The Past, Present and Future of the Customs Industry

Today on the blog, we had the chance to sit down with Michelle Rockwell, a Licensed Customs Broker and Operations Manager here at SiShips. Rockwell is a veritable fount of knowledge for all aspects of importing and exporting. Her career has spanned thirty years in the shipping industry. Rockwell has been a valued member of the SiShips team for the last seven years. Over the course of our conversation we touched on a variety of topics, including Rockwell’s unique experience as a Licensed Customs Broker, what she’s learned about freight forwarding in school and on the job, and the direction she sees the customs industry heading in the future. You can read our conversation below:

Hi Michelle, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Let’s start at the beginning, how did you originally become a customs broker? 

Rockwell: On one of my yearly reviews my manager listed taking the broker exam as my goal for the year.  I had worked in all aspects of the industry during my career in international logistics and this was the next step in advancing in my career.

Was freight forwarding or international trade something you studied in school?   

Rockwell: No, I studied travel and tourism

What is an important lesson you learned early on in your career that you still think about today?  

Rockwell: The industry is a fast paced [one] with constant change that only the adaptable survive.

How to Work with Clients as a Custom Broker

What is your personal philosophy when dealing with clients? 

Rockwell: Always be transparent and honest with the customer.  The customer may not always like the truth, however they will respect you.

Do you treat them all the same, or does each receive individualized attention, depending on their wants and needs?  

Rockwell: Each customer requires individual attention depending on their working knowledge, experience, and expectations.

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A Custom Broker’s View of Covid-19

Apologies that we have to bring it up yet again, but how has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the way you do business?  

Rockwell: We have had to extra care with our customers who are frustrated with the extra challenges they have faced during Covid.  Covid has caused delays throughout the entire supply chain from port congestion, labor shortages, and extremely inflated freight rate. 

What advice do you have for clients that are frustrated with the current global situation? 

Rockwell: Ship earlier than you normally would, check all port options for creative routings, and expect freight rates to be highly inflated and above all remember to be patient as we are all struggling [through] this together.

Are you able to forecast when the industry and the supply chain might return to normal—if “normal” is even a possibility anymore, especially in light of the new Omicron variant?  

Rockwell: At my best guess I would not expect to see any improvement before Chinese New Year 2023

Apart from Covid-19, what is the biggest change factor you have seen over your 30-year career in the customs industry and how do you anticipate the industry to change in the next five to ten years?  

Rockwell: Another big change I have seen is when we changed to ACE for the reporting to US Customs.  This change helped to make the industry a more paperless environment, however it took away the personal relationships you had with US Customs in your local ports. 

We’ll finish with a fun one: if you’re able to share with us, what is the most surprising or unique client you have worked with during your career as a licensed customs broker? 

Rockwell: An individual that imported a Mosaic piece of artwork to hang on their wall that weighed over 600 pounds.

How SiShips Gives You the Advantage

Sheltered International combines expertise with state of the art software to bring you quality domestic and international shipping solutions. SiShips puts the shipper in control, offering efficient and cost effective ways to ship your product.

To learn more about managed transportation with SiShips, or to view a demo of our software, contact us today.