Without Freight and Shipping, our supermarkets would have far less food on the shelves and ordering your favourite products online from businesses based abroad would be far more difficult. Here we’ll explain how the industry works, and what it’s like to work at the heart of it.
The first important point to make is that Freight and Shipping do not exclusively refer to transportation of goods by sea. Goods can also be transported by land or air. Freight refers to large orders of goods, usually sold commercially between businesses who need to purchase products in bulk at low cost. If transported by sea, the products are usually carried in huge cargo containers.
Shipping refers to the transportation of far smaller quantities of goods. These goods are usually consumer products ordered for personal use, such as those books you ordered from Amazon last week. These smaller deliveries make shipping more expensive than freight. However, you probably wouldn’t want a freight order of books; unless you read about 500 a week.
Despite this important difference, Freight and Shipping are interrelated and jobs in the industry with usually require expertise in both, at least until you have gained a few years of experience and can specialise in one or the other. Working in international Freight and Shipping is an excellent career move, because orders that need to be transported over long distances cost more, meaning that the companies who provide the logistics for their transportation make some of the industry’s largest profits and pay some of its largest salaries.
Freight Forwarders make managing the logistics involved in Freight & Shipping convenient and cost-effective for a range of businesses. These businesses are then able to spend more time making great products and building fantastic relationships with retailers and customers overseas, rather than having to dedicate a huge amount of time to ensure that their shipments actually reach their destinations.
Customs Brokers play a crucial role in Freight and Shipping. They often work closely with Freight Forwarders or are employed by them. These brokers are experts on customs laws and advise manufacturers on how to avoid delays at the border by ensuring that all regulatory boxes have been checked and any applicable taxes and duties have been paid when products arrive at their import destination. As each country has slightly different customs laws, an expert in local legislation can be key to avoiding delays and consequent damage to the quality of both shipments and client services.
3PLs (Third-party logistics providers) can also provide full-service Freight Forwarding services. They take care of the entire import/export process and manage the packing and warehousing of goods as well as arranging their transportation. If your goods need to be stored in between various stages of their journey, a Freight Forwarder won’t manage this for you. European or global 3PLs are perfect for businesses who export to Europe but don’t have time to research available warehouse space in the French countryside and monitor the condition of their goods while they are in storage. If any product is damaged while in storage, a 3PL will fix the situation. This makes the whole process of exporting easy for manufacturers.
EMCs (Export management companies) combine the services that you would expect from a 3PL with other local services in the country whose market a manufacturer would like to enter. From arranging marketing and legal support to finding dealers and distributors, or placing you in direct contact with clients, EMCs make the whole process of exporting easy for manufacturers who make great products but lack the local knowledge to successfully compete with local manufacturers.
ETCs (Export Trading Company) - An ETC finds gaps in the market in foreign countries and then finds manufacturers based domestically who can take advantage of these opportunities. If EMCs are on the ‘sell’ side, then ETCs are on the ‘buy’ side of the process. ETCs can significantly reduce the risk for manufacturers by ensuring that there is a healthy enough market for their product(s) to make the costs involved in exporting worth it for them.
Import/Export Merchants buy products (usually in bulk) from foreign or domestic manufacturers and then take care of the whole transportation, packaging, sale and storage process themselves. This is great for manufacturers because they sell to a buyer in their home country and don’t have to worry about exporting. However, if manufacturers use one of these merchants then they wouldn’t be entitled to a percentage of the profits made from sales of their product(s) abroad. On the other hand, they are protected from suffering huge losses if their goods fail to sell in foreign markets.
Customs Administrators play a pivotal role in the entire process. If a manufacturer’s shipment doesn’t arrive with the submission of the appropriate paperwork to customs authorities, it won’t get through customs. Often open 24/7, these administrators can clear shipments whenever they arrive so that port delays are minimised and goods arrive at their destinations on time and in perfect condition.
- Clearing Shipments through customs (monitor FedEx/UPS clearances)
- Review of Broker requirements
- Commercial Invoices
- Clear offline shipment invoices
- Prepare KPI Broker Reports
- Record keeping of import documents for FedEx and UPS
- Building relationships with existing clients through phone and email.
- Creating relationships with new clients in the same way.
- Using an excellent understanding of deep-sea import & export to add exceptional value to clients.
- Using an excellent understanding of the paperwork required by customs to clear shipments as efficiently as possible.
- Working seamlessly within your team.
