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Northern California maritime professionals expedite imports during coronavirus emergency

A group of Northern California freight forwarders, customs brokers, stevedores and U.S. Customs officials are working together with truckers, longshore labor and Port of Oakland officials to expedite import containers reaching end users, especially those that contain medical supplies and other important products during the Coronavirus emergency.

This comes as Amazon announced it is prioritizing health and medically related shipments: “We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers,” according to an Amazon email published by Business Insider.

Amazon has also said it is also hiring 100,000 additional people, increasing wages by $2/hour. 

The maritime logistics group is primarily focused on the Port of Oakland but could expand to include participants at other California ports.

In interviews with AJOT, the participants have emphasized the importance of a team work approach between maritime partners, U.S. Customs and other federal and regulatory officials.

They say that shelter-in-place mandates for working at home and shutting down offices and businesses will place stresses on the supply chain that are likely to worsen as the restrictions continue into the months ahead.  However, as their businesses are associated with port operations that are essential in the movement of goods, port stakeholders are necessarily exempt from the mandate and so as to continue facilitating trade. 

One participant has been working even farther away than home. He was stranded in Europe when his flight back to California was cancelled following the U.S. curtailment of international air travel.

Two priorities have emerged from discussions within the group:

  • Expedite U.S. Customs clearances of priority containers including medical supplies and sanitary products so as to reach end users in the U.S. as soon as possible
  • Share information between stevedores, customs brokers, freight forwarders, truckers, Port of Oakland officials and U.S. Customs officials so as to identify potential bottle necks and anticipate challenges caused by health mandated shut downs

By planning ahead and instituting a task force approach that includes all maritime partners operating at the Port of Oakland, the participants believe, dislocations can be minimized and the public can have the confidence that the maritime industry will serve the public interest at this time of crisis.

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT

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