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The person or legal entity that is sending the goods from point of origin. The shipper does not have to be the owner of the cargo. The shipper can also be referred to as the sender. 


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. 


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 is more generic 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.
Service ProviderAny contracted third-party entity that offers a service, usually on a for profit basis. A service provider may be involved in a variety of activities, including being an acting agent or a contracted carrier.
"Take Possession" When physical goods are transmitted into the direct care and stewardship of one party, be it a transporter, a warehouse, or customs, that party is said to have "taken possession" of the cargo. Taking possession does not mean the party holding the cargo then owns the cargo, they are only physically holding it for their part of the transport process.
IntermodalAny form of transport that changes between two or more modes of transport. Intermodal transport can be facilitated through the use of containerized shipment, however cargo can also be transported through intermodal means simply by directly loading and offloading through a variety of means. 
Material Handling Equipment (MHE)MHE is any form of mechanical equipment used to facilitate the loading and offloading of cargo, or the movement of cargo around an open space such as a port or a warehouse. MHE includes forklifts, cranes, pallet jacks, and more. 
IncotermsIncoterms - short for   "International commercial terms" - are mutually agreed upon international shipping terms that designate responsibilities, risks and limitations of shippers, carriers and receivers. Incoterms generally are only applicable and enforceable for international shipments.

Developing a Transport Strategy

A transport strategy depends, not only on the needs within the organization, but in a humanitarian context varies from one organization to organization another and from one situation to situationanother. and is largely dependent on the needs of the response. Some factors to consider when developing a transport strategy are:


Transport management in emergencies can be a complex task depending on the nature of the disaster. Humanitarian organizations organisations have increasingly begun to tap into use the joint transport services as a strategy in emergencies, such as those offered implemented by the Logistics Cluster during emergencies. A joint transportation service is based on a collaborative approach and aims to leverage the advantages of centralized coordination and sharing of assets.


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 The local market will not always be able to provide all the products and services required to fulfill the needs identified in an emergency response. Response agencies will 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 organisations seek service providers with expertise and capacity to handle certain aspects of the movement.


The criteria for selection will vary from organization organisation to organizationorganisation. Some factors that may influence the selection of transport service providers are:

  • Carrier characteristics and capacity
  • Proven efficiency
  • Timeliness of delivery
  • Known integrity, reputation and reliability
  • Good relationships with other carriers
  • Financial viability to cover costs of providing the service
  • Ability to provide a multi-modal service, if need be
  • Presentation of timely reports and correct invoices
  • Licensed by the government to conduct customs clearance formalities and be up-to-date on changes in customs requirements
  • Own or have access to a bonded warehouse to protect and control shipments in transit
  • Own a trucking fleet for inland transport and have access to specialized vehicles when needed such as container trucks, low-bed trailers, tankers, etc
  • Are flexible in their availability at short notice, also outside of office hours and on public holidays
  • Have influence in the transport market, with port authorities, etc
  • Are experienced Experienced in successfully handling duty exemption arrangements for humanitarian organizationsorganisations
  • Have an office in the port area or nearby
  • Have at least a country-wide, preferably a multi-country regional network
  • Use technology effectively, including a good telecommunications system and, preferably, a computerized tracking system that allows visibility of where shipments are at a given time


Clearing Agents – Commercial third-party companies or individuals who specialize in understanding import and export regulations, and help facilitate the flow of material goods through customs. Though clearing agents may be used for import or export, the majority of their services are employed for getting goods into countries. Import and export regulations are complex and the failure to comply can result in fines or worseother difficulties. Many countries require an official licensing process for clearing agents, and unless organizations have specific expertise in customs agents should always be consulted for imports of any kind.


Third Party Logistics Provider (3PL) – Commercial third-party logistics providers that can assume a portion of or the entire supply chain. 3PLs can act on behalf of contracting agencies for a variety of services, including warehousing, kitting, procurement, quality inspections, transport and even developing supply chain strategies without providing a physical service. 3PLs tend to be more expensive, but can offer holistic solutions to some agencies who may need additional support.

The aforementioned service providers are all vendorsfor profit companies, and as such the regular procurement process for each respective agencies should still be applied. Agencies would do well to It is generally recommended that agencies obtain multiple quotes, review performance, and incrementally conduct new bid analysis. 


  • Customs Officials – Agents designated by the national authority of countries to facilitate the lawful transmission of items into incorporated national territory.
  • Airport / Sea Port Authorities – Government lead or appointed authorities who oversee the safe and efficient operation of ports of entry, including coordinating positioning and movement of vessels and aircraft and ensuring security measures are enacted on behalf of the national authority in question.
  • Ground Handling Agents– Government run or privately contracted services who manage ground handling at airports and sea portsseaports. Ground agents are usually sub contracted and coordinated by forwarders or the airlines, however occasionally humanitarian agencies may need to liaise directly with them to solve problems.


Routine movements, taking place on a regular basis, need to be planned at the outset. Non-routine movements occurring on an ad hoc basis will have to be planned when the need arises. Ideally movements should be planned and managed by a transport office or dedicated focal point responsible for determining the appropriate routing for the goods, allocate resources (own or contracted) and inform the destination of estimated delivery time. During movement designated focal points will track the progress of the goods and update delivery times accordingly and will manage the staff involved in the movement and deal with any issues that arise. They will also handle any problems that occur during the movement, liaising with contractors, freight forwarders and shippers as required. The transport office may actually produce the required documentation to cover transit, alternatively they will be responsible for collecting the required documents together for dispatch.