Florida Customs Brokers, Forwarders Prepare For Storm’s Wrath

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Many of Florida’s customs brokers and freight forwarders already have taken measures to protect their business operations from what could be a hard-hitting storm on Labor Day.

“If you’re a Floridian, this is par for the course,” said Gabriel Rodriguez, president of A Customs Brokerage in Doral, Fla., and the Miami-based Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association.

However, the 40-year-old customs brokerage has a response plan in place, which it checks each year before the hurricane season, to ensure that its people and assets are protected.

A Customs Brokerage started its emergency preparations in the morning Aug. 30 by covering up its computers and other office equipment with plastic. “Most of our computers are laptops, which our staff took home with them,” he said. 

The company’s staff also filed import entry information with Customs and Border Protection though next Thursday, Sept. 5, in case of a prolonged storm outage.

Rodriguez closed A Customs Brokerage’s office Friday afternoon to allow his employees to prepare their own homes in advance of the storm.

Based on the Hurricane Dorian’s current track, Rodriguez anticipates that his company’s office may be closed through Sept. 3.

If the storm proves severe, Rodriguez said A Customs Brokerage still will be able to carry on operations. “We’re cloud-based and wireless, so we can restart by working from our homes, if necessary,” he said.

Gabriel said many of his industry counterparts were doing the same before the three-day Labor Day weekend. “People are really paying attention,” he said.

Larger customs brokers and forwarders in Florida may resort to temporarily moving some employees to offices outside the storm zone.

“Many have done this successfully in the past, which allowed them to continue office operations without much interruption, albeit the physical movement of cargo in the storm-affected areas may not happen and, for sure, be delayed,” said Albert Saphir, a longtime customs brokerage and forwarder industry consultant, who operates ABS Consulting in Weston, Fla.

In terms of data protection, Saphir said it’s most important to create more than one backup of a company’s computer system. “Many have cloud-based systems, so that is a good start,” he said. “But it may be best to also have another physical backup just in case.”

Other significant concerns for Florida’s customs brokers and forwarders during this hurricane is potentially experiencing damage to their buildings, inaccessible roads due to fallen trees and power lines and prolonged electrical power losses.

“During Hurricane Irma [in September 2017], we lost power only briefly at our home, but our internet/phone service was out for almost two days,” Saphir recalled. “In many areas of Miami, however, including Doral where many forwarders are located, power was out for days also impacting communication services.”

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