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NVOCC vs. Freight Forwarder: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 16, 2023
NVOCC is a carrier issuing bills of lading; freight forwarder arranges transportation for shipments.

Key Differences

NVOCC stands for Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier. It refers to a company that provides the same services as an ocean carrier without owning or operating a vessel. A freight forwarder, on the other hand, acts as an intermediary between the shipper and various transportation services.
An NVOCC assumes responsibility for the shipment as a carrier, issuing its own house bill of lading. In contrast, a freight forwarder does not act as a carrier and instead arranges the best routes and transportation methods for its clients.
Both NVOCC and freight forwarders play essential roles in the international shipping industry. However, the primary difference lies in their responsibilities and services. While an NVOCC essentially functions as a shipper to the carriers, a freight forwarder manages and coordinates the shipment's logistics.
Typically, NVOCCs will have contractual agreements with carriers, allowing them to get competitive rates for the space on ships. Freight forwarders, however, tend to have vast networks, offering a wider range of services like customs clearance, warehousing, and consolidation.
In essence, while an NVOCC operates more like a carrier without owning a vessel, a freight forwarder acts as a shipping agent, providing a range of services to ensure smooth transportation.

Comparison Chart


Acts as a carrier without owning a vessel.
Intermediary between shipper and carriers.

Bill of Lading

Issues its own house bill of lading.
Doesn't issue bills of lading.


Space booking on ships.
Coordination and logistics of shipment.


Assumes responsibility as a carrier.
Manages and arranges transportation.


Has contracts with carriers for space on ships.
Extensive network for varied services.

NVOCC and Freight Forwarder Definitions


Shipper to carriers but doesn't own any vessels.
The NVOCC handled the ocean transport seamlessly.

Freight Forwarder

An agent coordinating the transportation of goods.
The freight forwarder arranged for our goods to be sent via air.


An entity that books space on ships but doesn't operate them.
Working with an NVOCC can be beneficial for small businesses.

Freight Forwarder

An intermediary between shippers and transport services.
We relied on the freight forwarder to handle customs clearance.


A carrier entity that provides its own house bills of lading.
We received the NVOCC's house bill of lading for our cargo.

Freight Forwarder

An expert in arranging shipment logistics.
The freight forwarder recommended a faster route for our consignment.


A company acting as a carrier without owning a vessel.
The NVOCC issued its bill of lading for the consignment.

Freight Forwarder

A service provider ensuring smooth cargo transport.
Our freight forwarder provided warehousing services.


A provider of ocean transport without owning ships.
The exporter chose an NVOCC for competitive rates.

Freight Forwarder

A specialist in shipping coordination and consolidation.
By using a freight forwarder, we could consolidate our shipments efficiently.


Do freight forwarders issue bills of lading?

No, freight forwarders typically do not issue bills of lading.

Can an NVOCC issue a bill of lading?

Yes, an NVOCC can issue its own house bill of lading.

What's the main function of a freight forwarder?

To act as an intermediary between the shipper and various transportation services, coordinating shipment logistics.

Who might have better rates for space on ships?

NVOCCs usually have contractual agreements ensuring competitive rates.

Can an NVOCC help with customs clearance?

While some might offer such services, customs clearance is typically a service of freight forwarders.

Are NVOCCs more suitable for larger shipments?

Not necessarily. They can cater to both large and small shipments.

Who has more direct control over shipments?

NVOCCs, as they act as carriers.

Which is more prevalent in the international shipping industry?

Both are prevalent and play crucial roles, but their prevalence might vary based on specific regions and needs.

Do NVOCCs own ships?

No, NVOCCs don't own or operate ships.

Which one is responsible for the shipment as a carrier?


Is a freight forwarder responsible for the cargo?

They're responsible for arranging transportation, but the onus is typically on the carrier or NVOCC for the actual cargo.

Are freight forwarders considered carriers?

No, they act as intermediaries and don't assume carrier responsibilities.

What does NVOCC stand for?

Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier.

Can a business work with both an NVOCC and freight forwarder?

Yes, depending on their shipping needs and requirements.

Who would you approach for shipment consolidation?

A freight forwarder.

Can an NVOCC provide door-to-door service?

Some might, but this is a service more commonly associated with freight forwarders.

Who usually has contracts with carriers for space on ships?


Which entity typically deals with warehousing?

Freight forwarders often provide warehousing services.

Is it possible for a company to be both an NVOCC and a freight forwarder?

Yes, some companies operate as both to offer a comprehensive range of services.

Which offers a wider range of shipping services?

Freight forwarders usually offer a wider range of services.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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