- Managing job bookings around the world
- Managing paperwork and raising new files
- Invoicing jobs on completion
- Extensive client liaison to maximise business
- Extensive supplier negotiation to minimise costs
- Processing jobs through a freight software system
- Populating internal analysis and key statistics
- Managing jobs from start to finish, offering exceptional client service at every stage
The variety of roles available in this industry is phenomenal. From logistics to law, whatever you love to do, you can find the perfect job for you in Freight and Shipping. As your career progresses you can either find a senior job in one of the industry’s leading companies, use your experience to start your own business or move to a similar role in a different sector, such as a marketing manager for a food manufacturer or as a leading commercial negotiator and dealmaker. Some of the key skills required to progress through a variety of roles in the industry are:
- Organisation - Paperwork has to been in order at all times and submitted on time. The slightest mistake could cost thousands of pounds in lost business. All successful businesses across the industry rely on exceptionally organised staff to ensure that operations are running smoothly at all times.
- IT expertise - If clients phone up and enquire about their order, sales personnel will need to find the information that these clients are asking for immediately. Quality IT systems are essential to pull up this information on the computer screen within moments, in order to offer clients phenomenal service at all times.
- Language skills - Many of the most lucrative opportunities in the industry involve international commerce, making an ability to speak and write fluently in a number of foreign languages a crucial asset. Being able to speak to a German client in their own language, rather than expecting them to learn English before speaking to you, will make an excellent first impression and could help your company to clinch vital deals.
- Time management - You may well have to manage multiple shipments, using several different methods of transportation in several different countries, simultaneously. Clients expect you to give all of their shipments equal attention. If you spend all of your time concentrating on a deep-sea freight cargo and forget to monitor a truck shipment, you will spend hours and hours working but still have to deal with an unhappy client the next day. On the other hand, if you obsessively call everybody involved every five minutes, you’ll also end up with unhappy clients. Finding ways to give everyone the perfect amount of attention, while still having enough time in your day to complete other tasks will be crucial to ensuring both their happiness and your own personal wellbeing. Good time management also helps people to stop thinking about work when they go home, as they know that they did everything possible to create fantastic client experiences during the day, and will come back tomorrow do the same again.
- Negotiation - Agreeing on delivery of the right quantity of goods, at the right time, at the right price is essential for success in this industry. Small differences in the price could make huge differences to a company’s profit margins. Negotiators who can remain calm under pressure and make sure that even the tensest negotiations result in contracts slanted in their favour are invaluable assets for any business, particularly in the Freight and Shipping industry.
- Problem-solving - Thinking outside the box under pressure can solve some of the toughest problems, and provide innovations that your competitors haven’t considered attempting yet.
- Numeracy - Understanding quickly how transactions will impact a business’s cash flow is a vitally important skill in this highly competitive industry.
- Teamwork - You’ll have to liaise with multiple people, possible across several different countries. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and then letting people work on the projects that they are best suited to is key to any team’s success.
- Cultural Sensitivity - Appreciating that people in different countries do things slightly differently, and then adjusting to their styles of working will win you many friends (and customers) in the Freight and Shipping industry. Good geographical knowledge is also important.
- Communication - Did you want fifteen pallets of fifty? Lack of clarity in communication will cause major problems in this industry.
- Planning - Logistics and planning are a bit like houseplants and pots. If you have one without the other, you’ll create a huge mess.
Local, national and international business make the Freight and Shipping industry as competitive as it is. TLP Recruitment is immensely proud of our strong relationships with some of the industry’s biggest names. Here are just a few of them:
MSC is a world leader in global container shipping and a company offering global service with local knowledge. MSC also provides an integrated network of road, rail and sea transport resources which stretches across the globe.
DHL offers ocean, air, rail and road freight products for cargo transportation. Customers can ship palletised, non-palletised and out-of-gauge cargo.
For fifteen years, the Port Express team have provided a range of innovative UK-based container transport services to some of the largest companies in the world, while remaining efficient and cost-effective at all times. They operate from the UK cities which are closest to the country’s main trade entry-points to ensure that delays at ports are kept to an absolute minimum. They then transport goods to their destinations using the very latest technology, including a series of next-generation container trucks with refrigerated trailers. These trailers ensure that products that are best served chilled reach their destinations in immaculate condition. They are so special because of their underslung gensets, which can remain attached to the trailer for multiple journeys. Only the container needs to be changed after each journey, saving a huge amount of time and significantly increasing the number of deliveries that can be carried out on behalf of Port Express’s clients each day.
TLP works closely with Port Express to source talented staff, who have the expertise, creativity and passion required to lead the UK’s container transport industry for years to come.
Hutchison Ports own some of the most significant ports around the world. With multiple presences across the Americas, Europe, The Middle East, Asia and Australasia, the Group looks to bring different talents from around the world together to develop efficient, technologically advanced ports that serve their local communities as well as they serve the global businesses whose goods pass through them every day.
