Forwarders are adapting, BIFA insists


The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has defended freight forwarders against any suggestion that they are not adapting to the new requirements and opportunities presented by the digital age, arguing that even the smallest agents are modernising their businesses and processes.

Following an article last week in Lloyd’s Loading List arguing that the traditional ‘modus operandi’ of forwarders was now outdated, Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association responded that he believed all of BIFA’s 1,500 members would agree that freight forwarders must adapt to succeed, adding that his personal evidence on his visits to BIFA members “suggests their businesses are adapting constantly”.

In a ‘letter to the editor’, Keen said the so-called ‘modus operandi’ outlined by Cathy Roberson “of phone calls, fax machines and correspondence, combined with relationship building among select carriers to provide the ‘best’ rates and required capacity for resell” had “died a long time ago”.

He told Lloyd’s Loading List: “Even a small forwarder will be employing software developers alongside entry clerks, building sophisticated tools with clients, to become an extension of his customer in the supply chain.”

And responding to Roberson’s assertion that freight forwarders must find other options to remain viable, Keen responded: “She can rest assured that BIFA members have been doing that for many years and continue to do so. There is plenty of evidence for that in your publication, and others.”

Keen stressed that many BIFA Members have invested in technological developments and continue to do so, and the forwarding industry continues to evolve in step with progress, adding: “The convergence of rich logistics data streams; new cloud, platform and blockchain technologies; and strong market forces is giving rise to new platform business models in the logistics, trade, freight, and maritime industries, and the freight forwarding sector is more than ready, willing and able to embrace the opportunities whilst adapting to the changing market structure.”

Keen concluded: “BIFA’s freight forwarding and logistics company members will be more than capable of leveraging the potential that these new platform systems offer, whilst continuing to process and deliver more complex tasks and value-added services that typify the sector today.”