The Pros and Cons of Paperless Customs processing

The era of the paper form is coming to an end. While they have not disappeared entirely, there’s been a clear shift over the past few years as more and more businesses and government agencies are opting to go paperless.

And there are many reasons for this – with environmental concerns being a leading motivator, but so is all the time and effort that goes into processing and distribution of paper forms.

In the case of the import and export of cargo and the customs clearing process, however, the primary driver is efficiency. Time is money, and if you can save time, this is good news for everyone. Or is it?

“Sure, with paperless forms, all you need to do is go online, file your information at any hour of the day, and it’s all done,” says Omar Zambrano, chief operating officer of Prime Group Holdings, who also heads up the Prime Air & Ocean Cargo division.

But that’s only if you’ve done it right, he warns. “And thankfully, our customers know we only do it right.”

A leading global trade services company, Prime Air & Ocean Cargo provides complete customs, import, export, and related services for shippers worldwide. Partnering with some of the most seasoned licensed customs brokers and global trade experts in the business, PAOC prides itself on being able to provide prompt and efficient clearance of merchandise.

The pros of going paperless also include a more accurate and precise representation of data, better control of the information, and Customs personal having more time to check documentation.

But what happens if a shipper has a question or coding-entry concern that needs to be addressed onsite. Now, those questions often go unanswered and incorrect data makes its way into their tariff calculations.

The clear disadvantage of a paperless process is the lack of direct contact with Customs officers. Previously, they were widely available to lend assistance on such procedural matters. But that face-to-face advantage is a thing of the past. “Now, you basically have to talk with a machine,” Zambrano quips.

“Not everyone can provide this service and hope to do it correctly every time,” says Zambrano. “Sure, you take a test to show proficiency in entering data in the new paperless system, but one small mistake could end up costing you dearly.”

By transitioning to a paperless, the U.S. Customs is seeing the benefits of more efficient processing, but the new system seriously tests the skills and expertise of the customs brokers and shippers using it.

“We truly have to possess a deep understanding of the complex regulations around Customs Law to successfully navigate through this online process. This is why it is so important to have a seasoned customs broker working with you to ensure smooth delivery of product when it arrives in the U.S. – and to protect against costly mistakes.”

Still at the core of today’s system is the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, also known as the Harmonized System (HS) of tariff nomenclature, an internationally standardized system of names and numbers used to classify traded products.

Problems arise when data entry errors go undetected for years after paperless forms are completed and submitted to the Customs Inspectors. In the process of auditing your data, and detecting any incorrect tariff codes, the agency will recalculate your taxes to see whether you underpaid – and now you owe.

By inputting just one wrong number and accepting delivery of the goods, shippers could face thousands of dollars in re-taxation years later when the form is ultimately reviewed and readjusted.

That’s because the HS is organized logically by economic activity or component material. For example, animals and animal products are found in one section of the HS, while flowers are found in another. The HS is organized into 21 sections, which are subdivided into 99 chapters. The 99 HS chapters are further subdivided into 1,244 headings and 5,224 subheadings. You could accidentally enter a number that corresponds to the delivery of live pigs when all you wanted was to denote the delivery fresh peonies.

“Customs is a very tricky business, and we have pros who have been at our side for years assisting with the export and import of fresh cut flowers – historically, our core business.” He noted that PAOC is also well versed in providing shipping support and customs clearance for many other perishables and merchandise for several other industries as well, including aerospace, chemical, consumer and retail, constructions, healthcare, and automotive.

“We can do this because we have the knowledge of our network of experts right at our fingertips,” says Omar Zambrano. In fact, in Miami, PAOC works directly with one of the most respected licensed customs-brokers in the entire U.S., with 35 years experience. “And our existing customers know they can count on us because we work with the best.”

At the end of the day, Zambrano says the lesson is, “Go with who you know is a pro.”

ABOUT PAOC
Prime Air & Ocean Cargo prides itself on its use of industry-leading technology and smart, experienced staff to deliver consistent, safe, and efficient delivery of goods for a wide range of customers. Whatever your industry, Prime Air & Ocean Cargo provides integrated and seamless service. They specialize in warehousing, transportation, crating, and packaging — and the all important documentation processing and customs clearing services.

By teaming with Prime Air & Ocean Cargo, customers avoid the need to juggle multiple service providers all over the world. Big or small – whether it’s one box, one pallet or a company-wide logistics management operation – Prime Air & Ocean Cargo does everything – in an easy, organized, and timely fashion.

For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit www.primeaircargo.com.

Employing the Rules of Weight and Balance in the Workplace

In our line of work, providing ground operations services for our air cargo partners, it is essential to understanding the principles of weight and balance. Without question, we comply with the recommended limits of a particular cargo aircraft – after all, knowing these rules is critical to its structural integrity and flight safety.

What if we had such stringent rules around managing our own “work-life balance.” Well, some of us do. Problem is, many of us don’t. As a result, people in the workplace often find themselves compromising their well-being and performance on the job – without even knowing it.

