Still new to the scene
It should be noted that many of these customs systems are very new to the market. Companies like INLT and SkySpace have only been operating commercially for a few months. However, the systems are already winning over converts.
There are, of course, plenty of IT companies that offer online customs brokerage services – some that come to mind include Flexport, Logitude (a service of CHAMP) and Fleet — but most of them include customs as just one of several services offered that are geared to work directly with shippers rather than forwarders. Some of the firms do not even have licensed brokers on staff.
INLT has generated some excitement in the industry about its focus on customs, but it’s so new that it has not yet been seriously tested in the field.
“Our trial started just last week,” said INLT customer Steve Love, vice president of international business development for Saturn Freight Systems, in a mid-April interview with Air Cargo World. “It’s given us a break on the price, compared to paying a broker, and it will allow us to go paperless, which we’ve wanted to do for some time. We don’t have much experience with it yet, but after seeing the demo we were very impressed. We were saying ‘Where has this been all this time?’”
Stan Chu, president of Triumph Link, in Southern California, has been experimenting with INLT for about three months and praised its ability to store all customs data in one place. “Once the data is very carefully input, it makes the process so much more efficient for repeat shipments,” he said.
Triumph’s operations manager, Linh Van, also said the system was too new for her to comment about its ability to solve disputes, but she liked the ability to join chat groups with other forwarders to discuss common customs problems and find quick answers.
“We haven’t seen anybody else do quite what we do,” Reynolds said. “There’s a serious barrier to entry – you need to be a licensed broker, for one. And two, you’ve got to get your software built and certified by DHS and U.S. Customs and it’s kind of a painful process. I don’t see anyone else building an API system fresh from the ground up. It’s mostly a bunch of companies creating a patchwork of Band-Aids and bubblegum to fix legacy ATS systems.”
As for SkySpace, Raworth said now that the U.S. service has been rolled out, the next target will be Latin America, where it will be represented by Craft Intermodal in nine different countries. “We’re expecting at least 2,000 to 3,000 shipments there per month,” he said.
Marca Global Logistics’ Jaramillo said that, after using the SkySpace portal for the first four months of 2018, he is convinced that these cloud-based apps could mean the survival of the SME forwarding business, at least in the United States.
“I have been in this business for many years,” he said, “and I’ve seen nothing else like it. We always thought that platforms like this would exist in a couple of years, but they’re already here right now.”