Shipping and Maritime

Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC)

What’s the Difference Between a Freight Forwarder and NVOCC?

The following article was originally published on the Trailer Bridge blog.

March 17, 2021 - If you are looking for a third-party logistics (3PL) provider in and around the U.S., you may have come across these two terms: NVOCC and freight forwarders.

You are not alone if you are struggling to differentiate between NVOCC and freight forwarding and trying to figure out just which one would be best for your business needs. Generally, there is much confusion surrounding these two types of operations – even within the shipping industry itself.

Because the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) classifies both NVOCCs and freight forwarders as Ocean Transport Intermediaries (OTIs), it can get a little convoluted. What this means is that they are both typically involved in ensuring the safe and timely transportation and storage of items for their customers. This includes handling the necessary filings, paperwork, and customs clearances, as well as tracking the goods as they are moved.

The way that they differ from standard shipping companies is that neither NVOCCs nor freight forwarders traditionally own or operate their own equipment nor vehicles. They are essentially two different types of cargo consolidators, working as middlemen between smaller companies who want reliable shipping at reasonable rates and carriers who often don’t like dealing with low TEU volume shippers.

What is an NVOCC?

Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) is a company that provides all the same kind of ocean transportation services as a regular carrier without operating the vessel being used.

Instead, they enter into volume-based ocean freight arrangements with various shipping lines that run on the desired trade lanes and set their own tariffs for selling space on these liner services. NVOCCs issue their own bills of lading, which serves as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the consignee. For clarity, Trailer Bridge provides ocean services throughout the Caribbean on its owned assets. Beyond the Caribbean and North America, Trailer Bridge utilizes and coordinates with its trusted international partnerships to ensure seamless shipments for customers.

How does freight forwarding work?

Experts in logistics, freight forwarders are individuals or organizations that act as agents for importer/exporters by helping them to establish relationships with carriers such as trucking companies, ocean liners, and air freighters.

Not only do they take responsibility for the entire process of shipping and storing the goods, which includes handling and processing cargo documents, they also negotiate the cost of the transport while choosing an established trade route that best optimizes speed, price, and reliability.

NVOCC vs. freight forwarder: What’s the difference?

While the labels NVOCC and freight forwarder are often used interchangeably within the shipping industry because of their equal status as OTIs, there are actually a number of key functional and legal differences between the two.

NVOCCs provide all the services of a carrier service under their own bill of lading. As they often rent large volumes of space, they can provide efficient transportation for their customers at favorable rates. Freight forwarders act more as agents to clients identifying the best shipping routes for transporting their goods and negotiating the best rates. They also provide expert advice and consultative services.

NVOCCs usually own and operate their own containers but don’t have their own storage warehouses or distribution centers. Freight forwarders don’t often have any of their own transportation equipment, but they do typically have or lease warehouses for goods to be stored during breaks in transit.

NVOCCs take direct legal responsibility for the goods being shipped in the event of loss or damage. In the event of a claim, you would deal with them directly as you would with any other kind of carrier. With freight forwarders, responsibility for the items is with the individual carrier or NVOCC transporting them. For this reason, you may need to deal with more than one company to get any type of claim resolved.

How do I recognize which one I’m dealing with?

The easiest way to ascertain whether you’re working with an NVOCC or a freight forwarder is to check the master bill of lading. While NVOCCs, acting in the capacity as carriers, are able to issue their own, freight forwarders are acting in the capacity of agents and cannot.

Therefore, while you may have a house bill of lading from a freight forwarder, the master version will be issued directly by the carrier or carriers themselves.

Why use a freight forwarder?

As freight forwarders handle every detail of the movement of goods, from shipping to storage and even the documentation, they are a great option for individuals and companies who are not all that familiar with the rules and requirements of shipping.

Unlike many NVOCCs, they can arrange for intermodal transportation for both international and domestic movement of goods. In this way, they can make the import/export process a lot simpler.

An added bonus of working with a freight forwarder is that, contrary to most situations, in this instance, having a middle man is likely to net you the best price.

Freight forwarders establish close relationships with a multitude of carriers and even use NVOCCs themselves sometimes. This often means that they can get access to exclusive prices that their clients can then benefit from. This is especially the case for individuals and small companies who would otherwise be required to pay premium rates for their few containers.

How much does freight forwarding cost?

Most freight forwarders will charge a handling fee, a flat sum, which they will likely be able to quote in advance when provided with the specific details of the required shipments. In addition to this, they often handle the various costs involved in the transportation of goods, which may include:

  • Carrier costs
  • Container costs
  • Palletization and packing
  • Fuel surcharges
  • Insurance
  • Documentation costs
  • Destination costs
  • Miscellaneous costs associated with the type of transport needed, e.g.: refrigeration for perishable goods or specialist moving equipment for larger items.

