Import

Ebola supplies waiting for Customs clearance

Dallas importer says inspection of protective equipment for medical workers is taking too long.

Excerpt from American Shipper |  By Chris Dupin | October 22, 2014

NOTE: On Oct. 22, Ram Surgical’s 3PL Hanjin Logistics and customs broker All Points Custom House Brokers said the container of medical supplies was released by U.S. Customs.

   A manufacturer and distributor of medical products in the Dallas area tells American Shipperthat despite high demand for protective gowns because of the Ebola scare, he is unable to obtain his product promptly because of the long time it takes for cargo to be inspected in the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach by Customs and Border Protection.
   Adrian Davis, the owner of Ram Surgical Supplies in Grand Prairie, Texas, sells products such as gowns, gloves, masks, shoe covers and air bouffant caps.
   He has seen demand for his products skyrocket since the death from Ebola of Thomas Eric Duncan earlier this month at Texas Presbyterian Hospital.
   Davis said persons with the flu in the Dallas area are now more likely to seek treatment than in past years because they fear they may have Ebola, and medical workers are more likely to take precautions and “suit up” when seeing patients. Demand for his products are 150 percent of normal, he said. Davis, who sells to customers in Texas, said normally he sells about 15,000 gowns a week, but is seeing demand for between 45,000 and 50,000 in recent weeks.
   He has a container filled with about 210,000 isolation gowns that help prevent exposure from patients. The gowns, worn by both patients and medical workers if an infectious disease is suspected, are in a container in Long Beach and have been waiting for inspection since Oct. 4.
   Davis said that he started his company about 14 years ago and has been manufacturing heavily in China for about 8 years. His factory is in Hangzhou, and he ships through Shanghai.
   “This the first time we’ve ever been caught up in a customs web. I’m not saying don’t examine them. Do your job, because, clearly, I understand that homeland security asked Customs to beef up their examinations. I have no problem with that, because I do agree as an American we want to protect ourselves from terrorism,” said Davis. “I don’t have a problem with them examining it, but don’t let it be an indefinite thing.”
   He says he has two additional containers about to leave China and is looking to ship an additional 30,000 gowns by air later this week.
   CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
   Mark Hirzel, president of the Los Angeles Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association, said that he is not aware of inspections — be they non-intrusive inspections with, for example, VACIS machines or inspections requiring containers to be stripped and physically inspected — taking much longer than normal. Instead, he said, the problem is that chassis are in such short supply and retrieving containers from terminals is taking much longer than normal.