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Scorched Earth

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, September 8, 2016

I was speaking with a couple of large shippers recently and they were talking about how difficult it has become being a shipper in these uncertain times.  One shared that her company literally put the transportation group “out to bid” within the corporation to see if anyone would want them.  Fortunately, the group had been able to produce significant cost savings and clearly provided value and was snapped up by the CFO.  Now the challenge becomes explaining (another word for selling) the function to a group that is unfamiliar with transportation.  Another shipper had her corporate group add international transportation to the domestic group’s workload with very little additional resources to do the job.  Consequently, their workload doubled and the stress level increased proportionately.

 

As I was listening to their stories and thinking about the shippers in our membership and those who haven’t found us yet…I pictured the scene from the movie “The Matrix” where Morpheus shows Neo what the earth really looked like.  It was a scorched panorama of burned out cities and towns with little life left in them.  Is that what is happening to shippers?  If so, why is this scene being repeated so frequently throughout corporate America, and what can we do about it?

 

The days when transportation was the invisible department somewhere down in the warehouse are gone.  As transportation costs increase, it has now become front and center in the minds of senior management.  What are you doing to insure that your senior management understands your function and has a basic knowledge of how outside elements are affecting your transportation budgets?  I can tell you this, if you’re not thinking about that and taking some action, you better start freshening up your resume.  More and more companies are looking to outsource their transportation function, not considering the fact that in order to be successful, these 3PL relationships need to be managed and their activities overseen by educated and informed personnel.  There are some excellent 3PL companies out there, but they can only be as effective as the companies who contract and work with them are.

 

NASSTRAC is here to help.  Our Education Committee is working on building a year round educational program to help our members develop a comprehensive transportation strategy and more importantly, provide help in selling your function and strategy to the corner office.  The importance of transportation in the supply chain cannot be understated or ignored and it is your responsibility not just to negotiate the best rates for your company, but to help your company understand that those are the best rates and that cheap and efficient don’t always go together.

 

Join us this Friday, September 9th on the NASSTRAC View as we talk about developing and selling your transportation budget.  This View is open to NASSTRAC regular members only and will be moderated by Mike Regan, of TranzAct Technologies and NASSTRAC’s Advocacy Chairman.  Attendance is limited, so make your reservation early. 

 

We have also begun planning for our 2017 conference and many of the sessions will revolve around helping you do your job better.  Watch for details here and on www.nasstrac.org as they develop.

 

Finally, we are all in this together, so please share your shipper story here with us and together we can all become better.

 

 

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A Voice in the West

Posted By Doug Kahl, Thursday, August 25, 2016
Please welcome our new guest blogger, Doug Kahl. Doug resides in Phoenix, AZ and has agreed to be our eyes and ears out west. Doug has extensive sales leadership, strategic sourcing, consulting, and global experiences throughout his logistics career. He is a member of NASSTRAC, ISM, and CSCMP, has been recognized by the American Society of Transportation & Logistics as a Distinguished Logistics Professional, and was named one of our industry’s “Pro’s to Know” by Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Doug is also a contributing columnist to various trade publications, a subject matter expert to research firms, and has spoken on timely industry topics at numerous conferences.

While the majority of our shipper and carrier members reside in the eastern states, there are a few of us out here in the west. This once described “vast frontier” is no longer a frontier. If you’ve ever driven the 405 in Southern California, you know what I mean. We remain however that vast land mass covering over two-thirds of our country containing only a third of our population. This geography to population brings a different set of issues then those faced in the more densely populated, closer proximity eastern states. So I’ve raised my hand, with the closeness I have in living and working out west, to keep my eyes and ears open and share what I see and hear with all of you back east.

A sample of our transportation issues raised by the Western Governors Association include:

“Perhaps more than any other region, terrain and landownership patterns in the West underscore the purpose and vital need for a federal role in surface transportation. Western states are responsible for vast expanses of national highways and interstates that often do not correlate with population centers, but serve as critical national freight and transportation routes for the nation.”

“The transportation and transit needs in the west differ significantly from our eastern counterparts. Western states are building new capacity to keep up with growth, including new interstates, new transit systems and increased capacity on existing infrastructure.”

“Western states’ ports are national assets, moving needed parts and retail goods into the country, while also providing the gateway for our nation’s exports. Although they benefit the entire country, the financial burden of developing, expanding and maintaining them to meet the demands of growing trade is almost entirely borne at the local level.”

