Series of Human Errors by Colombia Logistics Causing an Outrageous $11,385 Invoice for Demurrage

Simon Tung Columbia Logistics
Simon Tung Columbia Logistics, CEO

Simon Tung’s Columbia Logistics errors delaying popular tea brand container over a month in Seattle sea port, due to careless handling. Client: ״Months of preparations went down the drain, causing substantial damages to our U.S product launch.״

“We deliver our promise. We have adopted a philosophy of total dedication from our President Simon Tung. Once we commit to our customer we must find a solution and or alternatives to our customer. We must go the extra mile to find the path to assure that the customer is satisfied 110 %.

According to the following story, these words, taken from website, couldn’t be farther from reality.

As a customs broker, Columbia logistics is required, among the rest, to prepare and submit documentation to notify or obtain clearance from government agencies, and to arrange the transshipment (i.e., local delivery) of merchandise via trucking companies.

One of Columbia Logistics clients – a premium tea company, was waiting for it’s container to arrive from Sri Lanka to the Seattle sea port at the end of January 2022.

In order to insure a smooth transfer from the port into the United States, the client took care of all the necessary documents in advance, and sent them to Columbia Logistics a week before the container departed from Sri Lanka, as shown in the following e-mail:

An e-mail from the client to Columbia Logistics, asking to submit all documents, including Import agent License.

What happened from that point and on is a series of careless mistakes by Columbia Logistics, causing the client severe financial damages and the destruction of it’s U.S product launch.

“We worked very hard to get our importer license in advance, but apparently Columbia logistics never submitted the document to the U.S authorities. Unfortunately, we had to go through an unnecessary inspection, and suffered a huge delay and an enormous demurrage fee, which they obviously refused to cover”, says the client.

Importer License that has never been uploaded to CBP/FDA

Apparently, not submitting the importer license wasn’t the only mistake. What came next is a payment request in order to release the container after it’s inspection. The request was sent to Columbia Logistics on February 9th – allowing it two days to secure the charge, but unfortunately they just didn’t take care of it, despite receiving and explicit e-mail :

Columbia Logistics
Columbia Logistics asked to secure charges

As shown in the following message, this is the explanation the client received from Columbia Logistics’s Kerry Garvel for not securing the payment as needed:

Kerry Garvel response regarding the charges

As hard as it is to believe, the careless documents and payment handling was followed by an additional mistake. Apparently, Columbia logistics just didn’t make sure that the right equipment for transferring the container to the land was ready on time, which caused an additional delay and an even bigger demurrage fee to the client.

Another explanation by Columbia Logistics

Client: “I still cannot believe that the container moved to the inspection site only on February 22nd, and went through inspection not before March 3rd. That is more than a month delay while waiting for a 1 day inspection, and all probably because of careless handling.”

The following message shows us that even a simple procedure can become complex and exhausting, when taken care of by unprofessional hands:

Another explanation by Columbia Logistics’s Kerry Garvel

“As ocean freight rates rise sky-high, some companies seem to take advantage of the situation, and increase their profits on the expense of their own clients. Fortunately, today everyone can report a fraud or even a severe carelessness on one of the online designated platforms“, says Tom – a senior manager in the ocean transport industry, who was willing to tell us about the phenomenon of careless handling and frauds by some custom brokers these days.

Client: “I could accept with understanding a one-time innocent mistake, but making a series of mistakes and causing us a huge demurrage fee, without taking any responsibility, is just outrageous and completely unacceptable. We were very thorough on our preparation for our product launch and provided all the necessary documents for a smooth departure on Seattle port”, says the disappointed client. “After our bitter experience with columbia logistics, we will never work with them again.

The final invoice sent to the client:

The Invoice of Columbia Logistics

The following response was sent to us from Columbia logistic’s lawyer (client’s details have been removed).

this law firm represents Columbia Container Lines (USA) Inc. (“Columbia”). We have reviewed
your letter dated March 7, 2022 on behalf of ————-. Your allegations reflect a
complete lack of understanding regarding the importing process and the legal and commercial obligations
of the parties. Contrary to your assertions, there was no delay whatsoever caused by Columbia, but rather
a series of inspections required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), compounded by
congestion and a chassis shortage in the Pacific Northwest ports, which caused a delay that was
irrefutably outside the control of my client. ——– was well aware of these issues at every point in the
process. Therefore, the claim against Columbia is completely disingenuous.
A review of the chronology of events paints a very clear picture that demonstrates that Columbia
acted as a responsible and diligent service provider throughout the entire process.
• April 8, 2021: ——— issued a Purchase Order for the purchase of —– cartons of
———–, a supplier in ———-. The 2310
cartons accounted for 1×20’ container.
• December 2, 2021: Container departed——— en route to the United States (Seattle)
via Hong Kong on OOCL.
• January 3, 2022: Prior to arrival in Seattle, CBP required a VACIS (Vehicle and Cargo
Inspection System) exam on the container. CBP does not provide details regarding why a
VACIS exam is required for a particular import shipment (i.e. random, targeted
inspection, etc). This is a non-intrusive exam consisting of an x-ray of the container. This
VACIS determination is made prior to arrival of the container and Columbia had
absolutely no control over this requirement.
• January 20, 2022: Container arrived in Seattle.• January 24, 2022: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) cleared the cargo. This
product required both FDA and CBP import clearance.
• January 24, 2022: VACIS release. However, CBP placed an agricultural hold on the
container. The same day (January 24th) the documents were uploaded into the
Document Image System.
• January 25, 2022: Authorization from CBP was received to move the cargo to a Central
Examination Station (“CES”), Mercer Logistics.
• February 3, 2022 (and prior): Several emails among the parties (including ———)
clearly advised that containers are picked up by Mercer in the order of notification and
that there were 21 containers ahead of ———–’ as of that date. ——— was also
advised that the container had to be picked up by a bonded trucker since the container’s
cargo had not yet cleared customs. ———– was well aware of this issue. In addition to
being told by numerous import specialists, every email from Mercer states at the bottom
on bold red lettering as follows: “Due to a chassis shortage and congestion at the
terminals in the PNW, it is possible some loads will not be able to be secured for pickup
at Seattle & Tacoma terminals prior to their LFD. We will not be responsible for any
demurrage as a result of this shortage*”
• February 16, 2022: Container picked up and transported to Mercer for inspection.
• March 5, 2022: Cargo cleared by CBP and available for pickup.
At this point, ———– is responsible for the following costs:
1. Columbia Invoice 1309122 dated January 21, 2022 for intensive exam, demurrage
(OOCL and terminal), detention and other charges ($11,345.00);
2. OOCL Detention Notice dated March 7, 2022 ($720.00);
3. OOCL detention and yard storage is mounting at $150/day and $90/day, respectively.
Columbia invoice 130335 in the amount of $2,357.00 for customs clearance and delivery
charge and Columbia invoice 1304870 for CBP VACIS exam ($425.00) has been paid.
It is imperative that ———— make immediate arrangements to take possession of the cargo
and pay the outstanding invoices. Otherwise, Columbia will assume the cargo has been
abandoned and will dispose of it, which will add additional costs for ———–.
Please be guided accordingly

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.