How to become a shipping agent

The proper term for a shipping agent is "freight forwarder." Freight forwarders are regulated in part by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

If the shipping agent is engaged in international transactions, such as overseas ocean freight or air freight, international transactions may be handled by a third party, a licensed customs broker, under contract to the freight forwarder. The customs broker's activities are regulated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Make arrangements with a financial institution, such as a bank, loan company or insurance company, for a £6,500 surety bond. Complete FMCSA Form BMC-84, detailing the information regarding a broker security bond. Alternatively, set up a trust fund for £6,500 and pledge that asset as a trust fund bond. Complete FMCSA Form BMC-85 if a trust fund is used.

Fill out the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Form OP-1FF to request registration as a "freight forwarder." The authority of the freight forwarder is further broken down into freight forwarding (household goods) and freight forwarding (non-household goods), each a separate operating authority.

Pay the fee for the authorities sought. The fee is £195 per authority, payable by credit card if you complete the form OP-1FF online (see second link in Resources) or by check if you complete the form by mail. Should you complete the form and mail it, the mailing address is:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration P.O. Box 70935 Charlotte, NC 28272-0935

Complete the FMCSA Form BOC-3, designating yourself or a reliable third party as a process agent. The process agent is legally authorised to receive service of process--that is, accept papers related to legal actions concerning your actions as a shipping agent.