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In international trade, the term groupage indicates a particular type of shipment which consists in bringing together and grouping small batches coming from different shippers of any given country and destined to different recipients in another country, to make up a parcel to be loaded later, with an operation that is called consolidation, in a cargo unit that can be either an independent means of transport or a sub-unit (pallet – container – mobile box or ULD = Unit load devices = special containers for air transport).
In this type of operation the figure of the freight forwarder is obviously fundamental, representing the meeting point of the various customers and the point where the load is combined and, upon arrival, again divided. The consolidator is responsible for deciding how to combine all the goods. When loading, the operator must take into consideration both the bulk characteristics of the goods, in order to avoid damage during carriage, and the intrinsic characteristics of the goods contained in order to avoid incompatible combinations between them from the legal and/or commodity point of view. For example, it is not appropriate to combine food items and other goods that could contaminate them in the same load unit (without specific precautions).
From the above, the importance of the documents that the shipper provides with the material is evident, and these must be as comprehensive as possible to facilitate the correct combination of the shipments.
Equally important and legally codified is the combination of goods with different degrees of danger. Of course, the shipper shall be responsible for any problems arising due to missing or erroneous indications regarding hazardous cargoes, as well as the for any lack of regular safety data sheets that must accompany the goods.
With regard to the customer, the freight forwarder undertakes to transfer a certain amount of goods from the place of origin to the destination, allocating the related costs, as indicated in the shipping contract, based on the delivery terms indicated in the Incoterms conditions.