Mr. Georg Fischer
First, Georg would you tell us about the history of HLI Logistics and the background of the owners?
HLI was founded in 2013, in cooperation with HLI Rail and Rigging and an investment company in Queens, NY. We have since separated from Rail and Rigging.
There are three shareholders, and all are involved in the day to day business. I am one and the other two are:
Ute Bender – Managing Director
Jan Schultes – Projects Director
All three of us are originally from Germany. We trained there and came to the US over twenty years ago. We have worked in freight forwarding exclusively during our careers, mostly for larger companies, and came together by way of Panalpina, Geodis, ABX and Albacor Shipping.
What kind of cargo do you mainly focus on transporting?
HLI strives to keep a good mix of cargo (air, sea, imports and exports). Our main focus though is ocean freight where we handle FCL, LCL, OOG and project cargo.
Could you provide us with some examples of projects that you are proud of having handled?
Daimler Benz special project for the Detroit Auto Show 2018, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (cancer centre) 2017, quay extension and pier renovation Portland, TX 2019.
See some pictures of our various projects below:
Tell us about the market in the US. We understand from many sources that inland transport is an area where forwarders from outside have, in the past, often been overcharged or cheated by local freight forwarders. Can you elaborate on why it seems difficult to find reliable partners in the US and what the reason is for the exorbitant prices quoted?
You must be diligent in your business relationship and build a partnership, not just buy from somebody. It all boils down to communication and the assurance that all angles are covered. Everybody can throw out a number and then exclude line items in the ‘subject to’. We also find that overseas agents deal with barge and trucking companies, etc. directly to save the profit share amount or handling fee of having a middle man in the US. When things do not run smoothly, the overseas party realizes that something went amiss in the quotation exchanges.
We try to cast a wide net when shopping for rates to quote to our customers and agents. In our experience, there is usually a wide gap in the pricing we receive. The more specialized the equipment that is needed, the wider the gap.
For example, most recently I asked for pricing for a condenser move in Louisiana with dims. 1606 x 217 x 233 cm, seventy-four tons. The rates we received ranged from $7,000-26,000 and it all can be explained. But you need to know the market to get good rates for the service that you need. Many times, people are gunning for the lowest rates and then they wonder why performance is poor. US trucking companies want to make money, there is no pressure to secure work at any cost.
Do you have offices overseas and are you currently a member of any international networks? If so, why do you believe that it is a good idea?
HLI has no offices overseas and yes, we are a member of some networks. Small companies like us need good partners to succeed. All we have is customer service to differentiate us from the 800lb gorillas, e.g. Schenker, K&N, DSV, etc.
We believe that partner agents are more interested in helping and a bigger stake in handling cargo than the satellite offices of large freight forwarders that march to the drums of corporate guidelines.
Is customs clearance in the US easy or difficult?
Customs clearance is not very difficult if you know what you are doing. We are fortunate that we work with a very experienced and diligent partner, so our customers enjoy a very smooth ride.
Compared to other countries, US import is pretty straight forward and, with the automated entry system, relatively easy. We can do remote location filing, which means customs entry in any port or airport all over the USA, provided the importer has a continuous bond. Also, a proper power of attorney is needed. So, there is some extra work that must be done upfront and at times it looks daunting, but once the paperwork is in order and the bond is set up, it is usually worry-free importing.
Also, we must make sure to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s to ward of any problems down the road. US customs can audit entries for up to five years.
Do you feel that the shipowners are easy to work with nowadays or do you find that they also wish to become freight forwarders?
Shipowners are becoming ever harder to work with. Customer service has virtually gone down the drain. Automation is key and anything outside regular port pairs is very cumbersome to accomplish. The carriers cannot make money on a shipment from A to B, so they have to find other sources of income, for example buying terminal operators, buying shares in logistics providers or opening freight forwarding departments.
The carriers are becoming like airlines. You must pay for anything that is not clearly defined. If they are on the hook for something, they declare themselves exempt and point to acts of God or unforeseeable circumstances. Free time at the piers and railheads has gone way down, but storage and per diem charges have gone way up (another source of income for the steamship lines).
What do you particularly like about the freight forwarding job?
It is very rewarding. Not only do we help people by freeing them up to concentrate on their main core business, but we also feel that we are part of our customers’ success stories.
We have many customers with which we enjoy long-term relationships that trust in our ability to find quick solutions to their transportation needs.
It also helps that we have a wonderful team of dedicated and experienced freight forwarders on which we can depend upon every day.
How to get in touch with you?