My Economy

Trade is still a mess, and that’s keeping this customs broker busy

Sean McHenry Jul 30, 2021
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Containers stacked in the Port of Los Angeles on April 19, 2021. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
My Economy

Trade is still a mess, and that’s keeping this customs broker busy

Sean McHenry Jul 30, 2021
Heard on:
Containers stacked in the Port of Los Angeles on April 19, 2021. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
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As the global economy comes back online, traffic jams are happening at all levels of the supply chains. And that, in turn, has made things pretty chaotic for customs brokers. Gretchen Blough, a customs broker at Logistics Plus in Erie, Pennsylvania, describes what she’s been dealing with in the shipping business.

We’re seeing a lot more shipments going into ports that we haven’t used much in the past. We’re seeing a lot in Vancouver and Portland. New York has always been busy and it still continues to be busy. It’s not as crowded as LA. Our CEO sent us an email with a picture outside the port of LA on Monday morning that basically had 31 ships stacked up, ready to unload.

It’s not only the ships trying to get in. It’s the unloading, it’s the chassis, it’s the truckers. There just isn’t enough manpower to get the containers unloaded once they’re here and then move them out of the port in an efficient manner. Trucking is kind of at a premium where we’re paying above normal prices to actually get the trucks to go into the port, if there is availability. The companies here in the U.S. that import different goods, they all understand. “Oh, yeah. That supply chain is all messed up right now.” It’s kind of a, you know, “roll your eyes and just deal with it” type of thing.

At this point, the section 301 tariffs are still around, and everyone’s just kind of accepted that fact for a little while. No one likes them. But it’s something that’s being accepted, and people are definitely going through everything with the fine-toothed comb, like what part of my shipment is dutiable, at what rate is it dutiable, in some cases, still looking for different sourcing solutions so that they can avoid the China tariffs. So there’s still a lot of explanation involved. We are a smaller brokerage. That’s the main way we try to have an advantage, so that people get a better understanding of all of those aspects of importing.

I like staying busy because I don’t want to sit around looking for something to do. I’ve never had to do that here, and it’s just gotten busier. It makes life interesting. Chaos is something I could do without, with the pandemic. But I do like the busyness. The pandemic and the total chaos can go away though.

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