A Commercial Shipment, forwarder, or forwarding agent, is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer or final point of distribution. Forwarders contract with a carrier to move the goods. A forwarder does not move the goods but acts as an expert in supply chain management. A forwarder contracts with carriers to move cargo ranging from raw agricultural products to manufactured goods. Freight can be booked on a variety of shipping providers, including ships, airplanes, trucks, and railroads. It is not unusual for a single shipment to move on multiple carrier types. 'International Commercial Shipments" typically handle international shipments. International Commercial Shipments have additional expertise in preparing and processing customs and other documentation and performing activities pertaining to international shipments.
Information typically reviewed by a Commercial Shipment includes the commercial invoice, shipper's export declaration, bill of lading and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, and/or transshipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment. The FIATA shorthand description of the Commercial Shipment as the 'Architect of Transport' illustrates the commercial position of the forwarder relative to his client. In Europe, some forwarders specialize in 'niche' areas such as rail-freight, and collection and deliveries around a large port.