Even people that have been in the shipping industry for years can have trouble discerning the difference between a freight forwarder and an NVOCC. Although they are two different types of companies, they do have a lot of cross over and this can be confusing especially for those not directly associated with an ocean carrier or other logistics providers. These people that are not in the heart of shipping sometimes do not realize that they are dealing with one or the other. So what is the difference between an NVOCC and a freight forwarder?
Some NVOCC’s are mistaken for freight forwarders. For example, freight forwarders will supply you with an instant international shipping quote. The easiest way to tell if you are dealing with one or the other is by looking at your bill of lading. The master bill of lading will not be direct with the carrier if your service provider is an NVOCC. NVOCC stands for Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier. This means they are an ocean carrier that does not have ships. They lease space from ocean carriers at a special price and sell the spaces to their customers. They are considered a type of carrier and will have their own bills of lading and other documentation. You would also file claims with your NVOCC if there is a problem and they are fully responsible for your shipping container and cargo. If you are working with a freight forwarder, you have both the forwarder and a carrier to deal with in the case of a claim. You will get a house bill of lading from your forwarder and a master from your carrier.
The main difference between a freight forwarder and an NVOCC is the responsibility. Although both companies will track your cargo and move it through the supply chain, an NVOCC is also acting as a carrier and has more responsibility for your cargo. This is an important unique difference that you should note when shipping internationally.
In general, freight forwarders can be best classified as a company that organizes shipments for shippers through extensive networks of carriers for both domestic and international shipments. This includes trucking, air cargo and ocean freight. On the other hand, NVOCC stands for Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier, and important for ocean freight shipping. That is many shippers prefer the best of both worlds and select a freight forwarder who is also an NVOCC.