Founded in Hong Kong as the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company in 1866, Hutchison Ports have matched their global growth with a truly inspiring global CSR programme. A flagship aspect of this corporate social responsibility, the Hutchison Ports Dock School programme has financed the construction of two school libraries and a brand-new science pond in Felixstowe alone. Across the Group’s global locations, children’s lives are being changed by access to fantastic educational opportunities. If you want to be a part of a Group that is innovating the way that the world trades, whilst making sure that its wealth is passed on to the next generation, then Hutchison Ports may well have a team that you would fit into perfectly. Thanks to its global presence, the Group can offer international opportunities everywhere from Belgium to Brisbane.
Work is mostly office-based and can be stressful. You will probably spend a lot of time on the phone to clients and suppliers, as well as regularly communicating with them by email. It is important to create strategies for working under pressure so that the tight deadlines that are an unshakeable part of the industry don’t stress you out. You’ll often be working in small teams, so it’s vitally important to build great relationships with the people who you’re working alongside. As well as increasing the team’s productivity as a whole, these relationships will allow you all to get through tense periods together and come out of them stronger. High-pressure deals can put you in a very lonely place if you don’t have colleagues who you can have a laugh with while talking about something completed unrelated to work, while you’re on a break.
Working hours are normally usual office hours. However, many customs clearance departments operate a 24/7 service, and you may be asked to work shifts at unusual times. These shifts might run from 6am-2pm or from 2pm-10pm. Freelance work is available for experienced staff.
Some of the largest companies in the industry also offer international secondment opportunities to high-performing staff. If you secure one of these opportunities, learning the language of the country that you will be staying in will be hugely advantageous. Even if all business matters are conducted in English and groceries etc. are purchased for you, learning this language is important because it shows your foreign colleagues that you care about their culture and that you want to fit into their way of life as quickly as possible. This cultural sensitivity will help you to build long-term relationships with them far more easily.
Living abroad can seem daunting at first, but being nice to people and making friends early on will help you loads. People understand that moving abroad is tough, and they will be patient with you if you show that you’re appreciative of their efforts. If you can research the opening and closing times of local facilities before arriving, you’ll avoid getting caught out when trying to use them in the first few weeks of your arrival (which can easily happen). Most importantly, have fun and use this experience as an opportunity to learn about yourself. Then use that learning to grow your career to the fullest.
Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees
An enormous variety of degrees can prepare students for long careers in Freight and Shipping. Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Business and Accounting are all subjects which would give students some of the skills that are essential to building successful careers in the industry. More specific courses in Logistics and Transport, as well as Supply Chain Management, would also be excellent preparation for these careers.
CILT (The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) offers industry-leading professional qualifications. Regulated qualifications in Freight Forwarding will make your CV stand out from other candidates’ applications for industry roles in any recruitment process. CILT’s Level 1-6 qualifications in Logistics and Transport begin as an Award and finish with an Advanced Diploma, giving learners all of the skills that they need to gain a masterful understanding of how the industry works and then to use that understanding to make crucial contributions to the innovations that will define the industry over the coming decades. The same qualifications also provide invaluable industry insights to those looking to specialise in Ports Maritime Waterways.
The Level 4 and Level 5 Diploma in International Trade offered by the Institute of Export & International Trade gives industry professionals an excellent opportunity to hone their skills and clinch considerably more favourable deals with their international clients and suppliers.
Jobs in the industry are available across the UK. Some of the best places to find them are:
Felixstowe – Home to one of the UK’s most significant ports, many of the most influential local, national and international businesses in the industry and TLP HQ, Felixstowe is somewhere you need to be if you want a well-paid job at the cutting-edge of the Freight and Shipping industry.
Liverpool – Liverpool’s famous docks have brought trade in and out of the UK for centuries. Some of the industry’s biggest names have an office on the banks of the Mersey and Peel Ports’ newly opened Liverpool2 container terminal has brought even more trade to the region, as the group enjoyed an 8% increase in turnover last year.
Glasgow – Another city famous for its docks, Glasgow remains home to some of the industry’s most recognised and respected brands. Finding work in Glasgow will allow you to build a long and lucrative career in the industry.
Kent – There’s a reason why whenever Eurotunnel queues make the news, Kent features. This wonderful county is one of the UK’s major international trade hubs. As well as being home to this tunnel, it is also home to the Port of Ramsgate which facilitates a number of passenger ferry journeys and handles a variety of freight shipments. This port is also home to major global engineering companies such as Siemens and ‘the operational’ and several wind farms. It is a perfect place to begin working in Freight and Shipping and then switch into another career if you would like to apply your skills to innovations in a different industry.
Southampton – As a major UK port city, Southampton is an ideal place to find the perfect job in Freight and Shipping for you. From innovative local businesses to massive global corporations, the businesses who are mapping out the future of Freight and Shipping all have large offices in Southampton. Fortunately, TLP has an office there too, to help you to map out your career path to the heart of this exciting industrial growth.