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In Conversation with Licensed Customs Broker Michelle Rockwell

In Conversation with Licensed Customs Broker Michelle Rockwell

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.

shipping industry news covid-19 coronavirus global supply chain jacksonville licensed customs broker expert interview port congestion

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.

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An Interview with Sheltered International Export Manager William Mosley

Why This Freight-Forwarding Expert Loves Living and Working in Amelia Island

After relocating to Amelia Island from South Carolina six years ago, William Mosley discovered two things: a love for the beach and a new work family at Sheltered International. As the Export Manager, William spends his day-to-day communicating with an array of customers – one of his favorite aspects of the job. Read on to learn a bit more about William, his favorite SI tools, and predictions for 2020.

Where are you from, and what is your role here at Sheltered International?

Export Manager Sheltered International

I am originally from Greenville, South Carolina, and my wife and I moved down here 5-6 years ago. I live around the corner from the office, and we love Fernandina. As the export manager here at Sheltered International, I do a little bit of everything – air freight, sea freight and export truck freight. I work directly with many of our customers and carriers.

How long have you worked at Sheltered International?

I’ve been here for 2.5 years, but I’ve been in this business since I was a kid. Long story short, my father-in-law got me a job when I was a teenager at a hospital where he was an administrator in shipping and receiving, and that’s when I started in the business. I worked within my previous position in Greenville for 28 years, but when my wife and I decided to move to Fernandina, I was able to find a great team to transition to at SI. We have a world of experience here, and I love the people that I work with.

What does your day-to-day entail?

I communicate directly with everyone from customers and overseas agents, to carriers and vendors. Every day is unique. We pride ourselves on being very customer-oriented, and that’s one of the aspects that I love about my job.

Why are you passionate about your job as Export Manager?

I feel like my job entails something new every day. I like promoting exports – I really think that exporting goods is patriotic. The U.S. happens to be the biggest consumer on earth – we are an import-oriented place. We get a lot of folks that come to us that are hesitant to try exporting goods for the first time, and I like to help walk through people through the process to help show that it can be done. Our job is to help guide clients to make the right moves.

What do you feel like is the most helpful online resource or tool Sheltered International offers within the platform?

Utilizing the tracking features we have available is an excellent way of being able to keep up what is going on with cargoes. We also have an instant rate tool, which is very handy. We do have a pricing team that handles the more complex quotations, but our customers are able to easily generate an estimate with the instant rate tool, and then refine it when they are ready to go. Our founder, Andrew Ciccarone has developed the platform so that there are a ton of great resources for both importers and exporters. We try to make everything as easy as possible.

Amelia Island Florida

What insights do you predict for 2020 within the shipping and transport industry?

Even though the U.S. has been somewhat shut down due to recent events, we are such a resilient country that I have no doubt that we will bounce back. We might be a bit slow to build export levels back up to where they were pre-coronavirus, but some of these things are going to move no matter what. Vessels may be lighter than normal, but they will still be there.

We have had a lot of customers impacted by the new tariffs, but it has not been quite as bad as the predictors have said. I don’t think 2020 will be all doom and gloom. Numbers won’t look great, but I believe we will be trending upwards.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

You would think I would be tired of the beach, but I’m not! I go to the beach a lot, and enjoy spending time outdoors riding bikes. Maybe one day I’ll even dust off my fishing pole – we’ll see!


Exporting internationally for the first time can be daunting. Our software SiShips, built on years of expertise in the freight-forwarding industry, can streamline your experience, giving you more time to grow your margins.

Contact us today to learn more about how Sheltered International can ease your business’s transition into global markets.

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Sheltered International Overseas LATAM Manager Jose Esteban

Freight Forwarding Latin America Manager Shares Commitment to Customer Satisfaction

Jose Esteban joined the Sheltered International team in June of 2018. As the Overseas LATAM Manager, he is the driving force for our Bogotá office. With more than six years of experience in the International Trade business, he is an invaluable addition to the team. As a professional in International Trade, he possesses special knowledge on air freight exports and imports. He boasts over nine years of customer service experience with a special focus on customer satisfaction, which shines through in how he manages freight forwarding at our Sheltered International Bogotá branch.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Esteban studied financial analysis and graduated in 2012 with a commercial and strategic focus. Before joining Sheltered International, Esteban spent nearly five years at DHL Global Forwarding, and ten months with Damco. His passion for the logistics business is rooted in his commitment to constant improvement. In the world of logistics, keeping up with the ever-changing world is the name of the game. Esteban thrives in an environment that provides constant innovation and opportunities to guarantee customer satisfaction through the changing of the times.

Freight Forwarding LATAM ManagerHow long have you worked at Sheltered International?

I started at Sheltered International in June 2018, so about a year and a half.


What does your day-to-day entail at the Bogotá office?

