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Freight Forwarders are the ones who manage the long haul, moving product internationally from one country to another. They are your agents who will make sure that you play within the byzantine laws of internationally shipping, who are your go-between/middle men between the shipping companies and the importer/exporter. Your freight forwarder will make logistical arrangements with your supplier, nail down the scheduling and shipping company, and ultimately get your product from overseas to a port in your desired country.
Customs Brokers are more specialized to the moment when your cargo lands on US soil, they navigate the process of clearing your shipment at customs borders, which includes aspects of paperwork and documentation, taxes, duties, and other items. This is a challenging and complicated process best left to the pros. Plus, do you think you can be present at shipping ports at the time your cargo arrives? The customs broker gets your shipment through customs on your behalf. I sometimes even think of the customs broker as the “canary in the coalmine”, the trusty guide weaving you through the maze of importing, customs, and endless paperwork.
Our companies offer both services, though housed in different departments. This makes it easier for us as importers to use a one-stop-shop, and presumably the communication is smoother between Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder if it is one company. However, it is by no means a deal-breaker if it is not all one company.