Customs Broker/Freight Forwarder
Customs brokers and freight forwarders arrange the clearance (through customs) and collection of imported cargo, and the shipment of cargo for export.
Customs brokers usually earn
$39K-$90K per year
Freight forwarders usually earn
$39K-$70K per year
Source: CBAFF and Platinum Freight Management, 2018.
Pay for customs brokers and freight forwarders varies depending on experience, level of responsibility, and the size of the company.
- Customs brokers usually earn between minimum wage and $90,000 a year.
- Freight forwarders usually earn between minimum wage and $70,000.
Sources: Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand (CBAFF), 2018; and Platinum Freight Management, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Customs brokers and freight forwarders may do some or all of the following:
- find the most appropriate and cost-effective way of moving goods
- check import/export documents and clear goods through customs
- arrange insurance for goods, and the payment of duties and taxes
- classify goods into different tariff groups by using an international tariff-coding system
- document cargo and complete relevant paperwork for submission to customs
- communicate with transport companies and record the movement of goods while they are in transit.
Skills and knowledge
Customs brokers and freight forwarders need to have knowledge of:
- transport systems
- methods of packing and stowing goods
- customs regulations and procedures
- carriage of goods laws, including dangerous goods and biosecurity regulations
- international laws and standards for transporting goods
- shipping terms and United Nations port codes.
Custom brokers and freight forwarders:
- usually work regular business hours, but may need to work evenings or early mornings to communicate with clients in different time zones
- work in offices, warehouses and sometimes at airports or ports.
What's the job really like?
Discovered by chance
Sarah Hiddinott didn’t have ambitions of becoming an exports operator – a job that involves customs broking and freight forwarding. In fact, it was all a matter of chance that she found herself in the industry.
"I moved back from Australia and was looking for a job and just kind of fell into it really. Then the opportunity arose to do the customs broker course, so I took it."
Diversity of work
Sarah enjoys the fact that each working day is different, and presents a new challenge.
"You don’t know really what you’re going to get until you get to work and see what is going to happen. You’re problem solving all the time. It’s challenging, but you’re always learning so there’s nothing that’s a bad challenge."
Good to get experience
If you’re interested in a career in customs broking or freight forwarding, Sarah suggests the best place to start is with an entry-level job at a logistics company.
"I think it’s better to get a job at a logistics company before doing the customs course because you need to have a basic understanding of how everything works and a lot of people don’t. There’s actually quite a lot you need to learn before you can go and do the customs side of things.
"It’s also good to talk to other brokers and find out their experiences. Try to understand as much as you can because it’s all going to help."
Becoming a customs broker
To become a customs broker you need to have a Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation unique user identifier (CBAFF UUI) course certificate. This allows you to apply for a New Zealand Customs unique user identifier (UUI), commonly known as a personal identification number (PIN). You need a PIN to lodge documentation with New Zealand Customs.
Becoming a freight forwarder
There are no specific requirements to become a freight forwarder. However, a New Zealand Certificate in International Freight Forwarding may be useful.
- Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of New Zealand website - information on training
- MITO website - information on transport and logistics qualifications
- New Zealand Customs website - information on applying for a unique user identifier number
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a customs broker or freight forwarder. However, NCEA Level 3, business studies, English and maths are useful.
Customs brokers/freight forwarders need to be:
- accurate and well organised
- inquiring and willing to learn while they are working
- able to work well under pressure and make decisions quickly
- good communicators
- able to gain people's trust and keep information private.
Useful experience for customs brokers and freight forwarders includes:
- working for a shipping line or importer/exporter
- work in customs
- courier work
- office or accounts work
- warehouse and stores work.
What are the chances of getting a job?
Demand highest for experienced customs brokers and freight forwarders
Demand for customs brokers and freight forwarders is high. This is expected to continue due to ongoing growth in the volume of New Zealand’s imports and exports.
However, few entry-level vacancies arise in this area, and demand is highest for those with experience.
Most people enter the industry through other entry-level roles, such as import/export clerk or customs compiler, and gain experience before becoming customs brokers or freight forwarders.
According to the Census, 1,524 customs brokers/freight forwarders worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Local and international freight companies employ customs brokers and freight forwarders
Approximately 350 companies employ customs brokers and freight forwarders in New Zealand. About a third are large international companies, and the rest are smaller, New Zealand-owned companies.
- Dawson, R, chief executive, Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, March 2018.
- McRae, P, owner, Platinum Freight Management, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, March 2018.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2013 Occupational Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Transport, 'National Freight Demand Study 2014', March 2014, (www.transport.govt.nz).
- Sharma, A, recruitment consultant, Star Personnel, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, March 2018.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Stats NZ, 'Exports and Imports Hit New Highs in 2017', January 2018, (www.stats.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Customs brokers and freight forwarders may progress into management positions.
Customs brokers and freight forwarders often specialise in either importing or exporting. They may also specialise in a type of freight such as air or sea freight.
Last updated 17 June 2020