Know your Vendors!

Importers should pay heed to the maxim that forewarned is forearmed, especially while Covid-19 continues to disrupt the global supply chain, says Maersk communications executive, Tom Boyd.

In an article posted on the carrier’s website, the leading line’s media manager for North America says: “The pandemic has changed many business processes. Importers need to be aware of several trends related to international sourcing and shipping that may have high financial exposure.”

Although mainly focusing on US-related import dynamics, especially insofar as they pertain to Customs and Border Protection (CPB), Boyd makes observations that have bearing on importers across the world.

He says: “The unprecedented record monthly volumes of container ships arriving into US ports is an example of the constantly changing business impact facing importers. Vessel ETAs that change daily can create havoc on an importer’s customs brokerage activities.”

Although Maersk uses system updates to keep customers informed about real-time changes to ETAs and related import impacts, Boyd advises traders to do whatever they can to extend insight into their own operations.

“CBP continues to focus on overseas vendors and ensuring that importers have strong internal controls over their manufacturing process,” he says.

Boyd points out that unintended delays on the customs inspection end could possibly be avoided or, time during this process lessened, provided that importers follow procedure to the letter of the law and thereby avoid the unnecessary detention of goods.

“Right when an importer receives the good news that a vessel with their cargo has docked at a US port – they may get a notification from CBP that the shipment will be detained for inspection and supplier documentation is requested, which adds further delay and cost to the supply chain.”

Importers who are acutely informed about everything in relation to their vendors, preferably including insight into the operations and relations of the vendors of vendors and beyond, could possibly avoid delays on the customs inspection end of things.

Melinda Damico, a customs expert and client services head for Maersk, told Boyd: “We advise importers to know your supply chain in detail with your vendors. That means know your vendor’s vendor and then know their vendors as well because CBP is looking at sourcing patterns and all downstream countries involved in the manufacturing process. You need to be able to demonstrate that due diligence to get cargo released.”