Terms & Glossaries of Shipping and Trading


The assumption that the carrier will cover extraordinary or other special charges without increasing the price to the shipper.

Exploring "Absorption" in the Freight and Logistics Arena

In the intricate world of logistics and freight forwarding, the term "absorption" carries a unique and vital significance. Unlike its more general connotation of taking in or soaking up, in freight terms, absorption involves the financial aspects of shipping costs, particularly when it comes to who bears these costs. This article aims to decode "absorption" within the context of the logistics industry, shedding light on its implications, applications, and impact on global trade relationships.

Defining Absorption in Freight Terms

In the realm of shipping and freight logistics, "absorption" refers to the scenario where a carrier or logistics service provider agrees to absorb certain costs associated with the shipping process, instead of passing them on to the customer. These costs can include, but are not limited to, freight charges, customs duties, and other ancillary expenses that arise during the transportation of goods from origin to destination.

The Strategic Use of Absorption

Why would a carrier or freight forwarder choose to absorb costs, especially when they can significantly impact their bottom line? The answer often lies in the competitive nature of the logistics industry and the pursuit of long-term business relationships. Here are some strategic scenarios for the application of absorption:

1. Market Penetration: Carriers might absorb costs to enter new markets or secure contracts with prestigious clients, viewing the absorbed costs as an investment in future growth.

2. Customer Retention: In a fiercely competitive environment, absorbing costs may be a tactical move to retain high-value clients or ensure customer loyalty during market downturns.

3. Volume Incentive: For clients with large, consistent volumes of freight, carriers and logistics providers might absorb certain fees as a volume discount, ensuring a steady flow of business.

Absorption as a Negotiation Tool

The concept of cost absorption can also become a pivotal point in freight rate negotiations. Both shippers and carriers can leverage absorption in discussions, balancing service levels and cost-efficiency. Transparent negotiations about absorption can lead to mutually beneficial agreements, customized service packages, and strengthened business alliances.
Implications of Absorption on Pricing Strategies

The decision to absorb shipping costs influences pricing strategies within the logistics sector. It necessitates a delicate balance between remaining competitive and maintaining profitability. Companies often conduct thorough cost-benefit analyses to determine the feasibility of absorption in their pricing models. This analysis involves considering the long-term value of client partnerships against the immediate financial impact of absorbed costs.

Challenges and Considerations

While the practice of absorption can foster relationships and open market opportunities, it comes with its set of challenges:

1. Financial Sustainability: Continuous absorption of costs may not be financially sustainable in the long run, especially for smaller logistics providers.

2. Perceived Value: There is a risk that customers may come to expect absorption as a standard practice, potentially undervaluing the service provided.

3. Market Dynamics: Economic shifts, fuel price fluctuations, and changes in trade regulations can all impact the feasibility and impact of cost absorption strategies.


Absorption in freight terms represents a nuanced strategy employed by logistics and freight forwarding companies to navigate the competitive landscape of global trade. It serves not just as a financial tactic but as a testament to the value placed on customer relationships and market positioning. By carefully considering when and how to incorporate absorption into their operations, logistics professionals can craft effective strategies that benefit both their business and their clients, fostering growth and partnership in an ever-evolving industry landscape.