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  • Writer's pictureJoseph O'Donnell

What is an NVOCC and how is it different than a freight forwarder?

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

NVOCC stands for Non-Vessel Owning Common Carrier. If you are thinking "I don't know any NVOCCs" you actually do, because Outer Seaways is an NVOCC.

But what does an NVOCC do, and how is it different than a freight forwarder?

What does an NVOCC do?

An NVOCC acts as a carrier and shares all the same responsibilities, except it does not own any vessels. Therefore, an NVOCC works directly with ocean carriers to obtain the vessel space that their customers need. An NVOCC can also issue its own Bill of Lading, known as the House Bill of Lading.

Just like an ocean carrier, an NVOCC is licensed by the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), whereas a freight forwarder is not. However, you must be a freight forwarder to be licensed as an NVOCC.

Let's say:

A manufacturer needs to ship two 40ft containers of cargo from their factory to a customer in Guam. In this scenario, the manufacturer is the shipper and asks Outer Seaways to arrange the ocean transport of the two 40ft containers. Outer Seaways then works directly with an ocean carrier to obtain the space needed and books the shipment for our customer.

Throughout the entire process we track the shipment, provide and issue documentation as needed, coordinate with the parties involved and more.

So...what is the difference between an NVOCC and Freight Forwarder?

People often use the terms NVOCC and freight forwarder interchangeably, but there is a difference between them.

The main difference is the amount of responsibility held. A freight forwarder can arrange transportation for international shipments, but an NVOCC is licensed as a carrier. As an NVOCC, Outer Seaways directly handles all aspects of your shipment.

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