“Among other things, transportation infrastructure in the west: moves agricultural and natural resource products from source to national and world markets; carries goods from western ports on western highways and railroad track to eastern and southern cities”

Whether it has to do with the LA-LB mega-port, the impact the Panama Canal expansion will have on the west coast versus the east coast, the Interstate 11 corridor connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas with the potential changes in distribution patterns; or, the recent wild fires that impacted rail lines ability to move freight (how many of us accounted for that risk and had a proactive plan in place to execute?), the objective of this blog will be to share with you a logistics practitioner’s point of view. Please share your thoughts on topics of interest and we will keep an eye on those as well.

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If it’s Old School, does that make it wrong?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Monday, August 15, 2016

I’m Old School…I admit it. I’ve been in this industry for many years and have been fortunate to be able to make a good living and more importantly meet some amazing people. Through the years I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my Old School mentors.

  • Nothing beats looking into the eyes of the person you are doing business with and agreeing that we will do business and treat each other with respect.
  • Data tells the story…it’s NOT the story
  • If the data says one thing and your gut says another…check again.
  • If something appears too good to be true, whether it’s pricing or a business deal, it probably is.
  • If you choose to ride the low cost train, don’t be surprised when it derails.
  • Always be honest and fair. It matters.
  • And my favorite from the recently passed J. Harwood Cochrane (courtesy of Jack Holmes): “…don’t focus on the people above you, focus on the people below you. If you do, they’ll take care of everything else.”

Mr. Cochrane passed away a short time ago at the age of 103. He left an amazing legacy of being one of the last of his generation that transformed the transportation industry by establishing trucking as a mode of long distance transportation ending the dominance of railroads. Last year, Mr. Cochrane spoke at the NASSTRAC Annual Shippers Conference, being interviewed by Jack Holmes, past president of UPS Freight. His stories and advice are as pertinent today as they were back in the day.


In this era of faster is better and computers rule it seems that we have lost the personal touch. Texts and emails don’t take the place of personal interaction and frequently are the cause of many misunderstandings. I’m sure you all have been part of back and forth emails between your colleagues who sit only steps away from you. Or, receiving texts from people and when you call them, you get their voicemail. Now, I confess that I sometimes respond to emails in the evening so I can quickly get out a response without going back and forth or wait to hear a voicemail before I pick up the phone. There are times when we need to understand the difference between urgent, but not important and what is really important, though may not appear urgent. We are instinctively trained to jump at the ding of an email or beep of a text allowing our concentration to be interrupted and our focus shifted. The Old School guys took the time to fully understand an issue before making a decision and to have an actual conversation, face to face, before making a decision. A 140 character Tweet did not make up their minds.

That’s not to say that modern technology isn’t helpful or shouldn’t be used, I’m just offering an option. In our hurry up environment, of which transportation is the most “hurried up” of all, sometimes taking a minute to slow down and focus on the person or problem in front of you is the best action you can take.


Make a promise to yourself: the next time you are in to a back and forth email or text stream, Stop! Walk to the person’s office and have a face to face conversation or if that’s not possible pick up the phone and have a conversation. I guarantee it will make a difference. By focusing entirely on the issue/person/problem, shows people you value their opinion and consider their importance. Maybe those Old School guys weren’t so slow after all.

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Dimensional Pricing is Here – Get Used to It!

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Monday, August 1, 2016

Ever been confused about the various rules in LTL shipping?  Cubic capacity and Linear Foot rules were always somewhat confusing, but now that carriers are taking a strong look at dimensional pricing shippers are faced with new challenges.

 

Imagine you need to use a carrier’s LTL shipping services. Your package is approximately about one cubic foot.  Next to you, another shipper is sending a package that is more than double this size.  Now, you would think the other larger package is going to incur the higher shipping cost.  However, your current package weighs 600 pounds, and your counterpart’s package weighs 230 pounds.  If both packages were assigned purely on weight, you could end up paying more, even though your package is technically smaller.  So how does this change with LTL dimensional pricing?  

This just does not make common sense, and carriers are moving towards a dimensional pricing model (DIM pricing) to help level the playing field when shipping products of different weight and density. Essentially, smaller packages should have lower shipping costs than larger packages in LTL shipping, and DIM pricing enables this ideal.

