More RFP'S or RFQ’s In Freight Transportation

More RFP’S or RFQ’s In Freight Transportation

Lately are hearing  this word more and more, some call it Request of Proposals (RFP) and some refer to it as Request of Quotes ( RFQ ). This time around…

More RFP’S or RFQ’s In Freight Transportation
Are You Importing Legally?

Are You Importing Legally?

The product you are buying might not be as simple to import as you think. Before you order your product, be certain that the product you are importing is allowed…

Are You Importing Legally?
The Government Shutdown

The Government Shutdown

The United States federal government entered a shutdown from October 1 through 16, 2013, and curtailed most routine operations after Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014. During the shutdown,…

The Government Shutdown
Cargo Theft

Cargo Theft

It’s not a topic you hear about every day, you may not have heard about cargo theft headlining the news. Crime of such nature had become more organized and more…

Cargo Theft
Abandoned Cargo

Abandoned Cargo

Freight that has not been accepted or claimed by the consignee or is undeliverable due to error or omission on the part of the shipper, consignee, or owner or for…

Abandoned Cargo
PreviousNext

    The Federal Maritime Commission

    iStock_000051427806_Small

    We in the shipper industry have heard of the FMC at one time or another.  The United States Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is an independent federal agency, based in Washington, D.C., responsible for the regulation of all oceans borne international transportation of the U.S. The Shippers who transport goods across the ocean are protected by the regulations of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).  As an independent agency of the federal government, the FMC ensures that all international ocean transport to conforms to standards. The commission benefits all levels of United States shipping, including exporters, importers, shippers and consumers, by providing a fair and reliable system of transport. According to its website the FMC’s mission statements is “To foster a fair, efficient and reliable international ocean transportation system and to protect the public from unfair and deceptive practices.”

    What Does The FMC Do?

    In an effort to make shipping processes more efficient, the FMC strives to create a competitive market, in which no carrier has a monopoly on ocean transportation, and by regulating costs so the consumer and the carrier can benefit. When this doesn’t occur, the FMC will take action against unfavorable conditions, whether caused by U.S. businesses or foreign entities. The commission reviews tariffs, rates, and rules of carriers to ensure that they are fair and reasonable, which in turn keeps the industry competitive.

    The FMC also ensures that the U.S. supply chain and shipping industry maintain a high level of integrity, through dispute resolution procedures, investigations, and licensing operations. The FMC upholds all rules of the Shipping Acts and acts upon any violations.

    Outside of the shipping industry, the Federal Maritime Commission also regulates cruise lines, ensuring that they remain financially responsible for all claims of injury of passengers, and holding them accountable for sailing in a timely fashion.

    How is the FMC Working Today?

    Before the FMC was created in 1961, the United States failed at developing a regulatory board for foreign and domestic ocean commerce. Over fifty years, the shipping industry has undergone significant changes which have helped the transport of goods to cross international waters safely and efficiently. Because of this constantly evolving industry, the FMC has had to alter its practices to adapt to the new demands of ocean transport. From private disputes to corporate shipping claims, the Federal Maritime Commission strives to protect all U.S. exporters and importers from unfair practices.

    In a post 9/11 society, the FMC has had to widen its responsibilities by monitoring all non-U.S. ships that port in American cities. The agency has to heighten regulatory methods of both the cruise line industry and foreign owned ocean vessels.

    In October of 2014, the FMC has drafted a proposal to amend requirements of licensing and financial responsibility to ocean transportation intermediaries which would require the renewal and registration of licenses every three years, and verification of OTI registrations would be available on a conveniently located website. Common carrier shippers would also be required to verify OTI regulations, and all registrations would have to be filed electronically.

    The FMC is an important agency that keeps the shipping industry secure and fair, and is constantly working to keep its policies and practices up to standard with the new technologies and societal changes that affect ocean transport.

    How I loved and Hated Photography

    iStock_000014570311_Large

    Most people have hobbies which are much different than the work they do to earn a living. Photography is certainly one of the more popular ones. If it fits your personality, meaning if you like walking, being alone on your own, spending hours focusing on one thing and of course if you love visual arts than photography is for you.

