When I was a kid, my father used to provide me with a wealth of important “life lessons,” doled out in simple one-liners that I could carry with me as I grew older. One of my favorites was “If you’re going to run with the pack, make sure you’re the leader.” Another that has served me well throughout life was “Always use the right tool for the job.” The same can be said when it comes to choosing the correct freight forwarder to manage the transport of your ITAR controlled goods. It’s important that you use the right forwarder for the job. As the manufacturer or source of USML goods, you have undoubtedly spent countless hours developing your corporate compliance program; ensuring that every aspect of your operation – from upper management, to sales, to shipping and receiving – is aware of the regulations and well-trained.
We all know, however, that your responsibility for those goods does not end there. Once your product leaves your dock, you are still responsible for the transport of those goods to the foreign consignee or end-user. For this reason, it’s crucial to your compliance program to make sure that the forwarder you choose is also fully aware of the complex requirements of the ITAR.
Just as your organization undoubtedly interviewed and hired a corporate ECO (Export Compliance Officer), an interview process of sorts should be undertaken in order to choose your freight forwarder. Be sure to conduct this “interview” at their facility. After all, you go to great lengths to make sure that your building is secure – shouldn’t the first step be to make sure that your potential forwarder’s building is also secure? Be direct – ask to see what security measures are in place to protect your product. If a forwarder refuses to allow you to visit their facility, be very wary about moving forward with them unless they can offer a legitimate reason for refusal.
Once you are satisfied that your goods will be secure in the interim from your facility to the port or airport of departure, request to sit with the operational personnel who will be processing your shipments. Be very direct with your questions and take notes. These can be maintained in your records for due diligence purposes. Here are some sample questions to get you started:
Once you have completed this grueling task of interviewing your potential freight forwarder, go through it a couple more times. Although most freight forwarders would love to be the only forwarder named on your license, (locking you into using their services) this ties your hands tremendously. Naming two or three freight forwarders on your license does not mean you have to utilize all of them. Use the one you are most comfortable with. However, having two or three freight forwarders named on your license will provide you with a built-in “plan B,” in the event that something happens. Personnel changes happen. Mergers and acquisitions happen. What if you only have one forwarder listed on all your licenses and that forwarder is purchased by another company? If you are under contract delivery deadlines and suddenly have to stop shipping for a few weeks while you wait for amendments to be approved, the financial implications can be immense.
When you find a freight forwarder who meets your criteria, work hard to develop and maintain a solid relationship with them. They are your last defense and the final link in your export compliance program. It is important that you work together in a collaborative effort to sustain your goals.
Remember – “Always use the right tool for the job.” Thanks Dad, I’ll keep that in mind…
If you ship ITAR controlled goods, don’t go it alone. We have years of experience shipping goods subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Please click here to contact our ITAR specialists.