Many people who have not shipped goods internationally before probably think that every freight forwarding company has a customs broker license. Unfortunately, these same people often find out the hard way that that isn’t always the case. 

In reality, freight forwarders and customs brokers are actually two separate things. You can be one or the other or both, but being a freight forwarder does not automatically make you a customs broker. 

To clarify in simple terms, think of a freight forwarder as a travel agent for your shipment. If you travel locally within the country that you reside in, then issues regarding documentation, passports, visas and the like are irrelevant. The same goes for goods that are shipped locally – you don’t need to clear customs in the same country you are shipping from.

Conversely, if you are traveling out of the country you reside in, you will need additional documentation when you go through customs at the country of your arrival. Your travel agent may advise you on the documents you need, but they will not be responsible for your customs and immigration clearance into the country you are going to……same thing for freight; your freight forwarder will take care of the shipment you are sending, but it will require a licensed customs broker to handle the clearance of your goods at the port of entry. 

Another way to look at this is that generally speaking, freight forwarders will concentrate on the export side of the transaction while a customs broker will be focused on the import side of the same transaction. 

In most practical situations, your freight forwarder will ask you if you have a customs broker to work with at the delivery point or port of entry where your goods are going. If you say no, they will usually be able to contact a licensed customs broker in the country you are shipping to and facilitate the clearance process for you. This is where it is important to be working with a freight forwarder who has a history in the freight forwarding business and is able to rely on their contacts throughout the world to ensure that a licensed customs broker is available and able to handle the customs clearance process at the destination end of the transaction. 

A responsible and professional freight forwarder will be able to handle the entire transaction for you and the use of a licensed customs broker at the other end will be seen as a seamless event to the customer. 

That said, that same responsible and professional freight forwarder will be sure to advise you that it is your responsibility to make sure the description of the goods in the shipment are specific and accurate.

Since 1990, Eagles Air & Sea has been helping customers all over the world ship into and out of Thailand with a minimum of stress and complications. They will be happy to discuss your unique shipping requirements as well.