    Once you decide on photography as a hobby you should purchase a semi professional camera and first thing you do is to sign up for a beginner’s photography course. In this course you will learn the technical specifications of the camera and basic principles and compositions of photography. Then you throw yourself on the streets and start taking pictures using the basic techniques you learned. All of a sudden you realize how great the pictures you have taken compare to your previous amateur shots. You will show them to your friends who don’t have a clue about photography and get lots of compliments for the photos you have taken.

    Then you will get bored of taking the same pictures and join a photography club and start taking pictures as a group. As time goes by you will learn many of the greatest photographer’s names and start to follow their photos. And then you realize actually how simple were your photos that got great compliments compared to the professionals you saw. Nevertheless one of your photos will stand out in your photography club and with any luck it will be shown in a small exhibition among the photography clubs. You will proudly share this information at work with your colleagues and even for a short period of time you become popular among your friends and family.

    Unfortunately things may not continue to be as great. You will not get another great shot. You will start to question yourself about every photo that was taken randomly by you. You will start to think that you need a better camera and sell the already expensive camera of yours for much less and buy another much more expensive camera. You will notice differences in the beginning and become hopeful. But the next big shot will not happen. Things will be similar among your other club members and competition will slowly take over the fun and enjoyment. Everyone will race to take the best picture.

    Whatever the best photographer in your group is taking pictures of everyone will take the same pictures as them. And if someone has caught a better angle or spot he or she will quietly keep it to themselves. Your photos will not get chosen for the gallery or any displays and you will realize the administrators are putting their own photos anyways. Your friends and colleagues will ask about the next gallery exhibition and they will joke about when you will become famous and quit your job and become a professional photographer.

    At this point you will start to lose interest in the photography club, it will become stressful for you. You will become frustrated and start seeing nightmares about it. Your routine job will start to relax you and the camera will start to exhaust you. And finally you will throw the camera aside and feel relieved. You will relax on your couch, turn on your favorite show and enjoy life one again. The end :)

    KPIs for Customer Service

    iStock_000041685098Large

    What is MTS Logistics “KPI” for operations? I was recently asked this question at the first meeting I had with a CEO of a large apparel importer in NYC. I am glad I was prepared for it. Thanks to today’s social media tools I had already done my share of research with regards to the CEO’s professional background.

    Apparently he was keen on finding out his service partners’ operational performance. With that said, I wanted to analyze this trendy subject that we hear of more and more.

    In this article, I decided to take a deeper look in the parameter of ” key performance Indicators” in logistics. As we all know, logistics is about moving and tracking  materials, supplies or information from one point to another. In this process, the most important factors are time, cost and customer satisfaction.

    Based on their operational procedures, logistics companies may have different operational structures. There could be various methods to evaluate and measure performance. Here are some standard performance indicators that come to mind; time sensitivity, how long internal procedures take, speed of delivery and receiving time, cost and risk for different departments, how much is promise to customers and how much of it that we get done.

    We tend to see that the focus on customer service has really increased throughout the years and now both customers and even prospects seek more detailed and more time sensitive and mutually beneficial business cooperation. Therefore, the expectations are even higher which obligates the service providers to actually find ways to add value to their services and products. We all know that starts with improving the quality of customer service, recruitment and training sales people properly. This is how we are able to measure and come up with our key performance indicators. I really think that what differentiates logistics companies is their customer service and not so much their price because customer service is all about communication with customers and engaging with them. So then what could be the KPI for customer service?

    1. The quality of service that customer service delivers
    2. The care demonstrated by customer service at normal situations and also emergencies
    3. The personable relationship they build with customers and even vendors
    4. The frequency of shipment status updates
    5. How long they take to revert back to customers
    6. How quick they make their decisions and how good the decisions turn out to be

    This list may be much longer as all companies may develop different metrics and indicators for customer service. The most important aspect is to be able to measure the metrics. That is how KPI starts playing an important role.

    When I was reading one of those articles about performance, I happen to read a really nice example, which I would like to share. This company in Atlanta, who wants to stand out with their execution, starts a post delivery audit program. The customer receives a phone call about 15 min after the driver gets a signature from the customer. It’s a short call just to ask a few questions and give customers the opportunity to give their feedback by leaving a voicemail. As soon as the system receives a low score, the marketing manager immediately takes action and calls back the unsatisfied customer. At the meeting the next morning, the low scores are discussed between the departments who delivered the goods and customer service. This way they come up with a metric that actually measures their performance of customer delivery experience.

