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Historically, the transportation of supplies has been regarded as an ancillary function of little or no central importance. More recently, efficient transportation has been recognized as an essential determinant in providing consistent, quality service to beneficiaries. A good transport system fullfills fulfills the "rights" of supply chain management. That is:


International movement - International transport requires the transmission of physical goods across a legally defined international border or boundary, and in most normal circumstances requires undergoing standard customs procedures.  In normal circumstances the local market will not always be able to provide all the products and services required to fulfil the needs identified in an emergency response. Response agencies therefore will source goods externally and organize the transportation of relief supplies to affected locations. To ensure efficiency and compliance with import regulations the organizations seek service providers with expertise and capacity to handle certain aspects of the movement.The common service providers are:

Parties to the Transport

When discussing shipping there are general terms universal to transport companies, customs authorities and legal documents.  Generally these terms are:

Shipper - The person or legal entity that is sending the goods from point of origin. The sender does not have to be the owner of the cargo.

Carrier - The person or legal entity that either owns the vehicle or vessel upon which cargo is transported - or "carried" - or has legal responsibility for physically stewardship of the cargo between two points. 

Receiver - The person or legal entity that is duly authorized to receive cargo on the receiving end. Receivers are also sometimes called "consignees," however the term consignee has specific legal meaning in customs proceedings, while a receiver could take possession of cargo through a variety of means, domestic or international.

Agent - A person or legal entity who is legally and contractually designated to act on behalf of a shipper, carrier or receiver. Agents can act in a variety of functions, from handling goods to processing documentation.

Typical Service Providers

Freight Forwarders – Commercial third-party companies or individuals that act as brokers between transport companies, customs agents, logistics providers, and other commercial services that might support packaging/handling, warehousing, transportation, or any other aspect of moving material goods from one place to another. Unless a requesting agency has well defined transport routes and a detailed understanding of the shipping market, freight forwarders are essential for identifying and pricing transport options, especially in chaotic post emergency settings. Forwarders have contacts within the transport communities and know how where to look for the best shipping options.