How do I find an NVOCC?

If you have opted to work with an NVOCC, there are a couple of things to look out for when selecting the best one for your business.


NVOCCs licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission are required to follow strict regulations that guarantee a certain level of protection to their customers against unfair costs and treatment. They also provide a safety net if the company was to go out of business while having your cargo in their possession.

Rates vs. Service

Naturally, your inclination might be to opt to work with a large-scale NVOCC as these companies are likely to have access to the most optimal rates, right? Yes, but if you are a small-scale operation, chances are you are not going to be a top priority for such companies who will be busy with larger, more profitable clients.

Are there any companies that provide both services?

Freight forwarding and NVOCC often go hand in hand in one way or another, and it’s not unusual to see a single company offering both services. This is another reason why there has been, in recent times, a blurring of boundaries between the two. In fact, even companies who do own and operate their own ships may offer one or both services to their customers.

The benefits of doing this are quite substantial for the company, which can then offer their customers access to shipping routes where they don’t have their own vessels or equipment. This can also help with setting up more streamlined supply chains that are likely going to be appealing to potential new customers.

Working with a company like this also makes a great deal of sense for a customer who is looking to access a full range of services in a single place – a so-called ‘one-stop-shop’ that can be used to virtually eliminate the many hassles involved with trying to organize logistics for transporting items both internationally and domestically.

Trailer Bridge is a privately held asset-owned logistics company that transports cargo across land, air, rail, and sea. The company is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, and operates 17 offices with over 200 employees across North America. To learn more, visit:

SOURCE: Trailer Bridge


MSC Shipping

MSC USA’s CEO Says Constructive Collaboration is Key amid Supply Chain Overload

March 3, 2021 - MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has highlighted the importance of continued collaboration with customers during 2021 to help ease the systemic supply chain overload triggered by the global pandemic, notably in the U.S. container market.

Fabio Santucci, President & CEO of MSC USA, stressed the point as he discussed how the landscape of the shipping industry has changed over the past year and how carriers have been impacted in the Journal of Commerce’s new podcast series “Beyond TPM”.

Fabio Santucci, President & CEO of MSC USA“Constant and effective communication and cooperation with partners, vendors and clients remains key. Understanding one another, planning together, and setting the right expectations goes a long way. This is one of the things that we have to continue doing throughout 2021 as well,” said Santucci.

Working Closely with Our Customers

The strong pick-up in demand for container carrying services in the second half of the year caused many operational issues and imbalances for the industry, with the vast majority of 2020 cargo being moved in just a matter of two quarters.

Commenting on MSC’s handling of the situation, Santucci underscored that ports, railroads, the trucking community and warehouses have all been awash with moving cargo and many companies have been doing a remarkable job under the circumstances.

“We’ve been using all the vessels available in our fleet and more. The charter market is very heated, it’s very difficult today to find a vessel and they are very expensive. This added a lot of costs but nonetheless ships were deployed.”

The same strategy has been utilized on the land side with equipment.

“All available containers and more have been repaired, put into service, moved around in the most efficient way possible,”Santucci explained.

At MSC, diversifying the portfolio of available ports has been key to alleviate some of the pressure from the busy points of Los Angeles / Long Beach and New York, rerouting some cargo through other gateways, adding terminals, while also diversifying inland with the railroads.

“The key was to find creative alternatives and do some problem solving along with our customers," he added.

The Road Ahead

Going forward, MSC remains optimistic of an eventual return to a more predictable market environment, Fabio added, stopping short of making a precise prediction amid the continued global uncertainty around the pandemic.

“It’s very difficult at this stage to predict when things will go back to normal because this is inevitably tied to getting COVID under control,” Santucci concluded.



Alexander Global Logistics - loading forest products

Alexander Global Logistics Transports 5000 Cubic Meters of Forest Products from North America to Germany

Jan. 29, 2021 - Alexander Global Logistics (AGL) in the first week of January 2021 has kept very busy with the firm’s North America operations receiving, storing, and loading 5000 cubic meters of forest products at the Port of Morehead City in North Carolina.

This has been the 4th vessel since June 2020 that AGL has operated this cargo, AGL said.

“Due to the oversized bundles, the S-Type vessel operated by Spliethoff was unable to use the side elevators, making it more challenging to load 3 hatches with its jib cranes,” AGL said in a press release. “During the 7pm to 11pm operation, which took 3 full days to complete, a total of 769 bundles were loaded onboard.

The product is currently on a direct call to Brake, Germany, and will be distributed to several parts of Europe with the help of AGL’s logistics team in Germany.