    KPI will help logistics companies to improve their customer service level continuously. In order to measure our performance, we always come up with our customer satisfaction surveys here at MTS Logistics Inc. We would like to make sure we think long term and strategically because the more we measure our performance the better service we could deliver as a team. At the end of the day, the most important thing is actually something we all agree here at MTS Logistics: “Perform well, Perform as a team, and Don’t let the phone ring twice!!” This has been our motto since day one and we will continue to keep up the good work!

    Why do people think cooking is hard?

    Pasta with chicken

    We now live in a generation where food is transforming and becoming more globally accessible.  So if that is the case, why is cooking still hard? Is it because we have become more we-want-it and-we-want-it-now over the past few years? Or is it just because we don’t have the time?

    Either way, those cooking shows on TV and on YouTube have become incredibly popular along with the likes of all of the cookbooks hitting the bookshelves. Could it simply be that we’ve been expose so much food advertising that we only think cooking is hard?

    There are a lot of benefits of cooking. Maybe it’s the healthier or more delicious food, the experience, social media bragging and of course spending less than you would by eating out every night. So, spending some time cooking each week is not a waste at all.

    You don’t have to make everything from scratch either. Look around and there are so many choices at the grocery store that are more or less pre-made. Even so, you still need some of the basics. Here is a sample of sample of items to have on hand; salt, ground black pepper, sugar and cooking oil. You can easily prepare anything with those ingredients then add on as you feel. It’s like art and music. It gets better as you dig deeper into your imagination and inspiration.

    If you want to start or just brush up on your cooking skills, the book I recommend for any starter or even intermediate cooks is Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” A personal favorite, he basically explain almost every food item out there and its whereabouts. Another book is the American classic “The Joy of Cooking” which I bet your mother or grandmother have had a copy of at one point in their kitchen. Or you can even get a quick crash course cooking lesson from someone who knows how. To start, just pick one menu so you won’t overwhelm yourself, then you add as you go. The next thing you know you’re buying and eating things like quinoa and preparing dinner like ratatouille!

    All in all, cooking is so complex it stretches our mind and imagination in many unexpected ways. As humans, food is one of the most important factors for living. Cooking has opened a lot of doors for me. Through cooking, I get to experience so much more in live from play to working in the freight forwarding industry. So start cooking and see what unexpected doors it can open for you.

    Project Cargo Transportation

    Today I would like to talk about one of the areas that we at MTS Logistics are experts in: Project Cargo Transportation. Project shipments are the organization and transportation of heavy and oversized equipment. Some examples includes the moving of a complete factory; a production line; electric/ natural gas systems, oil refinery machines; road construction machines; airport or marine port equipment; and more. The main goal of project shipment planning is to transport oversized cargo with the utmost safety and cost effective way. It may contain a combination of different modes, routes, and arrangements than a regular cargo would require.

    Project cargo is quite a sensitive subject because of the nature of it. A shipment delivered late or damaged will have a significant effect on the cost and time planning of the main project. The planning of the transportation of a project cargo requires preciseness from the start point to the end. Therefore before starting the transportation, there are many factors that must be covered with detailed thinking.

    Project shipment planning must involve a thorough control of the operational applicability of the plan and its compliance with the law while making sure the plan is safe for human health and the environment. Before starting the transportation, planners must be experts at their jobs while choosing right operators and routes of the move. During the project, communication between the operator, operational team, engineers, and the owners of the project is critical. Besides the importance of excellent service, cost calculation of any project requires expertise from the freight forwarder to present realistic costs at the beginning of the project. This helps to prevent extra costs that may come up throughout the whole process.

    When you start planning for a project shipment, one of the first crucial steps should be selecting the right carrier and nominating the best freight forwarder that has expertise in this field. We strongly recommend getting in touch with us here at MTS Logistics if you have any coming up project shipments. Our expert team will be more than happy to walk you through the planning of your shipments. We will not only explain to you the whole procedure but we will also partner with you to make sure all goes as smoothly as possible. At MTS Logistics, we are ready to help you with any requests you may have regarding project cargo handling.