I’m in charge of the performance of the BOG team. Mainly, I support the Pricing and Sales Development Department. I also act as OPS support or back-up when the team needs it. Additionally, I maintain the administrative tasks involved with managing a branch office, from making necessary payments, meeting obligations and supporting Human Resources when necessary.


Why are you passionate about your job?

Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. The world never stops. In logistics business, you need to move forward with that movement to be prepared for the future challenges. We also commit to working as a team to keep growing on a personal and professional level!


What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

While I like to read, enjoy time with my family and friends and practice sports, I also enjoy some extreme activities. Adrenaline makes me feel alive! In fact, I do a lot of activities, read, enjoy time with my family and friends and practicing some sports but mainly some extreme ones, I like to feel the adrenaline because makes you feel alive! For example, I enjoy sky diving and want to one day become a professional sky diver.


What do you feel like is the most helpful online resource or tool Sheltered International offers within the platform?

I think the Quoting tool is very useful for all the customers and Sheltered International staff. It saves both time and effort by providing competitive pricing quickly. Also, the tracking view is amazing. It’s important to our customers to have updated and accurate information about shipments that they can view in real time!


How does having an office out of Bogotá give you leverage internationally as a company?

Our Bogotá office helps grow our business. Our professional team works hard to give customers all they need and share those customer experiences with the other office. This gives us more visibility and new ideas to keep improving each day. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win. We cover all the customer needs and our business gets stronger each day!


What insights do you predict for 2020 within the shipping and transport industry?

As I mentioned before, in the logistics business the world never stops. We need to constantly move forward to prepare for future challenges. There will continue to be a need for freight forwarding because customers will always need to move their shipments around the world. Focusing on continued improvement and customer satisfaction is the key to becoming customers’ first choice and to help improve lives all around the globe.


Ready to Transform Your Freight Forwarding Experience?

Schedule a demo with Sheltered International today.

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Sheltered International Founder Andrew Ciccarone

Sheltered International CEOSheltered International Founder Shares Journey of Transforming the Freight Forwarding Experience

Andrew Ciccarone knew the freight forwarding industry was in need of a technological face lift. After graduating from Florida State University in January 2011, he became the East Coast Manager for an international freight forwarding and customs service. After four years with the company, he became restless. Armed with a knack for technology and a natural entrepreneurial spirit, Ciccarone couldn’t help but notice a resistance in the industry to keep up with advances in technology. He saw clear opportunities for improvement in the freight forwarding experience and decided to make a change.

In March of 2015, he became the founder of Sheltered International. His venture focuses on technology to improve freight services, whether it be by air, ocean, rail or truck. The technology solutions give complete visibility to clients, from quoting to tracking. Nearly five years later, Sheltered International is changing the game in the freight forwarding industry. Read on to learn more about Andrew’s entrepreneurial journey and Sheltered International’s innovative services.

What inspired you to launch Sheltered International?

Straight out of college, I successfully opened a branch office for another customs brokerage and freight forwarder. After a few years, I felt bored because the company was very traditional and not interested in adapting technology.

At the time, I had my own line of sunglasses, which I was designing and selling online, so I was very familiar with building and designing websites. I felt there was a better way to use technology to improve a customer’s freight forwarding experience. So, my two business partners and I decided to open Sheltered International to be a technology-focused freight forwarder and customs broker.

How is Sheltered International different from other transport providers?

Our online portal, Siships, truly sets us apart. We spend a lot of time thinking about customer problems and are constantly updating the platform to improve customer experience. We listen to our customers. In fact, some of our best functions were suggested by customers.

How did SI come to operate out of Fernandina Beach, FL?

Now that we can do customs brokerage, electronically we can work from anywhere. A traditional freight forwarder is typically located in a rundown building in an industrial area. Our office is located above the fudge shop on Center Street in the historic district on Amelia Island. Whenever we have a visitor they normally comment that they never have seen a freight forwarder in such a nice office.  It’s a really nice place, please come visit!

What are some of the most popular tools and resources SI offers to agents and customers?

For our agents, I think it’s access to our staff.  Our typical agent is a domestic freight broker who has relationships with international shippers, but didn’t have access to experts. So, they didn’t feel comfortable selling the service. When they partner with us, agents get the support of our vast global network and experienced staff in addition to Siships, giving them all the tools to win more business.

For our customers, it’s our tracking system within Siships.  The number one complaint we hear when on-boarding a new customer is that their old forwarder did not provide enough communication.  Siships is the perfect tool because it allows us to build customized communications across email, phone and online which we customize to any user’s preferences.

What is the latest tech update within the platform, and what’s on the horizon?

Our newest update is the booking function.  It allows customers to go into our platform and schedule bookings directly from our website. Next, we are developing vessel satellite positioning into our tracking.  It will allow users to know the exact location of their cargo on any ship worldwide.

Ready to Transform Your Freight Forwarding Experience?

Schedule a demo with Sheltered International today.

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