The last shall be first
Companies like Marca Logistics are the ideal customers for online customs brokerage portals, according to SkySpace Cargo co-founder and CEO Toby Raworth. “Our market is the small- to medium-sized freight forwarders. If a business wants to import cargo from China, you would need emails to four or five different forwarders and wait 12 to 24 hours for a response, and a total of 48 to get a booking. With our system, they can do that all in real time.”
Launched in the United States in April, the SkySpace Cargo freight booking portal is currently moving 50 to 60 shipments per day, Raworth said. Essentially, platforms like SkySpace enable almost any forwarder, regardless of size, to globalize their operations. “Say you’ve got a forwarder in the U.K. or in Paris or Belgium with seven or eight employees,” he explained. “Our system gives them instant access to over 50,000 flights from 50 carriers worldwide. That puts them on the same level of infrastructure as, say, Expeditors.”
The key concept for SkySpace is the global infrastructure it offers. “Until very recently the only way to insure standardized process and methodology for the freight forwarding industry was to create large networks either by organic growth, meaning slowly, or by acquisition, meaning costly,” Raworth said. “In relation to customs brokerage this has given the global forwarders a distinct advantage as they have the ability to work closely with vendors at origin to ensure compliance with customs and other government agencies.”
While creating SkySpace, Raworth gathered an enormous pool of forwarding talent over the last three years, with hundreds of customs agents in dozens of offices around the world. A small freight forwarder, he said, can now leverage local customs expertise from an origin anywhere in the world.
Air & Sea Freight LLC has been using SkySpace for about five months, said Karime Ruiz, director of the Miami-based forwarder. During that time, Air & Sea had to move dangerous goods from China to Europe, despite having no experience with such shipments. The system “showed us what documents were mandatory and gave our supplier in Suzhou the ability to upload the documents into the system,” Ruiz said. “The docs were shared with the destination agent, the destination broker and us at the same time. It’s very helpful for us, as a small-size freight forwarder, as we now can sell almost anywhere and not have to hire any more staff.”
Also, the information shared on can be customized on a dashboard to fit the forwarder’s logo and brand colors, so clients won’t know it’s being handled by another party. “The forwarder at origin can view all documents via the web and approve, amend or reject them prior to shipping,” Raworth said. “All data is stored for their clients on the cloud and all stakeholders are using the same digital infrastructure, nullifying the traditional advantages of the global players. Small forwarders can exchange information and documents in real time anywhere in the world with the relevant customs authority’s through local brokers with years of experience.”