Consumers are increasingly receiving goods from all over the world. Alba Wheels Up International, an international freight forwarder and customs broker, specializes in importing items into the United States. We spoke with Salvatore J. Stile, president and chairman of the Valley Stream-based company which has over $ 300 million in annual sales and approximately 200 employees, about importing into an increasingly international world.
What is your business doing?
My company is an international freight forwarder and US customs broker. They work in tandem with each other. One service involves bringing goods into or exporting goods out of the United States by sea or air freight. Customs clearance guides customers through the appropriate customs rules and regulations. We also deal with other government agencies such as the FDA and the EPA. We make sure to assess the appropriate fees and tariffs. There are over 25,000 tariff codes that apply to products entering the United States.
What kind of goods are you dealing with?
We bring billions of dollars in merchandise to the United States, ranging from clothing to shoes and accessories to electronics and food. The most common products would be related to clothing and consumer products. The rarest? We cleaned up the 911 monument in Bayonne, NJ called Teardrop given as a gift from the Russian government and a famous Russian sculptor. Many years ago we exported £ 70,000 of personalized sterling silver from a company in Brooklyn that made it for the wedding of the Saudi Royal Family..
Which countries do you deal with the most and what are the biggest issues?
Asia and Indian subcontinent. I would say now that the biggest issues are the additional tariffs, the 301 tariffs more commonly known as the Trump tariffs. If a duty were 10% from other countries, there would be an additional tariff ranging from 7.5 to 25% from China.
What is the extent and the main cause of the delays now?
Probably around 50-60 days. Something that would take door-to-shelf in the ocean in 30 days now takes nearly 80. Factories have been shut down. There were allowances for electricity where they were running at 60 percent of their capacity. Steamship companies can schedule six ships to LA, but send only four. LA ports are like a clogged drain. There have been a lot of virgin departures where the steamboat companies do not send ships, either because they do not have enough commitment to fill them or because they want to maintain freight rates. sea level at a stabilized level.
What other things are causing delays?
There are shortages of equipment and personnel. There is a shortage of chassis, the wheels on which a container is placed that connects to a truck. A lot of people don’t return the chassis on time. They don’t make them as quickly as possible. Another reason for the delays is that the terminal yard is so crowded that it is difficult to maneuver in the terminal.
Has anything specific happened in China lately causing delays?
They had the Golden Week vacation in October. It’s a national holiday, so they closed. There have been fewer shipments from China.
What does it take to survive as a logistics forwarder today?
Capital city. Best-in-class technology. You have to be an advocate for your customers to find solutions outside of normal processes. And as a customs broker, you need to understand how the available rules and regulations can benefit your customers.
Can you give some examples?
We are strong in the Section 321 program, a direct-to-consumer program. If you are an importer and know who your customer is before the goods are shipped from the country of export, if the value of the qualifying goods is less than $ 800, there is no duty on the product. If you bring in a container of ladies’ knit blouses from China, the total tariffs and duties would be $ 29,000 or $ 30,000. If you use the section 321 program, yes, it would be zero.
Is it something new?
It has been around for several years. Previously it was a limit of $ 200, but it was increased to $ 800. Not only is it duty free, but after you collect the container from the port, you can drop it off in your national supply chain. You don’t have to go to your distribution center.
What has your business done to help customers get through these tough times?
We have helped them finance them with credit terms, because the freight is five times greater than before. They rely on us for their financial support and speed to market. We get goods to market faster than many of our competitors. We do this by scheduling shipments from export with technology, so that we can anticipate the trucks needed, reserve space, pick up the goods at the terminal and clear the goods before they arrive at the port.
What impact do you foresee next year on the importing community?
I see problems ahead, not only for the importing community, but also for the consumer. I see the rates remain high. I see that the lending community will withdraw the advances to the importers. They are worried. It cannot be an ongoing situation. Many importers did not pass the higher tariffs on to retailers. You might see another 5-10% increase in the prices of consumer goods.
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