    Home Home Tiny Home!

    mobile-house-1

    In New York City, one of the greatest struggles of everyday life is the cost of rent. Spaces are getting smaller while rent is getting higher. Among this struggle, an alternative movement called the “tiny house movement” has risen. The benefit of this movement includes the ability to move around the country and not be tied down to one location. Tiny houses save people thousands of dollars while maintaining a simple lifestyle.

    In the United States the average size of a single family home increased from 1,780 square feet in to 2,479 square feet in the last 30 years. Many people have decided to scale down the size of their home, which has produced the “tiny house movement”. [Read more...]

    Important Questions To Ask US Customs Before Importing

    What you should know before importing goods into the United States ? If you are new in importing I am sure you have many questions to ask. I listed below more essential questions ‎you should be asking to US Customs. ‎Import specialist can provide you specific details of the product you are importing.

    Is the product you are importing prohibited ?
    Ask US customs if the item you are importing is banned. The item itself might be prohibited or the product you are importing might be banned based on the country it is manufactured, grown or produced.

    Are there any restriction?
    Import can be restricted in various ways. Restriction on imports can refer to the item being subjects to quota or needing special licensing. The item you are importing might need special documents or might need other agencies review.

    Do you need any special documents before importing?
    All merchandise coming into the United States must clear customs. To file a customs entry you are required ‎a commercial invoice, a packing list and proof of consignee’s right to make an entry. This proof can be a Bill of lading, airway bill or carrier’s certificate.

    Are there any other government agencies who must approve the import of this product ?
    Based on the imported product and it’s use, other federal agencies may have to be notified of the arrival . In addition to contacting US Customs, importers should contact other agencies when questions arise about the imported product. US customs will refer you to the agencies who have jurisdiction over the commodity. Make sure the product you are importing complies with other agencies requirements as well.

    What is the duty rate?
    All goods imported into USA are subject to duty. All imports items required to be classified in accordance with the harmonized schedule of the united states. Each tariff number has a corresponding rate of duty. Rates of duty for imported merchandise vary depending of the country of origin.

    Are there any special requirement?
    The merchandise you are importing must be marked properly before entering in to the United States. Ask ‎customs what are the US regulations and if there are any other special marking requirements.

    Is the item subjects to quota ?
    Check with Customs status report on current import quotas to determine if your goods are subject to a quota category. ‎If your merchandise is subjected to a quota ask how to obtain the correct visa for the goods upon entry.

    Chocopolypse

    Steaming cup of chocolate

    Winter is right around the corner, some say it hasn’t arrived yet, but after the polar vortex stationed over the North East this week, it’s safe to say that the cold is here to stay for the next couple of months.  For a person who grew up under the blazing Caribbean sun 365 days a year, winter is very unnatural. But after numerous years living abroad, I have come to enjoy this time because it has allowed me to experience things that I had never felt before.  In comes HOT CHOCOLATE or HOT COCOA, however you want to call it; it’s so good.  I’ve had it many times in Puerto Rico, but only in cold winters did it become relevant.  I don’t drink it as much as I would like to, but there are some days that I love reaching in to the pantry and getting the ingredients to prepare a batch of this delicious elixir.

    Drinking chocolate has a historical significance; one that most people don’t know or even care to think about. It was only because of the European conquest of Central and South America that the planet became familiarized with this product. History claims that a cacao beverage was served to the Emperor Montezuma and the noble people of his court, at the peak of Aztec civilization. During the 16th century, cacao was served only as drink, there was no such thing as a chocolate bars, chocolate truffles or chocolate chip cookies. These Mesoamerican natives believed that cacao had special powers, they used vanilla, chili and other spices to enhance its natural bitter flavor and in some areas it was even used as currency for trade. It only took less than 100 years, for this favorite beverage of the Americas to be a staple at European courts. It is during this time that sweeteners like sugar and honey are added to the cacao concoctions, beginning a revolution that would change history forever. Conquest led to trade and trade helped cacao become of one of the most lucrative industries in the world today.