 

At NASSTRAC’s 2016 Conference, the CEO’S of some of the largest LTL trucking companies said that the debate over dimensional weight pricing has shifted from if to when it will be applied to LTL freight.  Right now, dimensioners are being used in many LTL terminals to check freight classification and rebill shipments, but eventually these will enable dimensional pricing in place of class-based rates.  This equipment can scan a palletized shipment and provides the cubic dimensions and weight needed to check the shipment classification.
Many shippers see this as a rate increase and the number of shipments that are being rebilled lend credence to that belief.  To date, much of the use of dimensioning has been limited to checking and rebilling freight at truck terminals.  However, by capturing more dimensional shipment data, LTL carriers are laying the data foundation needed for the expanded use of dimensional pricing.

 

Myths of LTL Dimensional Pricing

“It's a way to get more money.”
LTL dimensional pricing, often called DIM Pricing, is not a means of getting more revenue for carriers.  DIM pricing allows carriers to make the most effective use of LTL shipping space, while still maintaining lower rates and equality across the playing field.

“It’s only for frequent shippers.”
Some shippers may argue LTL DIM pricing is only beneficial to shippers who frequently ship products. In reality, LTL dimensional pricing is beneficial to all the shippers as it implies the need to be more efficient in packaging processes.

 

For example, a shipper may feel adding extra volume to a package increases security, but bulky, oversized packages are more likely to fall, be destroyed, or become otherwise damaged from heavier items.  Furthermore, bigger packages imply a higher packaging cost for the shipper, and as a result, shippers who turn towards a more efficient packaging standard would actually save money.

“It's going to anger customers.”
Most major retailers offer some form of free shipping if a purchase is above a certain amount.  In reality, the annual growth of e-commerce at 15 percent would lead retailers and shippers to assume customers are willing to pay shipping costs as necessary.  Basically, customers do not care how the shipping is calculated, so long as shipping is calculated reasonably.

“It's impractical.”

LTL dimensional pricing is logical, and it takes advantage of basic math principles. Bigger products will have a higher density, and smaller products will have a smaller DIM weight.

 

This month’s NASSTRAC View will feature a representative from UPS Freight who will walk us through the ins and outs of dimensional pricing and answer your questions as Shippers prepare for this new advance in LTL pricing.  Seats will fill up quickly, so reserve your spot now.

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What I Learned at the TIA Policy Forum

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, June 30, 2016

On June 14-15, I was invited to join TIA at their annual policy forum in Washington, DC. As NASSTRAC has partnered with TIA on many transportation issues, it was an opportunity to show solidarity as we continue to advocate for our industry on the Hill. The TIA staff did an amazing job in scheduling over 150 meetings over the day and a half we were there. In many of these meetings we actually met with the representative in addition to his staff.

While I was well aware of two of the initiatives we were advocating for (National Motor Carrier Hiring Standard and Safety Fitness Determination), as NASSTRAC has been vocal in support of these issues, I was surprised to realize how the recent Obama Administration announcement on federal standards for exempting workers from overtime would affect our industry.

Here is some background, courtesy of TIA:

On March 18, 2016, the Obama Administration announced the details of its final rule on federal standards for exempting workers from overtime pay. The new rule will increase the salary level under which workers are eligible for overtime pay, from $455 per week($23,660 per year) to $913 per week ($47,476 per year), and allow for this threshold to be automatically adjusted every three years. Additionally, the higher salary threshold for exempting “highly compensated employees” from overtime pay will be raised from$100,000 per year to $134,004 per year, and up to 10% of bonus compensation will be allowed to be included in calculating non-“highly compensated employee” pay (previously this pay was excluded from calculation).

 

The updated overtime rule will go into effect on December 1, 2016 for all employers. This dramatic increase will also significantly impact non-profit organizations, as well as colleges and universities, which will struggle to find the funding to provide additional pay to dedicated employees.

While this ruling may not impact our shipper members, it certainly will dramatically affect brokers and other sales positions. As most of you know, brokers (and sales people in general) earn the majority of their salaries in commission. They draw a very low base which is deliberate and incents the sales folks to bring on new customers and increase their pay. Overachievers are rewarded and underachievers either catch up or leave.

