Graduation of 400 Freight Forwarders: Professionalism is our focus


By Eugene Nweke

The epoch occasion that greeted the freight forwarding sector of the maritime industry two weeks ago might have been greeted with some shortcomings, yet it is better starting off from a point than abiding in professional stereotype of nothingness.

The graduation processes might not have met the qualification expectations of some industry stakeholders in one hand and might have surpassed the expectations of many stakeholders in the other hand.

Notwithstanding which ever divide of expectations one belongs to, we must appreciate the doggedness of those who ensured that a professionalizing process has commenced in earnest, any other noticeable shortcomings can be fine-tuned, improve upon or corrected going forward. Hence, no system starts nor attains with 100% perfection from its inception.

However, the concerns before us after the well organized and attended graduation ceremony with its attendant hypes is to push further for a collective resolve to evolve a new professional thinking and the changing the industry narratives from the status quo “profession as usual to profession unusual.”

By so doing, we must fore mostly, do away with the old dichotomy that revolves around a freight forwarder or a custom broker or customs licensed agents. The gospel truth being that, except from an ulterior motives or deliberate arm twists, we are the same people joined together by distinct service provisions within the international trade supply chain.

We must be bold and take a stand to bridge the gap that has divided us on the account of this dichotomy especially those peddled by the agents of divide and rules.

Need To Redefine The Freight Forwarding Definition In A Simplified Language For The Clarity Of Understanding By The Freight Forwarders:

■. The Governing Council and the management of the CRFFN should also adopt the Singapore definition and explanation of who is a freight forwarder, thereby stating thus: “A freight forwarder is a person or company that act as ‘broker’ or ‘middleman’, organizing and handling the shipment of goods according to his customers tailored needs. He acts as a contracting carrier for port-to-port shipments and assumes liability on behalf of those carriers involved in the chain of transport, both at the sea, air and on land.”

■. By the above definition cum explanation, the performing word here is: “broker or middleman.” The reason being that, “Freight forwarders often do not own the goods nor own the ships used for transportation neither do the freight forwarder performs the actual transportation.

The Much Expected Roles/Services Rendered By The Freight Forwarders:

■. The much expected roles from the freight forwarder is to render such services as:

  1. Managing and overseeing the entire transportation process – plan and getting land transportation for the goods to and from the ports.
  2. Organizing shipment details through common carriers.
  3. Arranging space for shipments on behalf of shippers.
  4. Completing all relevant documentation.
  5. Arranging for the cargo clearance through the Customs.

Focusing On The Other Related Services /Activities Performed By The Freight Forwarders – The Beauty And Essence Of The Graduation:

Now that we are professionalizing, there is need to put the other related services/activities of the freight forwarder vis-a-vis:

  1. Assembling and consolidating smaller shipments into larger one.
  2. Arranging for goods to be packed into a container.
  3. Reserving space and equipment,
  4. Undertakes the Warehousing, clearance, delivery, banking, insurance services and agency services.
  5. Study, understands and keeps abreast with the current market trends, insurance requirements and transport alternatives.

The Demands And Enlistment Of The Freight Forwarders – The Employment Market

In a professional environment, as the professional roles and influence of the freight forwarders in the transport supply chain and world trade increases, especially with the its distinct expertise and commitment to facilitate the smooth transition of their goods under their care, across the globe, the services of a freight forwarder is enlisted by

■ The freight forwarders are enlisted by the bankers and insurance companies and deployed on their export/imports desks.

■ Corporate companies (shipping companies/terminal operators etc.) enlist freight forwarders as their in house exports/imports departments.

The Evolution Of Freight Forwarders As Third Party Logistics Providers – 3PL

■. The concept of third party logistics – 3PL is globally used to describe the process undertaken by companies to subcontracting certain aspects of logistics services to other services providers.

■. With the freight forwarders attending financial solidity, that is having buying powers and ability to consolidate shipments and take inventory from multiple customers, a positioned freight forwarder serves as a 3PL, because:

  1. It can offer customers much more cost effective transportation and warehousing rates.
  2. It uses the latest and sophisticated logistics systems offering its customers full scope of capabilities and services, ranging from: i. Warehousing. ii. Transportation. iii. Distribution. iv. Tracking and Tracing. v. Inventory control and purchase order management.

A 3PL Having The Understanding Of The Local Business Culture And Conditions In The Global Marketplaces:

■. This scope of capabilities and services gives the freight forwarder an overall control of the transportation process which allows for excellent customer services.

Findings show that the small and medium sized enterprises are the most beneficiaries of the services of a 3PL.

■. In other to flourish in new markets, the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) makes up for what it lacks by leveraging on the expertise of a 3PL partners who understands the local business culture and conditions,

■. Today many large companies are also choosing to work or partner with a 3PL.

A 3PL And Globalization:

■. In view of the growing globalization of trade and rising pressures on the security supply chain and the ever increasing restrictions across countries on border crossing, lager companies and the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are focusing on freight forwarders that can add value services to their business needs, in this regards the services of a 3PL becomes handy and needful.

■. With this rising demands for a 3PL many traditional freight forwarding companies or forwarders are now transforming themselves into 3PLs so as to be able to offer total supply chain solutions and stay on a level playing field with the foreign players in the logistics industry.

In Conclusion – The graduated professional has the onerous tasks of taking up its professional inclination to the next levels so as to catch up with its contemporaries across Africa and participate actively among the comity of freight forwarding nations.

To say the least, government through the regulatory councils, should supports the process of positioning the freight forwarders to participate actively in the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreements – AfCFTA.

Professional discipline and sanctions are required to inject professional sanity in the logistics services value adding supply chain.

There is need for a deliberate paradigm shift from the old order to a trending logistics services provisions. Regulations must be prompt and simplified to enable professionalism retains its essence.

Thanks for your attention.

Dr. Eugene Nweke, RFF, KSM, is the CEO, Virtues Marine and Freight Forwarding Services Limited. He writes from Lagos.

Photo: Dr. Eugene Nweke.

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