A cargo agent has three primary responsibilities: provide quotations to potential clients, complete shipping and customs documentation, and arrange for parcel transportation. Agents are also known as logistics professionals, and they assist businesses and individuals who need to ship materials from one country to another. They are required to have detailed knowledge of shipping rules, customs clearance documentation requirements, amount of insurance required, methods of transport, and any other logistics-related issues.
Typically, cargo agents work for large courier companies, import/export businesses, or a customs clearing brokerage firms. In this line of work, it is customary to build close business relationships with related service companies. For example, an agent with a client looking to ship a large amount of metal from China to Argentina needs to have business contacts with insurance companies, freight carriers, customs agents, and other service providers.
People who enjoy a challenge, are naturally outgoing and enjoy a significant amount of social interaction in their work report the greatest satisfaction as a cargo agent. They meet with clients, other logistics professionals, and customs inspectors. The ability to interact with others while communicating clearly and effectively is very important.
Regardless of the type of firm, the agent is responsible for finding and winning new jobs or business. Cargo shipping is divided into two areas: large, industry-related shipments and small, regular courier shipments. Agents typically focus on the large, industry-related shipments. The implementation of computerized systems into courier and transportation companies has streamlined this process dramatically and reduced the need for special skills and knowledge in this area.
For large shipments, clients typically require a quotation for services. This may include packaging, any inspections of the goods before leaving the country of origin, arranging insurance, payment of tariffs and duties, and brokerage services. Some firms also arrange for the cargo carrier, and this would be included in the quote. Once the quote is accepted, the agent begins to make the necessary arrangements to move the goods. Only when the shipment has been delivered to the final destination is the client invoiced.
The customs and clearance documentation required at the different ports around the world varies widely. It is the responsibility of the cargo agent to be aware of what the current requirements are, complete the paperwork correctly, and follow up with the customs officer in the receiving country if there are any issues or concerns. This is a very important task, as any port can refuse to accept a shipment based solely on errors in the paperwork.
The agent is also responsible for arranging the appropriate method of transportation for the package. This may include shipment by rail, boat, plane, or truck. Although the client may be familiar with transportation companies in his own country, it is the responsibility of the cargo agent to select the correct transportation company to deliver the materials to their final destination.