Under this new ruling, brokers will be forced to raise base pay which will demoralize the high achievers and possibly cause a loss in jobs as these small business owners will be forced to relieve those underachievers or slow starters as they won’t be able to afford to carry them with such high base salary levels.

Additionally, how would brokers monitor after hours operations? Brokers are often provided with company phones and computers. How do you monitor time spent after hours? And, if you tell them not to answer their phones to avoid overtime pay, how do you provide the high level of customer service shippers have come to expect from our providers?

TIA requested that members of Congress sign on to support the Protecting Workplace
Advancement and Opportunity Act, which is S. 2707 in the Senate and H.R. 4773 in the House. This bill would provide statutory protections for employers and workers who will be harmed by the dramatic increase in the overtime pay thresholds.

This Act will nullify the final rule and require the Department of Labor to conduct an economic analysis on the impact that increasing the mandatory overtime salary threshold will have on small businesses, non-profit employers, and public entities. This Act will also statutorily prohibit the automatic increase of the salary threshold that is included in the final rule. The overtime pay threshold has never been subject to an automatic increase before, and it is important that Congress and the American public have an opportunity to carefully consider the impacts on small business of any future increase. This Act is supported by the TIA, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I believe NASSTRAC should support this effort as well. Please email your representatives today asking them to support the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act.

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After the Ball is Over

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, June 16, 2016

Have you ever been a part of something really terrific and after it’s over you sit back scratch your head and think “now what?”  Whether it was a personal milestone event (wedding, graduation) or a business related event (annual review, completing a high profile project) we all have found ourselves at one time or another thinking about what comes next.

 

In April, NASSTRAC held its Annual Shippers Conference and Transportation Expo. It was a great event, well attended, excellent educational and networking opportunities, and a lot of good buzz generated throughout the event. Many positive comments were seen via Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

 

So, why am I scratching my head? My challenge is how do we convert that great vibe and teamwork into a year round benefit for our members? I have a few ideas, but would like to get your thoughts about how NASSTRAC can help you throughout the year.

 

One of our breakout sessions was a live version of our monthly NASSTRAC View calls.  Bob Voltmann, CEO of TIA moderated the conversations. One of the take-aways was that many shippers do not have a formal carrier selection process and frequently leave it up to their 3PL to make those decisions. So, as a follow up, our June NASSTRAC View tackled the subject of Carrier Procedures for Shippers. Jeff Tucker, CEO of Tucker Company Worldwide and a subject matter expert on this topic moderated the call. The discussion was good and the information provided was important for all shippers to know.  So why weren’t more shippers on the call?  This one issue alone could put your company in jeopardy with just one negligent hiring lawsuit or one driver coercion complaint.  What are you doing to protect your company?  During the call it was suggested that NASSTRAC members come together to produce a Shippers Guide to Carrier Selection to help our members develop their own procedures and policies.  Look for more information on this important topic in the near future.

Another suggestion we are following up on is working with our media partners on more educational content throughout the year.  We have previously partnered with Logistics Management magazine on their annual regulatory and legislative Webinar and are pursuing other ideas with them. What topics would you like us to cover?  Please let us know.

 

Remember this is your association. We want to provide value and benefit to all of our members but in order to do that we need to hear your voice. Feel free to comment right here on this blog, or email me a grutkowski@nasstrac.org, or call me directly (312) 673-4783.  We are waiting to hear from you.

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Industry Involvement Leads to Personal & Professional Success - Get Involved!

Posted By Candace Holowicki, Friday, May 6, 2016

Early in my logistics career I had the opportunity to attend my first industry association conference.  I was a logistics analyst at the time, and I was fortunate to have two respected logistics professionals as mentors.  They taught me how to get the most out of that conference, and the value of the association membership for both me and our company.  Those lessons are as important today as they were when I learned them back in the '90s. 

Logistics and supply chain is a global, multifaceted career field, so participation in an industry association is a excellent vehicle for an individual to get involved and make a difference.  An association brings together like minded individuals striving toward common goals and increases the effect of each person's effort.  I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of industry associations - NITL, CSCMP, T&LC and NASSTRAC.  Each association has a different mission and value proposition, so it is important to find one that best meets the needs of you and your company.  Once you find that association, your involvement needs to go beyond just paying your annual dues if you want to maximize that value. 

There are certain association membership benefits, like access to industry information and resources, that are fairly automatic.  But if you want to grow your network and grow your influence, as well as your knowledge, you need to participate in the association. 