The idea behind this concept of work-life balance is to achieve an ideal balance between your working life and private life. It is a concept whereby the maximum happiness of an employee acts as the fuel for productive and fulfilling work.

And although there is no rulebook, summer time often presents a prime opportunity to do just that – by unplugging from work. In fact, now that kids are going back to school, we are just coming out of a key period during which we were able to step back and spend quality time with the family, go on a summer vacation, or engage in some form of personal development.

In summers past, because it is a little slower in our industry, I was able to take time out of my busy schedule to spend it with my family. We would alternate between taking the kids to Ecuador to reconnect with their family in Quito; and then over the next summer, we would head north to see their grandparents at a lovely cottage up on Lake Michigan.

One year we drove all the way back from Michigan to Miami, taking offshoots all along the way. We got to see and experience Memphis and New Orleans, and cities people don’t typically visit, like Springfield, Il., Baton Rouge, La., and Tallahassee, Fla. Together, we got a totally new perspective of the American scene.

And in the process, I got to re-energize. Though it wasn’t always easy pulling away from work, it was so important on so many levels.

Because the ability to turn off distractions and enjoy uninterrupted quality time is a great way to relax, rejuvenate, and regenerate. It allows us to get away from the pressures of everyday work life, and come back to the job with a new perspective – and actually be happier and more productive on the job.

That’s important stuff. Having a healthy life-work balance makes us better to work with, better able to serve our customers, and better people in general.

I hope you give some weight to this idea of finding balance in your life.

The best way to ‘balance’ yourself

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Turns out, the act of giving to others is also one of the best ways to achieve a life-work balance.

Just ask Igor Vilas Boas, Operations Manager at Prime Air & Ocean Cargo. He and his wife Diana knew they wanted to do something to help their community. What they didn’t know was that their volunteerism would end up being a two-way street.

“Giving is not only good – it feels good too,” he said, soon after joining with a group of friends to pitch in at a local foster home.

“Sure you can go online, buy a toy, and have it delivered to a needy kid,” said Vilas Boas. “But we wanted to do something that would be more lasting – something that would make a bigger impact.”

They ultimately enlisted to volunteer on weekends at His House Children’s Home of North Miami, a frontline provider of residential and foster-care services dedicated to restoring the lives of children in distress.

In the process, they quickly recognized that the mere act of disconnecting after a busy week, to reconnect through charity work, was helping them gain a healthy work-life balance.

“Sure, it feels good to bring a bright moment to a child in need,” said Vilas Boas. “But I found that engaging like this outside of office also helps to keep me balanced.”

Like Vilas Boas, many people chose to volunteer as a way of achieving a work-life balance – by unplugging from a demanding desk job volunteer to plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or help out at a children’s program.

 “For me, it is better to donate your self – not your stuff.” With that said, it is worth noting that in his native tongue, Vilas Boas in Portuguese means, “Good Village.”

“I’d like to think I am doing good work for the greater ‘village’ – our community,” he said.

Vilas Boas came to Miami from Sao Paulo about eight years to work with PAOC, a key division of Prime Group Holdings, an international import-export logistics conglomerate founded based in Doral. Today, in his demanding role in Operations and Customer Service, he ensures that things run smoothly for PAOC’s customers and freight forwarders, from the moment they request a quote, through shipment of their goods, to delivery.

The work-life balance definition sets out to achieve an ideal balance between a person’s working life and private life. It is a concept whereby the maximum happiness of an employee acts as the fuel for productive and fulfilling work.

Turning off distractions and enjoying uninterrupted quality time is one method by which workers relax, rejuvenate, and regenerate, as is meditation, music, and physical activity – anything that allows people to get away from the pressures of their everyday work life.

However, one of the most satisfying means for many people is to engage in volunteer work.

Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. Studies show that the act of giving to others can help employees protect their mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, make them mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.

Best part is, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment. The act of giving, in even simple ways, helps those in need.

So when the spirit strikes, Vilas Boas and his crew head over to the His Home campus on a Saturday or Sunday, and pick out a child to work and play with. On a sunny day, they go outside to toss a ball or play hide-and-seek. On rainy days, they enjoy video games or board games – or just talk.

“If only for an hour, the kids feel good and get a sense of being integrated again into the community,” said Vilas Boas. “Even though they don’t speak about their issues, or their feelings, you can see when someone comes in to play with them they light right up.”

When it comes to volunteering, “Passion and positivity are the only requirements,” headed. Not surprisingly, these are two of the very qualities Vilas Boas brings to his work with the Prime Group.

About His House
His House Children’s Home is a non-profit organization with a 232-bed capacity situated on a beautiful campus at 20000 N.W. 47th Ave., Hector Building No. 2, Miami Gardens, FL 33055. They care for children removed from their homes during turbulent times in their lives, abuse, abandonment, and neglect.

For information call 305-430-0085 or visit www.hhch.org.

About PAOC

Prime Air Ocean Cargo has a unique ability to streamline, optimize, and expedite freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries. They work closely with air carriers and ocean carriers to sec

ure competitive rates and ample space to destinations all around the world.

For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit www.primeaircargo.com.