• ITVI.USA
    15,861.160
    -7.510
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.793
    0.019
    0.7%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.460
    -0.010
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,867.600
    -6.080
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.950
    -0.570
    -16.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.610
    0.650
    22%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.240
    -14.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.550
    0.210
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.320
    0.220
    10.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.110
    0.250
    6.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,861.160
    -7.510
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.793
    0.019
    0.7%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.460
    -0.010
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,867.600
    -6.080
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.950
    -0.570
    -16.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.610
    0.650
    22%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.240
    -14.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.550
    0.210
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.320
    0.220
    10.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.110
    0.250
    6.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
American ShipperWarehouse

A bona fide American shipper

   In the last three months, I have metamorphosed from American Shipper associate editor to just plain ol’ American “shipper,” and boy, has it been an interesting experience.
  
A little background: five years ago, I moved to New Delhi, India to cover the liner and logistics industry from an Asian perspective for American Shipper. In March, I relocated back to the United States, to the Washington, D.C. area. That entailed not only a change of address, telephone, and currency, but also the need to get my stuff back home.
  
There were options to help with my pending shipment — international household goods forwarders, Indian moving companies, and global integrators. In the end, I chose to use a forwarder in Chennai, some 1,300 miles away, largely because he was a known quantity (my father-in-law had used him extensively for project cargo shipments).
  
Whether I made the right decision is immaterial. What is important is that I gained an appreciation of some of the hurdles small, infrequent shippers face in getting their goods from here to there. Or in my case, from there to here.
  
Sending my goods — exactly 64 boxes of household items and furniture — via a truck from Delhi to Chennai took a little more than one week. Once it arrived in Chennai, the fun began. The forwarder needed a copy of my passport and a letter from my company explaining why I had been in India and why I was headed back.
  
A day later, after taking the items to customs officials in Chennai, the forwarder explained to me that the official wanted to see my physical passport, not a photo. I sent the passport overnight. Then I awaited its return and the news that my shipment had been cleared with no duties due.
  
Three days later, I got my passport back, along with the original bill of lading and invoice for a less-than-containerload shipment. It would be routed from Chennai to New York via a feeder service to Colombo. From Colombo to New York, it rode non-stop on a New World Alliance service to New York.
  
The ship arrived — bang on-time, I might add — March 19, some 32 days after being loaded in Chennai. From there, more fun ensued.
  
The forwarder on the U.S. side notified me of the impending arrival as far back as March 8. But the process of what needed to be done to release the cargo once it hit the Port of New York and New Jersey was hardly explained.
  
After arriving myself in the United States on March 14, I telephoned the forwarder in New Jersey to get an update and was told the shipment was due to arrive in port on March 19. I was told the shipment would be dispatched two to three days later, unless there was a U.S. Customs hold on the container.
  
I didn’t receive another email, however, until March 26, a week after the ship arrived. The container had been sent to a CBP facility for screening. That meant I was liable to pay exam charges ($875), demurrage ($300), and the wonderfully descriptive “handling” charges ($75). Ocean freight had been prepaid, as had the inland leg from Delhi to Chennai.
  
To release the container from the forwarder’s New York area warehouse, I had to pay those fees, along with Importer Security Filing fees and Colombo security fees. A delay in doing so would mean more demurrage. So I sent a check and the original bill of lading to get the shipment released.
  
Two days later, the shipment was moved from the forwarder’s New York area warehouse to one in northern Virginia. As it was en route, I was told I needed to take a copy of the bill of lading and my arrival notice (which was sent to me when the shipment arrived in New York) to a U.S. Customs office near Dulles International Airport. I was, for the first time in my life, “clearing customs” as a shipper.
  
That was the least painful part of the whole process. A pleasant officer looked over my paperwork, asked me a couple questions, and stamped the copy of my bill of lading, so that I could scan and email it back to the forwarder. The forwarder would then send that document to the third-party warehousing provider in whose facility my shipment was now located, in northern Virginia. Oh, and I needed to pay an additional $140 because the forwarder in India had miscalculated the weight of the shipment.
  
Once all these hurdles had been cleared, all that was left was for the third-party warehouse to organize the final leg by truck (another third party, of course) to my delivery address.
  
Looking back, the process actually ran fairly smoothly, despite a number of frantic and heated calls over what I considered excessive charges and delays. No less than 13 entities had handled or coordinated my shipment: trucking company from Chennai to Delhi; my forwarder in Chennai; forwarder at destination’s office in Chennai; drayage truck from warehouse in Chennai to container terminal; terminal operator in Chennai; feeder line from Chennai to Colombo; terminal operator in Colombo; liner carrier from Colombo to New York; terminal operator in New York; drayage truck from New York to forwarder at destination’s warehouse; forwarder at destination; third-party logistics company’s warehouse in northern Virginia; and third-party truck from northern Virginia to delivery address.
  
And if the shipment moved from New York to Virginia via another third-party trucking company, you can add a 14th entity.
  
Again, ignoring whether I made life harder on myself by not using a one-stop-shop variety of household goods forwarder, the key learning point for me is how lost a shipper can feel if they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. It’s easy to feel helpless and desperate, to feel compelled to pay whatever is charged merely to have some control over the shipment.
  
What’s worse, I often felt as if the companies that were supposed to be cooperating to get my freight delivered on-time, in good shape, and with a minimum of cost, hardly communicated with one another once the shipment was en route. I found myself emailing critical shipment details to the various parties to keep things moving along.
  
But now I have my merit badge, and as the rockband The Who said before I was even born, I won’t get fooled again. — Eric Johnson

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