Participation can take many forms depending on your current position and abilities.  When I first joined NASSTRAC, I attended the conference and worked to expand both my knowledge and my professional network.  As I gained experience, I joined the Education Committee so that I could participate in designing the educational offerings to meet my needs as a shipper.  I eventually went on to join the NASSTRAC Board and to chair the Education Committee.  The more involved I become, the greater the benefits are for me and my employer. 

I volunteer my time and effort to the association because of the industry value they provide.  My efforts are combined with those of the other members, and the results are greater than I could have accomplished individually.  This is particularly effective in the area of government policy and regulation, where an association represents the unified voice of its membership for the overall good of the industry.    

The annual 
NASSTRAC Shippers Conference and Transportation Expo happened last week, and I put together my personal agenda and goals for the conference.  I value this opportunity to discuss industry issues and challenges with other shippers, to share new ideas and best practices, and to get a thorough industry update and forecast of what is on the horizon.  I returned to the office with actionable "take aways" that will help me achieve my annual goals, as well as the industry knowledge to be proactive, rather than reactive, to upcoming industry changes.  And I did it in two and a half days.  That is the real value of being involved.     

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VGM is Coming…Is Your Company Ready?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, April 21, 2016

The July 1, 2016 deadline to implement new international rules on shipping container weighing is rapidly approaching. Shippers, forwarders, 3PLs, terminal operators and ocean carriers are looking for guidance from the agency in charge of enforcement, the U. S. Coast Guard, on how they need to comply with the new rules.

The container weighing regulation was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as an amendment to the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS treaty). While the U.S. is one of the signers to the SOLAS treaty, the Coast Guard maintains that the international accord does not grant them the domestic authority to regulate shippers of domestic business entities in the U. S., or to regulate ships that are flagged by countries other than the United States. Further, the Coast guard does not intend to pursue any agency rulemakings that could expand its authority to regulate container weights.

The end result of the Coast Guards inaction will mean that the industry will likely be required to shoulder the burden of implementing the rules of the treaty. Many questions remain between industry stakeholders about serious issues under the container weighing rules such as:

 

  • Are the container tare weights listed on the sides of containers acceptable for use in determining verified gross mass (VGM)?
  • Is there an acceptable variance in the VGM, perhaps 5 percent, to accommodate differences in equipment calibration?
  • Will ports and terminal operators commit to allowing containers onto their property even if the container does not have a VGM?
  • If a container without VGM is on port or terminal property, who bears the responsibility for obtaining a VGM and to what facilities can they take the container to determine the VGM?
  • Will technical specifications that are required for transmitting VGM data, and the timelines for submitting that data, be standardized?

Unlike the U.S. Coast Guard, other regulatory agencies worldwide have taken action. Japan has released draft guidelines for shippers and Transport Canada announced they would likely waive penalties for the first months as the industry adjusts to the new rule.

The basic principle of the new container weighing rules is that no shipping container can be loaded onto cargo ships for export without a VGM that has been supplied to the ocean carrier in time to be used in load planning. The weight may be determined in two ways:

 

  1. Verifying the mass of each item packed into the container, including packaging, verifying the weight of the container itself, and then adding the two weights together, or
  2. Verifying the mass of the loaded container as we whole.

Estimated weights will not be permitted, and the company who appears on the bill of lading must provide the weight of the packed container. These requirements will be specific to packed export containers that are to be loaded onto any ship in international maritime traffic, with limited exceptions. The rules will not apply to containers on chassis or trailers that are driven on a ro-ro ship for short international voyages, or to cargo items tendered by a shipper to the master for packing onto a container already onboard a ship.

Because of the potential risk of having containers go unloaded and due to the lack of clear guidance from the Coast Guard, it is important that shippers protect themselves by ensuring that they have access to facilities to weight their cargo and containers in a timely manner and that they communicate with their ocean carriers regarding how to best share VGM documentation.

The World Shipping Council published an Industry FAQ’s document in December 2015. You can access it at http://www.worldshipping.org/industry-issues/safety/faqs.

Make sure your company is prepared.

