2020 was a year like no other for our industry, our nation and our world. The COVID pandemic has impacted every participant in our industry’s supply chain, changing how and where we work, and forcing us to continually adapt, change and innovate. At the same time, we’re trying to protect our staff, our families, and ourselves. About the only things that stayed the same in 2020 were our needs to be flexible, vigilant, and patient.
I wanted to take a moment to thank our amazing frontline workers: Thank you for all the effort and strength you’ve given us over the course of this pandemic. From the bravery and love you continue to provide us, we appreciate the work you do day in, day out. Especially with all the risks involved, you go to work anyway for the sake of others. I can’t express enough how appreciative I am of your actions. Thank you again for everything that you do to protect us.
Pressures on the North American container shipping system are rising, with forecasts for even greater congestion in the first half of this new year. In Q4, East Coast ports were challenged with handling a 30 percent year-over-year increase in imports from Asia, but have so far been able to avoid the gridlock that is gripping the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
East Coast ports hope to avoid the congestion that Los Angeles-Long Beach has experienced due to an unprecedented spike in imports since late June. Vessel bunching, delays of several days in vessel berthing, congested marine terminals, long truck lines at terminal gates, chassis shortages owing to excessive street dwell times, and import warehouses filled beyond capacity have plagued the Southern California gateway since summer.
And demands on our industry professionals to stay informed keep increasing. In a Federal Register Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, dated Oct. 28, 2020, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) proposed a program for continuing education for licensed individual Customs brokers. The program would require 40 hours of education over a 3-year period, 75% focused on Customs business and CBP operational and process requirements. All individually licensed Customs brokers will need to meet the continuing education requirements. NYNJFFFBA is working to develop appropriate courses that meet the continuing education requirement and plans to offer accredited courses beginning in early Spring 2021.
As a bit of good news, The Customs Business Fairness Act (H.R. 2261) provides a technical amendment to Section 507(d) to permit subrogation rights for Customs brokers who have received from the debtor or paid duties and taxes to the government on behalf of a bankrupt importer.
This bill essentially modifies the treatment of claims by Customs brokers for unpaid Customs duties in Chapter 11 (reorganization) bankruptcy proceedings. Previously, a Customs broker could be ordered by the bankruptcy trustee to give back money paid to it by the insolvent importer during the past 90 days.
We’re all disappointed that our Annual Dinner needed to be cancelled for this year. It’s such a unique and fun annual event that consistently brings together a huge cross section of our industry. We’re looking forward to (hopefully!) being able to host our popular Dinner Cruise this coming summer. Cocktails and laughs with friends, colleagues at sunset seems a distant dream right now in the cold darkness of a winter surge, but better times will return.
Challenges persist. This new administration will undoubtedly bring changes in trade policy and impact how we do business in global markets. But personally, I choose to be an optimist. I choose to see the opportunities emerging as we finally gain the upper hand over the virus over the next months.
I firmly believe our broker/forwarder community and associated partners will be there to keep trade moving, protect our nation and its borders, and work together to foster prosperity for us all. Thank you for your continued support of our Association, and best wishes for good health in this new year.