    In 2014, the Cacao bean is grown in many different countries with the right climate conditions for its growth. In fact, it has become central to some West African nations’ economies like Ivory Coast & Ghana  were more than 70 % of world production of cacao is produced. The bean is not endemic to these countries; it was introduced as a new crop during the 19th century and is now revered as one of the best kinds ever grown. Today chocolate is sold everywhere, it can be from an over the counter product like a Snickers Bar to a high end truffle created by a chocolatier in a boutique in Bruges, Belgium.

    The world is entranced by this product, there’s even a term for the most extreme: CHOCOHOLICS; but some experts are foreseeing that the glory days of chocolate may come to an end sooner than we would expect. According to an article by Mark Schatzker of bloomberg.com in reference to chocolate, “Last year, we again consumed more cocoa than we were able to produce. This year, despite an unexpected bumper crop, supply barely kept pace with the recent upswing in demand. From 1993 to 2007, the price of cocoa averaged $1,465 a ton; during the subsequent six years, the average was $2,736 — an 87 percent increase” Further studies claim that by 2020 the demand for cacao is expected to exceed production by 1 million tons, and 2 million tons by 2030.  2020 IS IN 5 YEARS!!!   On the other hand, the International Cocoa Organization refuted that claim saying that their predictions and forecast do not show these mammoth numbers.  They will accept that shortages are attributed to agro diseases like Witches’ Broom or Frosty Pod; which have whipped out complete crops in Brazil and Costa Rica, droughts and climate change, a growing demand in Asian markets as well as the change by some cacao growers to more lucrative crops like rubber or corn.

    Whatever the truths, I cannot see a world without chocolate in it. In my opinion I don’t think that in 5 years the word chocolate supply will be in danger, maybe I just don’t chose to believe it. Chocolate has become a prized possession for many: to me it warmed me up on cold nights while in school at Amherst, MA,  it is still a great gift for birthday, its synonymous with Valentine’s Day and Love, for others it’s merely a business venture and to a few it’s a way to connect to their ancestors.  Whatever your case may be, next time you have a taste of chocolate, think what it would be like if it didn’t exist anymore, the CHOCOPOLYPSE maybe closer than we ever want it to be.

     

    http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chocolate-recipes/epic-hot-chocolate/

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/11/17/chocolate-shortage-2020/19167089/

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-14/to-save-chocolate-scientists-develop-new-breeds-of-cacao.html

     

    Port Congestion Surcharge

    industrial port with containers

    If you are frustrated by the announcement of the steamshiplines’ Port Congestion Surcharge on November 14, 2014 with implementation date of November 17,2014, you are not alone.

    The initial announcement that rained at the same time from all ocean carriers read as below:

    Please be advised that a Port Congestion Charge will be charged to all U.S. & Mexico destined shipments which was received by the carrier or its agent and discharged at USWC Ports and Canadian Ports on or after Nov 17th, 2014.It is to cover massive increase in costs arising from significant increases in port congestion and serious disruption to our normal course of operation due to labor unrest or action provided with Rule No. 23-K1 in Tariff HJSC-700.

    All U.S. & Mexico destined shipments shall be subject to a Port Congestion Charge as follows:

    Amount:  USD 800 per 20′ Container

    USD 1000 per 40′ Container

    USD 1125 per 40′ High Cube Container

    USD 1266 per 45′ High Cube Container

    This was shocking development for the trade and especially for the importers. But can the carrier just announce such a huge increase and implement it 3 days later? This is the question that we have been getting from all our customers. The base of this increase is the filing that the carriers did back in 2012 with FMC to protect themselves from the possible congestion due to “labor unrest” at the US ports.

    Carriers can trigger this filing anytime, according to the rules and regulations dictated by FMC. However there are some criteria to trigger this charge to protect the trade community from immediate increase such as this one and to plan ahead. The FMC review of the carriers’ announced Port Congestion Surcharge is centered around whether carriers met the following FMC requirements:

    1. 30 days notice prior to rules change or rule implementation resulting in any increase in cost (including surcharges) to a shipper
    2. Rules must be clear and definite as to the implementation and termination of the surcharges based on specific criteria related to “labor unrest”
    3. Carrier may only lawfully charge the rates in effect on the day the cargo is tendered.

    Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero said ocean carriers’ West Coast port congestion surcharges shouldn’t apply to cargo already in transit, and that the FMC will examine whether there’s a “solid basis” for the charges.

    “For us, the $64,000 question is, ‘What is the trigger? What’s the basis that will allow them to charge a surcharge?” Cordero told JOC.com. “That’s the threshold question. That’s the interesting question we at the FMC have to look into. Our staff is looking into whether there’s a trigger mechanism that is legitimate to even apply the surcharges,” he said.

    Cordero, a former Long Beach port commissioner, said he’s not convinced that carriers’ citing of “labor unrest” is specific enough to justify hefty congestion surcharges that most trans-Pacific carriers filed months ago and activated Monday.

    The full news release from FMC can be reached from http://www.fmc.gov/congestion-surcharges-11-2014/

    After these developments, late yesterday afternoon all major ocean carriers announced that they were suspending or postponing the Port Congestion Surcharge. Their legal teams are working on the technicality of the FMC filing and new round of announcements should be expected when it’s completed. It is true that the ocean carriers are losing money due to the ongoing situation in west coast ports. As of today, there is no improvement on contract negotiations, chassis issue and other problems that are contributing the congestion.
    It is only a matter of time what we will see another round of increase notices from the carriers unless the root cause of the problems are addressed and all parties involved start working towards the solutions immediately. otherwise everyone will suffer.

     

     

    How to Ship Reefer Cargo?

    iStock_000041742326_Small

    As a person who has been in shipping business close to 15 years, I am amazed with the fact that how the perishable commodities are getting moved around the world and reaches us in different forms from chocolates to fruits and medicine.

    We had an article in the past about reefers more about on their technical ways of how they work and how they benefit particularly on the products getting moved. I will be focusing today more on how do you actually plan, load and ship your cargo in reefers.

    First, we need to give certain facts to show how big reefer container business is.  In 2012 more than 2.7 million FEUs of reefers moved around the world. Meat/Poultry had lead this commodities with 18 % market share, which followed by seafood and bananas.

    There are very important differences in supply chain of shipping reefer containers and shipping dry containers.

    First, just to make it clear, reefers are not refrigerators; they are not supposed to cool down your product. So, the very first important point to understand is, reefers are there for keeping your product at the right temperature as they are initially getting loaded in the equipment.

    Getting started, there are 2 crucial factors; your cargo should be in a warehouse at the right temperature that you want them to be, when they reach their destination. Second factor is to find out whether your warehouse will be using a cold tunnel or not. Because if you will be using a cold tunnel, it’s ok to pre-cool the reefer; however if you are not planning to use a cold tunnel then you should not pre-cool the container, as that might condense water, and once the doors of the empty reefer is opened; the warm air gets into the container. This may lead to icing in the reefer which you would not want it to happen.

    Packaging / Stuffing is another difference compare to a regular dry container setting. Do you know the reason why in supermarkets you see so many holes in carton boxes of fruits? It’s directly related with the supply chain procedures. The chilled commodities such as fruit/meat, not only need air cooled down around their boxes but they also need the air that goes into their boxes.

    How you load/stuff your container is another important point. Unlike dry containers, you don’t want to use all of the container space. The idea is you need to create space for air to flow through your product according to your products requirements. There is a detailed explanation of how to load the products on below. Firstly you need to keep space on top which is marked by a line on the reefer containers. Secondly depending on your cargo being loose or palletized you need to follow one of the below 2 patterns. Air always takes the easy path which is downward, so you need to push it up. To do that you need to use a filler on the bottom of the container – like cardboard, so this way you can push the air back and let it flow.

    Now, after you choose the right warehouse, right loading dock and right choice of packaging and stuffing what do you need next? Well, you need your reefer container to arrive with a genset unit to power the container thru its road trip to the port. It’s also important that you communicate beforehand about the temperature, ventilation and also the humidity level that your cargo will need. Hence, both the ocean carrier and trucker will do their part in the sense of setting the right temperature and ventilation, to take your product to it’s final destination with the product’s own requirements.

    These are majorly the roles you get involved as shipper directly. From this point on your reefers will get plugged in terminals and on the vessels to sustain its power to let your cargo reach to its final destination the way and form you would want it to be.