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The forwarding agent in Spain – Juan Antonio Távara


The freight forwarding agent is the one who organizes, on behalf of others, international freight transport, acting as a contractual carrier and subcontracting the effective transport, whether by land, sea or air. In addition, the freight forwarder is in charge of the administrative, customs and logistics procedures inherent to the operations for which they have been contracted by the shipper or the recipient. He can also assume operations of loading and unloading of merchandise, loading and unloading, and the reception, classification, deposit and storage of the merchandise of his clients.

In Spain, in order to intervene as an intermediary in land transport, the freight forwarder must obtain authorization from the transport operator, and his intervention is regulated by both the Land Transport Regulation Law and by the rules that regulate the commercial commission in the Code of Commerce.

The Maritime Navigation Law does not define the figure of the forwarding agent, although its intervention in the maritime transport of goods is fully recognized, the provisions for the contractual carrier and the effective carrier being applicable, with express mention of the maritime norm, which attends to the specific services to which the agent has committed himself for the purpose of establishing his responsibilities in each specific case.

Much more specific is the Spanish jurisprudence, which has repeatedly ruled on the freight forwarding agent and the role it plays in the logistics sector, as is the case of Judgment No. 1485/1999, of October 20, issued by Section 1 of the Provincial Court of Alicante:

“The work of a merchant as a mediator, commission agent or transport freight forwarder, activities all of which are equal in jurisprudence and legally arts. 244 and ss of the Commercial Code, according to SSTS of 1-26-1943 and 7-10-1984, deserves the description of work of transport commission agent and with interest in the good end of the operation. According to the most authoritative doctrine, the legal nature of freight forwarders is that of intermediaries between the producers or exporters of merchandise and the buyers, whose basic task is to plan and evaluate at the cost level the movements of merchandise in foreign markets. They act on behalf of the producers or exporters, and negotiate with one or more shipowners or maritime carriers or consignees of these, the conditions of the transport of the goods, apart from negotiating with other parties the other conditions required, the documentation, management of procedures, contracting land carriers, port operators, customs agents, etc. Their functions are clearly different from those of shipping agents, with whom they often compete in locating and closing merchandise for transportation. Freight forwarders do not usually represent any shipowner, but cargo producers or exporters whose “door-to-door” transport they organize, with the consequent relief in the organization and management effort of said producers and exporters. Thus, the obligations of the freight forwarder are greater than those of the carrier. In accordance with the Judgment of the Supreme Court of October 11, 1986, which includes the judgment under appeal, “given that the transport commission implies that the commission agent is not obliged to carry it out by himself or through his dependents, but rather to hire him with a carrier or businessman who directly assumes the obligation to carry it out; therefore, the commission agent does not have the status of carrier, limiting himself to complying with the commission, whose executive business is the transport contract and not the transport itself, since the carrying out of this falls about the effective carrier”.

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