MT: Many of our readers may not be familiar with your company. Can you outline what ViaSafe does?Dydynsky: ViaSafe is a software company that focuses on the international trade community, specifically...
MT: Many of our readers may not be familiar with your company. Can you outline what ViaSafe does?
Dydynsky: ViaSafe is a software company that focuses on the international trade community, specifically the customs broker and carrier. From the carrier’s perspective we provide electronic connectivity to the customs broker so that the vital cargo data and any related commercial documents move more quickly, efficiently and securely.
In addition we connect the carrier to customs for the delivery of electronic cargo reports to eliminate the need to produce paper for customs reporting. Simply put, we manage the receiving, sending, tracking, archiving and other related activities surrounding the movement of the data and paper between the carrier and the customs broker.
MT: You’ve had a long career with Customs. How did you first come to work with ViaSafe?
Dydynsky: I completed a 30-year career with Customs three years ago when a colleague introduced me to the company. My experience in the field of international trade and the services that ViaSafe provided the trade community was a perfect fit for both of us. Together we have a good understanding of what the community needs when it comes to moving the trade data and documents between and amongst the trade chain partners.
MT: How is Viasafe responding to the new demands of customs reporting?
Dydynsky: “Think Business” is our response to the new demands and challenges in the trade community today. Before applying any type of technology one must first determine how to fit it into the business environment. You are doomed to fail if you’re not thinking along those lines. To do so we partnered with the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers led by Ms. Carol West who is a tireless advocate when it comes to improving the business of trade. In addition, we recently entered into a similar arrangement with the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association to widen our scope worldwide.
With these new partnerships in place we added additional personnel to ViaSafe that have years of experience in the carrier, courier and brokerage community. This provides us with representatives in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, and we are planning for more coverage in other parts of Canada and the U.S.A. Adding to all of that we are connected to both Canadian and U.S. Customs Agencies to assist our clients in meeting their reporting requirements for imported and exported shipments.
MT: How does the Viasafe electronic reporting system work?
Dydynsky: The information from the carrier, both cargo data and any faxed or imaged commercial invoices, is captured from the carrier’s business systems and then ViaSafe distributes what we call the electronic folder to the authorized receiver. The cargo data is sent to Customs and the same cargo data along with the commercial invoices are sent to the customs broker to begin the clearance process in advance of the arrival of the shipments at the border.
The beauty of the system is the carrier does not need to buy expensive software or make any system changes. We take the information from their current systems and deliver it electronically to the right party at the right time to ensure a smooth border crossing. The system also provides the carrier with a menu of options — sending, receiving, rejecting, tracking, tracing and more depending on their business needs and requirements.
MT: How much hardware/software is involved? What are some of the options? How much does it cost?
Dydynsky: Depending on the level of services required the costs could be less than a dollar per transaction. Compared to the cost of doing all that work manually, the savings are enormous in the day-to-day business environment.
MT: What if there’s a power outage akin to the one recently experienced by the entire eastern seaboard?
Dydynsky: Our clients have entrusted us with their data since 1997 and we have kept those clients because of our dependability and trust. We have made significant investments to ensure the system is available 24/7. We have two separate systems running at the same time in two different locations, both with their own uninterrupted power supplies. This was most useful to us during the last major power outage where we were still able to service our clients who were outside of the outage area.
MT: In your view how is the transportation industry responding to the increased demands of Homeland Security in terms of electronic reporting? Is business for companies like yours on the increase?
Dydynsky: Confusion and uncertainty seem to be the key words here related to homeland security. For most carriers electronic reporting is a new mechanism for communication with Customs. As a result, the industry is unsure of what this all means to them.
Only recently has the U.S. government announced the new time frames for electronic reporting but the data elements have not yet been tabled. At ViaSafe, we are keeping abreast of all new requirements and already have the infrastructure in place to assist the carrier community in complying with the new requirements. We have seen a steady increase in our company related to carrier activities, and our plans include the addition of hundreds more carriers as we move forward in this new electronic environment.
MT: Have any associations or government agencies officially identified you as a preferred supplier?
Dydynsky: Yes, this is a very important piece of our company strategy as we move into the new electronic age. We are in fact connected electronically to both the Canadian and U.S. Customs agencies to facilitate the movement of electronic data in a timely and efficient manner. In addition, we have partnered with the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers (CSCB) and the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA), in an effort to provide tailored industry solutions to all the upcoming electronic initiatives.
MT: How closely are you working with the various government departments here in Canada and in the U.S.?
Dydynsky: We have never worked as closely with both governments as in the last few months. We received information related to the programming of these new trade systems, and as a result, in the coming weeks and months, we will be testing our system to ensure it meets the needs of our clients and that they are in full compliance with Customs expectations.
MT: What challenges, technological and otherwise, is ViaSafe facing in light of the newly increased demand for electronic reporting? For example some reporting time frames are different for the FDA and the Customs and Border Protection agency?
Dydynsky: For us here at ViaSafe, the technological challenges are not a concern. We are well positioned, have a great team, and have the confidence of our business clients that the job will get done. Our business concerns are mostly related to the readiness of the carrier community to implement the new requirements. Experience has shown that many wait until the last minute to begin the project internally in their business. As a result, a bottleneck occurs when too many people need services in a very short time frame.
It would be prudent that companies start the process much earlier to avoid the uncertainty and some panic that we are seeing with the new FDA rules.
Clearly our hopes will be that the Customs Border Protection systems and time frames will be in line with FDA requirements and for that matter any other government departments that have regulatory authority at the border.
MT: How about other Homeland Security- inspired measures, such as tracking? Is ViaSafe prepared to develop its product to provide this service as well?
Dydynsky: Of course, we are prepared to work with any service provider related to border activities such as tracking and tracing. It is unlikely that we will enter that marketplace since it is mainly related to the physical movement of freight.
Our specific business line is the movement of data and documents. However, we have had initial meetings with two different service providers in relationship to the tracking of trucks and containers.
MT: What is the attitude most carriers are taking on electronic reporting? How prepared are most carriers for electronic reporting, in your opinion?
Dydynsky: In my opinion, there seems to be a wait and see attitude. They heard and have seen a number of announcements and press releases related to this subject but no real implementation date has been established.
Be assured that electronic reporting is of utmost importance to the Customs agencies in North America, and this is not going away.
Both agencies and eventually Mexico will be building targeting tools to better select those shipments where Customs would like to perform detailed examinations.
MT: Can you outline what a company should do to prepare itself for electronic reporting?
Dydynsky: There are three things that need to happen to make a successful transition to this new electronic environment –
1) Full senior management commitment and understanding of the new direction.
2) A need to re-engineer the carrier’s business systems.
3) The organization needs a champion, an individual within the company that will take the lead role in moving the carrier forward for implementation of the new initiative.
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