Their basic function is to provide different range of services to exporters to ensure smooth and timely shipment of goods. Clearing and Forwarding Agents play a pivotal role in the selection of mode and route of transport. They are the specialized people to guide in selection of the shipping line/airline.
Every exporter is concerned with distribution logistics to ensure, that the goods reach the final buyer, in specified time and at minimal cost in the condition they are sent. The essence of distribution logistics is the decision in respect of mode of transport to he used. Clearing agent advises exporter about the availability alternative modes of transport and guides exporter in decision-making about the final choice of transport to achieve optimal cost in transporting the goods, well within the delivery schedule.
In addition to these activities, he undertakes most of the functions connected with exports such as marking, labelling, packing of goods, advising on trade laws, arranging local transportation as well as apprising developments on transportation and claiming duty-drawback claims on behalf of the exporter. An efficient clearing and forwarding agent, goes a long way to the exporter in the journey of exports to make the matters easier, comfortable and may be cheaper too. Above all, the agents act trouble-shooters for the exports, in case of movement problems. It is well said a real clearing agent can perform all the functions except selling the goods!
Where goods are transported by rail, export consignments are to be given either B or C priority of the Railway Priority Schedule as formulated by the Railway Board. There are five priorities in the schedule from the highest A to lowest E. Thus, B and C are fairly high priorities.
Clearing and forwarding agents are also known as Customs House Agents or Freight Forwarders or Shipping Agents.