SOURCE: Alexander Global Logistics (AGL) 


Royal Wagenborg - EasyMax vessel

Royal Wagenborg’s New EasyMax Completes First Sea Trial on the North Sea

Jan. 27, 2021 - Royal Wagenborg announced that the second EasyMax completed her first sea trials on Jan. 26. Starting in the port of Delfzijl, various tests were completed on the North Sea.

According to Royal Wagenborg, with a load capacity of 14,200 tonnes and a hold volume of more than 625,000 cft, the EasyMax is the biggest ship ever built in the north of the Netherlands on the landward side of the dikes. With a length of 149.95m, a beam of 15.90m and a draught of 8.60m, the EasyMax has the maximum possible dimensions for the Royal Niestern Sander shipyard.

With two large rectangular holds — 13.50m wide, 12.10m high, and 47.36 and 64.38m long, respectively — the EasyMax excels in her class with her very high capacity for heavy or light cargo, timber and paper, and open-top loading. This allows for maximum deployment in Wagenborg’s operating area.

The EasyMax is suitable for worldwide commercial operations, including in such areas as the Baltic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the St Lawrence Seaway, the Panama Canal, and the Suez Canal.

The vessel is expected to be delivered to Royal Wagenborg and affiliated owners soon.

EasyMax sea trialNote: See video of sea trial of Royal Wagenborg's EasyMax:

SOURCE: Royal Wagenborg


vessel loading sawn timber

MPV Sector Benefits from Container Chaos

Originally published by Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International

Delays, lack of space and a surge in tariffs is plaguing the liner shipping market. While the current situation is causing headaches for shippers and forwarders alike, there are opportunities for the breakbulk and multipurpose shipping sector.

Jan. 26, 2021 - In calling for the Competition Directorate of the European Commission to intervene, the European Freight Forwarders Association (CLECAT) and the European Shippers’ Council (ESC) said that practices adopted by the liner shipping sector is adversely impacting European companies, from retail, fashion, automotive, cosmetics to IT businesses.

“The violation of existing contracts, the establishment of unreasonable conditions concerning the acceptance of bookings and the unilateral setting of rates far in excess of those agreed in contracts,” were some of the practices currently being adopted by liner carriers, according to the associations.

CLECAT commented: “Carriers have been reserving for themselves the ability to change rates whenever they see fit notwithstanding the specific rates and charges agreed. Carriers are continuing to top their rates with surcharges, general rate increases, etc. Similarly, shippers and forwarders are being confronted with refused bookings and rolled cargo if carriers deem it more profitable to accept higher rated cargo for a particular sailing. Unacceptable practices also include imposing an extra fee as a price for accepting cargo at a new tariff charge, simply refusing to accept bookings at all for customers, forcing a customer with contract rates to move it to spot rates at a much higher price.”

The disruption in the supply chain because of the unprecedented number of blank sailings (up to 30 percent on some trades), combined with the lack of reliability (with only 50 percent of ships on time over the last year), has led to the current shortage of empty containers. Carriers are trying to ship containers back to China as fast as possible, simply because there is a need and profits are extremely attractive.

This, according to CLECAT, has a domino effect. “As a consequence, forwarders and shippers are now also confronted with all sorts of new surcharges such as ‘equipment imbalance surcharges’, which carriers are imposing,” it said.

Belgium-headquartered logistics provider Ahlers has also raised awareness to the “madness” in container freight rates. “Today we face an unprecedented high volume demand out of Asia to the USA and Europe in the container market. The freight rate ex-Far East to the USA last year has nearly tripled with serious equipment shortage. Though some shippers accused the carriers of this situation due to the blank sailings last year, carriers claim that unusual demand is the reason.

“Since many countries re-opened, following strict lockdown in 2020, the demand for consumer goods went through the roof,” said the company.

One knock-on effect, however, is new opportunities for breakbulk, multipurpose and ro-ro carriers.

Ahlers explained: “Aside from some bigger multipurpose, container-fitted vessels being chartered for carrying containers, there is an increase in cargo volumes due to more containerised cargo coming back to the breakbulk market, in addition to the traditional machinery and special equipment.”

For example, Ahlers has witnessed shipments of sawn timber, which for several decades now has typically been shipped out of South East Asia in containers, requesting breakbulk vessels due to the high container rates and equipment shortage.

“Freight forwarders are forced to look for unconventional new ways – such as moving cargo to tri-modal container terminals – desperately trying to find different shortsea shipment solutions with smaller coaster vessels and trucking the cargo to its destination,” said Ahlers.

Read the complete article on Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International's website

SOURCE: Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International

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