Freight forwarder job

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Paul Martin is an in-flight wine logistics order management executive. He is responsible for ordering the wine that passengers drink while on flights. He needs to speak German in order to deal more effectively with overseas wine suppliers.

How would you outline your freight forwarder job?

The company deals with sea and air freight as well as contract logistics covering the sourcing and supply of goods from 96 countries. I work on a dedicated contract ensuring that flights are supplied with a continuous and cost-efficient supply of wine for their customers.

What are your main duties?

Once the airline raises an order, I place it with the suppliers or wineries and ensure that the wine is delivered to the caterers on time. I also get involved in collating information for weekly and monthly reports, sorting out any problems and invoicing the clients.

What is your weekly routine?

In a typical working week, I receive an average of 30 new wine orders. I document and record all the order specific information onto a central database. It is important to keep good working relationships with the overseas offices and I will soon be visiting them to identify ways of maintaining and improving the service we are offering our customers.

How important are language skills in your freight forwarder job?

Quite important as a number of our customers' suppliers are based in vineyards in France, Spain and Austria. Usually there is one English-speaking member of staff at the wineries, but when they are out of the office you have to communicate with people who do not speak a word of English. I've recently started to learn German.

What's your working environment like?

I work in an open-plan airfreight import office. The office has a very friendly atmosphere and I work with a wide range of people of all ages. The majority of the consignments are urgent, so it is always very hectic and energetic.

Who do you work with?

I work with colleagues, the customer's suppliers, third party suppliers, members of the airline's supply chain management team and external transport companies, such as haulage companies and shipping lines.

What special skills do you need for a freight forwarder job?

You need to motivate yourself and be able to work comfortably and efficiently with clients. You also need to be IT literate and have excellent communication skills.

What hours do you work?

My hours are 9.00am to 5.30pm with an hour for lunch.

What training have you done?

I started as a management trainee in the company's three-year training scheme. During this time, I trained in air and sea freight imports and exports, and in the finance, marketing and warehousing departments. I also did a three-month contract logistics placement in Belfast and gained qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. I have also trained in team-building, security and legal issues as well as various office and presentation computer programs.

What are the particular challenges in your freight forwarder job?

Mainly dealing with wine orders in a number of different countries. I have discovered that it is very important to understand that my overseas colleagues and winery contacts live in very different cultures and environments.

Paul's route to his freight forwarder job

  • Three-year apprenticeship with current employer.
  • Chartered Institute of Logistics Certificate in Logistics
  • Professional Diploma in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Paul's freight forwarder tips

  • You must be prepared to work as part of a team
  • Language skills may not be necessary to start with but are important as you get more involved in the job

Freight forwarder related jobs

  • Distribution manager
  • Flight operations manager
  • Importer/exporter
  • Road transport manager
  • Transport planner
  • Transport scheduler

Salary of a freight forwarder

  • Trainee freight forwarders could earn between £12,500 and £15,000, rising to £25,000 with experience and up to £50,000 in a senior role.

How to become a freight forwarder

  • Different employers have different requirements. Some take on trainees with a few GCSEs/S grades (A-C1-3); others call for A levels/H grades or relevant diplomas or degrees.
  • Foundation degrees, HND courses, honours degrees and masters' degrees are available in international transport, logistics and supply chain management and transport management. Often there is an opportunity to study a foreign language on these courses.
  • The Institute of Export offers the Advanced Certificate in International Trade and the Diploma in International Trade.
  • Freight forwarders can work towards NVQs/SVQs at levels 2, 3, and 4 in International Trade and Services. Other relevant NVQs/SVQs include warehousing, distribution and road freight, administration, accounting and information technology.
  • The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK offers a range of qualifications, course and services for junior, middle and senior managers.
  • The British International Freight Association (BIFA) runs a range of BTEC courses in all aspects of freight forwarding.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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