The Island Cargo Support (ICS) division of American Worldwide Agencies (AWA) marks its one-year anniversary this month and celebrates the success of a unique solution for the Pacific Island trade.
AWA, a connected, global network of freight forwarders and agents, saw a need for a customized shipping solution serving the island communities of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, says ICS President Tony Feist. “These islands depend heavily on goods from the U.S.,” he says, noting that their balance of trade with America is 90 percent imports and only 10 percent exports, the opposite of most trade lanes in the Pacific Rim.
Products shipping from the U.S. to the region range from tuna boats to telecommunications equipment and household goods, Feist says. “ICS coordinates all of the details of every move through its partnerships with air, ocean, and domestic transportation providers.”
ICS is not a traditional forwarder or corporate-style operator, however, says Feist. “As an niche operator specializing in these islands, ICS understands how to work effectively with the culture and the challenging physical landscape, which encompasses thousands of islands,” he says. “To large forwarders and operators this is just another trade, but to us it is everything,” he says.
Helping customers keep shipping costs down is especially important because island residents already pay a premium for imported goods, which typically are marked up 300 to 400 percent, Feist says. “We work with many ‘mom and pops’ and help them source everything from medicines to food to dry wall and we also work with some of the world’s top brands,” he says. “We take a very detailed approach to the islands, starting with our warehousing facility on the mainland and flowing through to our local agents and partners. I see us working with many of these companies for the next 20 years and beyond.”
This personal approach is responsible for ICS’s rapid growth in its first year, says AWA CEO Andrew Scott. “Because almost everything on the islands is imported, our customers rely on us as their lifeline, which creates a very special relationship,” he says. This is bolstered by having Tony Feist at the helm “with his 24/7 dedication and passion for the islands,” he says.
One such customer who appreciates ICS’ non-traditional approach to forwarding is Tri Marine Fishing. According to Phil Trutanich, director of operations and purchasing for Tri Marine Fishing Management, whose parts for its fleet of fishing vessels are manufactured globally and shipped via air and ocean cargo to American Samoa, ICS acts as an extension of his business. “Tony is like an indirect employee of Tri Marine and he knows our business which makes it easy for me. With the nature of the tuna industry, every vessel part is urgent as a lot of people rely on our boats to feed their families. Tony feels like he is a part of our company and he can just get it done,” says Trutanich. “ICS also gives us very competitive prices, outstanding service and they are available 24/7.”