by M. Sigmund Shapiro
October 30, 2003

It’s particularly difficult to predict the changes looming for the forwarding industry in an election year. Susceptible as we are to government initiatives, we can only respond and improvise at a moment’s notice, and react to any unreasonable government demands. A good example is the security inspections implemented at Miami airport in October affecting all outbound shipments. Enough protests were raised, that Customs met with the interested parties and rolled back the procedures.

Obviously cargo security will continue to be on the front burner, and our industry will be intimately involved in C-TPAT. The Customs brokers will be a primary information source and under their “reasonable care” responsibilities could find themselves bearing more and more burdens that properly fall to the importer or exporter. Since there is no specific statute and conforming regulation on C-TPAT, the broker/forwarder is a sitting duck if he doesn’t spot anomalies and consult with his client. These problems must necessarily increase his “wild card” responsibility as well as his costs of processing the shipment. You can bet this problem will be with us for a long time.

The other issue facing the industry is that of our role as multi-transport operators. The looming discussion on confidential service contracts, tariff filing, anti-trust exemptions for ocean carriers, asset based v. non- asset based NVO’s and the role of the Federal Maritime Commission (if any) in a deregulated environment, promises to be good theater, especially if Congress gets into the act. More and more I’m starting to believe that the current Shipping Act is not consumer protection but only protects the carriers. In any event, the forwarder/OTI is poised to react to the inevitable changes on the horizon. And we mid-sized operators owe a debt of gratitude to Fedex, et al. for their efforts for change.

It should be an interesting year.