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Issue 6 2014 - Freight Business Journal


Eastern still sets the standard for the US freight industry

As the song has it, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. With one of the largest concentrations of consumers and industry in the US, or indeed the whole world, the US East Coast remains a vital gateway for the whole of North America.

Making it in New York

There’s no ignoring New York as a gateway to the US, says Alliance Group chairman, Gary Waller. If anything, its dominance has increased in recent years, at least as far as groupage and consolidated traffic is concerned. The Essex based forwarder has weekly 40-foot consolidations into New York, now its main gateway to North America. He explains: “We used to do

consolidations all over the US, but with service issues and the fact that many people are now doing full container loads to the US, it’s much more effective to load groupage boxes to New York and tranship to road there for the rest of the US.” The high cost of inland

transport reinforces New York’s role as a gateway to the rest of the country. Because such a large proportion of the contents of most groupage boxes will be destined for that city, it oſten makes sense to de-van the container there and use road transport for the relatively small proportion of the contents destined for other cities – rather than the other way round, de- vanning in, for example, Miami and trucking from there to the US north-east. The West Coast is also an

important entry point, but it is much more orientated to the Transpacific and Asian trades than New York. The economics of freight to

and within the US also lends itself more to full container than groupage loads, Waller explains. Customs entries cost around $150 each, whether the consignment is the size of a matchbox or several tons and the cost of trucking small consignments can be

Seko helps UK firms crack the US

The North East is a crucial entry point to the whole of the US for Seko Logistics, which launched a dedicated omni-channel facility in Cranbury, New Jersey last October for mainly British retailers seeking to break into the market. Cranbury, about 45 minutes south of Newark and close to new York and the other large metropolitan areas, is the ideal location, says Seko’s group sales and marketing director, Dave Emerson. “Being south rather than north

‘unbelievable’, mainly because of the huge distances involved. Outside the eastern seaboard, cities can be 500 miles or much more apart, so while trucking may be slightly cheaper than on a per-mile basis, there are an awful lot of miles to travel. Another factor is that UK

and European firms are having to compete with high-volume Chinese manufacturers. The result is that, whereas

Alliance moved around 8-10 groupage containers a week to the US a few years ago, that number has dwindled to around 5-7 while the number of FCL boxes has multiplied several times.

Alliance Group has developed

a service whereby UK exporters can set up US operations quickly and relatively inexpensively, including warehousing and on- site personnel, that allow them to compete with home-grown US firms. UK-based staff have been transferred to the US – having English-accented people answer the phone can be a big selling- point in the US, the only problem being that many of Alliance’s staff have lived in the States for so long

that they have started to acquire American accents. The president of Alliance Pacific Corporation in the US, Simon Button has been there for 19 years. Getting established in the US

market can be a tricky business. Some of the UK’s biggest and otherwise most successful firms – like Tesco – have come unstuck there. Rather than spending $2 million or more on a Stateside launch, Alliance can offer, through its Alliance USA On-Site service, a lower cost, but scalable entry into the US market with warehouse, stock control and order taking all provided as part of the package, as well as Transatlantic forwarding and logistics. “It can be a difficult market

to break into,” says Waller. “Companies need guiding through it and they can be frightened off by its brashness.” Many of these customers have

of course gone on to set up full operations in the US, but Alliance still handles their freight and transport needs. Anyone entering the US market

needs to take proper precautions, he adds. The US freight market is more tightly regulated than

in the UK, especially since the 1984 Shipping Act – NVOCCs have to be licensed and bonded, customs brokers need to take exams and forwarders are submitted to background checks – and bankruptcies are much more frequent, possibly because bankruptcy carries less of a personal stigma than in this country. As in many large countries, US

Customs’ interpretation of rules and regulations varies greatly from place to place. An imported car may breeze through one port without much more than a cursory glance; in other places, for example in ports close to the Mexican border where smuggled stolen cars are big business, officials may go over it with a fine-toothed comb. And if the local law enforcement agency happens to be having a crack- down on drugs, pharmaceutical shipments may come in for extra scrutiny. That said, US Customs does

offer some excellent IT systems. The Automated Broker Interface (ABI) allows Alliance’s Atlanta office to clear shipments at ports all over the US.

of Newark is easier from a staffing point of view; the further north you go, the harder it is to find people. There is also a wide selection of property at competitive rates and, from an access point of view, it’s right on Interstate-95, the main north to south freeway.” Seko can provide retailers, both

online and bricks-and-mortar with all the practical help they need to service the US market. Although traditionally regarded as a hard market for foreign companies to break into, many UK – and other European retailers – are managing to carve out a niche for themselves. Very

often, says Emerson,

companies find that their sales to the US, shipped from the UK or Europe to the US, start to increase. “Then they reach a tipping point, at which they find it’s advantageous to have a presence in the US itself.” Seko offers inbound logistics –

both consolidated seafreight and airfreight - customs clearance and fulfilment services, either via express carrier or the US Postal

Service. This includes compliance checks for goods being sold through US retailers, who often have exacting requirements for labelling and presentation for ‘shelf ready inventory’. In the US, there has been a

“massive uptake” in firms entering the market, Emerson adds, with new customers being added at the rate of around one a week over the past 12 months. Seko’s typical customer for its services would be a mid-sized firm looking to enter the market either through e-commerce or traditional bricks-and-mortar outlets. Many customers are in the apparel segment, but there are also others selling electronics, cosmetics and giſtware, so the Cranbury facility has to be flexible and versatile. Seko offers a similar service

in other major US cities such as Indianapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as in other cities where online sales have taken off such as Hong Kong or Shanghai. Dubai will be its next target market. In the UK, Seko opened a

152,000sq ft logistics centre in Milton Keynes, following the opening of a similar-sized centre in Northampton last year. Group managing director Keith O’Brien reckons that online sales generated by UK retailers from all international markets will grow sevenfold to £28 billion a year by 2020 and already stand at £4bn, with international sales now comfortably outpacing domestic growth.

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