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Advance Custom Brokers providing service throughout the nation

Though its only office is in Miami, FL, Advance Customs Brokers & Consulting LLC, clears foreign cargo into the United States through U.S. ports all over the country. In fact, it says it clears as much cargo in Philadelphia as its home port in Miami and also does a lot of business throughout Florida and California, as well as in Houston and Savannah.

Pat Compres, who is chief executive officer of the customs brokerage house and founded the company with chief operating officer and chief financial officer Maria Bermudez, said it used to be a necessity to have a physical presence in every port in which you operated. But now that all the paperwork is done online electronically, that physical presence is no longer needed. “We do travel to all the ports,” she said, “and we take great pride in meeting and knowing all the government people at USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the other agencies at each port and getting to know the port people themselves. That’s important.”

Adavnce-CustomsMaria Bermudez and Pat CompresBermudez added that creating personal relationships with the people you need to work with is very important…much more important than being on-site when moving product through the system. “You have to create great relationship at each port,” she reiterated.

Advance Customs Brokers do have staff members devoted to individual ports and the company has grown significantly since it was established in 2013. It currently has 34 members on its staff. The two partners previously worked together at another brokerage house that Compres started in 1989 and sold almost 20 years later. The two have more than 45 years’ experience in customs work.

Turning their attention to this year’s Peruvian asparagus deal, Compres does expect a lot more loads to arrive into the United States via maritime containers. Bermudez estimated that about 55 percent of the asparagus volume the company cleared last year came by ocean. This year she expects that number to climb to 75 percent. There are a couple of factors at work with cost being an important one. Ocean rates are cheaper than air rates. But Compres said just as important has been in the improvement in ocean transit times since she first got into the business. “Everything used to come in by air,” she recalls. “In the ‘90s, Maersk started a 14 day service with controlled atmosphere cold storage and that increased the usage of ocean containers.”

Since then, ocean transit times have continued to improve and now asparagus loaded in Peru only spends eight or nine days at sea. “They’ve gained a week,” she said. “That’s been a game changer for asparagus.”

While South American imports have not gotten caught up in the trade wars, they have been impacted by the shifting of USDA inspectors to ports of entry along the southern U.S. border to help handle the arrival of immigrants. Compres and Bermudez said fewer inspectors means delays. They said it has been especially acute in Florida when dealing with flower imports from South America. Each container can hold as many as 30-40 different varieties of flowers, which means a cadre of inspectors are needed to move it through the customs procedure.

They noted that asparagus does not have the same problem because its fumigation requirement means it is quickly moved to that facility without the need for inspection prior to fumigation. But overall, there have been delays in getting fresh commodities inspected and released at ports throughout the country. While USDA has received approval to hire more inspectors, Compres said the hiring process typically takes a long time – as long as a year – because the new inspectors have to be hired and then trained.