonging to the clients at their warehouse (usually all big forwarders have their own warehouses)
  • Arrange the distribution or “forwarding” of the cargo as per the instructions of their client. This could be a regular routing or various routing
  • Negotiate freight rates with the shipping line to cover the interest of their clients
  • Book the cargo with the shipping line as per the requirement of the client
  • Prepare bills of lading and associated shipping/negotiating documentation (F178, Certificate of Origin, etc.)
  • Issue their approved house bill of lading as applicable
  • MAY or MAY NOT also do Customs Clearance

Clearing Agent:

  • Essentially takes care of the customs clearance aspect of the business
  • It is a company accredited by the local customs authorities, port etc.
  • Arranges to pass the relevant documents at customs
  • Arranges for customs inspections as required
  • Check & process Duty & VAT payment as applicable
  • Apply for refunds etc. where applicable
  • Cannot issue own bill of lading if not registered or acting as a freight forwarder


These are the major difference between a Freight Forwarder and Clearing Agent.