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Do I Really Need to be a Member?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Friday, April 8, 2016

I’m sure we’ve all looked at our professional association renewal when we receive it and thought ‘Do I really need to be a member?’ It seems like a lot of money and some of the multi-disciplinary bodies seem to offer similar benefits of membership for the same price or less. I am passionate about why you should be a member of a professional association, specifically NASSTRAC. I made the decision over twenty years ago to join NASSTRAC and I made another decision two years ago to become Executive Director. Here’s why:

 

  • I believe shippers need to step up and have their voices heard. In the transportation industry, no man is an island and it is only through working together can we achieve our mutual goals of efficient supply chains and transportation networks. Through NASSTRAC’s Education and Advocacy efforts, we help shippers look beyond their offices and docks to learn about what they can do to improve their operations today.

  • Additionally, it’s important to not be “surprised” by any regulatory or legislative changes that will impact your operations. There any many shippers out there who are not aware of the impact HOS has on their operation or how the new Driver Coercion regulation will affect how they manage their carrier/3PL relationships.

  • The friends I’ve made and the network that I have developed through my NASSTRAC membership has afforded me not only with life- long friends, but access to the best and brightest in our industry. To be able to pick up the phone or email another member for help has been my best membership benefit. And now, with the NASSTRAC View I can join the conversation with my fellow shipper members every month.

Finally, NASSTRAC’s upcoming Annual Shipper Conference & Transportation Expo is one of the best educational events in our industry. Join us this April 24-27 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, FL. There is still time to register at www.nasstrac.org/conference.

Well I’ve told you why I’m passionate about why you should be a member of a professional association and hope that I expressed the importance of an association like NASSTRAC can have in developing your career and your operation. Now I want to hear from our members: Be proud to be a NASSTRAC member, shout it from the rooftops and educate others about us. What do you value about your NASSTRAC membership? Let us hear from you today!

 

See you in Orlando!

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Are you Americans?... We’re going to be friends!

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, March 31, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Those were the words I heard from a Cuban couple on my first night in Havana. Americans don’t often hear comments that warm and welcoming in other parts of the world and it was a great start to my trip.

I was fortunate to be able to join the TIA Logistics delegation, spending four days touring Cuba. The purpose of the trip to was to learn more about the opportunities and challenges of doing business in Cuba. Our visit coincided with President Obama’s historic visit, the first from a sitting President in over 80 years. Our group took advantage of our time together to learn from Cuban scholars, officials and entrepreneurs about how Cubans currently do business and what their expectations are for American economic engagement with Cuba when it happens.

The Cuban people are particularly warm and friendly and anxious to talk to Americans. As many of you may already suspect, much of the country appears to be stuck in a time warp…from their 50’s era cars, and crumbling infrastructure to run down hotels, it will be a long time before Cuba can return to its former glory. However, evidence of that former glory can be seen all over Havana. The old cars that crowd the streets used to symbolize a stagnant nation, now they are rented out to tourists anxious to recapture their youth. The fact that many of the old cars are still running is a testament to the ingenuity of the Cuban people. I actually rode in a ’55 Chevy Bel Air with a Mitsubishi engine! While many of the buildings are run down and some crumbling, you can envision the beauty of the eclectic architecture that once was.

The city is alive with music and art everywhere you turn. There are many live music venues, mostly jazz and Cuban rhythms, but all lively and fun. We were entertained by a young man who graduated from Julliard to a jazz concert where his quartet played Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane while we sat outside under the stars. There are a number of art galleries, but many artists display their wares in the local market place…aisles and aisles of paintings just waiting for buyers.

We took a trip out to the new port at Mariel. The Port of Havana will eventually be shut down to cargo traffic and only handle cruise ships. The new port is state of the art and able to handle the new Panamax vessels. Four gantry cranes (manufactured in China) sit waiting for the ships to come in. The Port of Mariel moved over 330,000 TEUS in 2015 and has capacity to handle 800,000. The port is owned by a French company and managed by a Brit. A Belgium company runs trucks into and out of the Port. It is clear that other nations and multi-national corporations, not subject to the restrictions of the American embargo, are preparing for the likely future influx of American economic activity.

Tours of cultural and historic attractions (including a cigar factory and Nostalgicar ) gave the group a better understanding of the heritage that Cubans are anxious to protect in the event of an American-driven economic boom and of the interaction with American business and organizations up to the 1950’s that shape those anxieties today.

The group came away with a strong sense that major changes are coming to America’s longstanding isolationist policy toward Cuba. I hope both countries are ready to be friends.

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