By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT
In a shift from tradition, FAB/Starpoint LLC is counting on a fast boat from China ’ Matson Navigation Co.‘s China-Long Beach Express ’ to keep children’s backpacks and a host of fashion accessories on US shelves. (FAB is short for Fashion Accessory Bazaar.)
FAB/Starpoint has been onboard with Matson’s weekly CLX service since its initiation in February, and officials of the New York-based importer could not be more pleased.
‘It is FAB’s highest priority to provide the service major retailers require, and one of the key elements to ensure this is speed to market,’ said Steve Russo, president and chief executive officer of FAB/Starpoint. ‘By employing the services of Matson, we have been successfully able to move our cargo in a swift and prompt manner at competitive rates. This is why we continue giving our business to Matson.’
Jack Marrero, import manager for FAB/Starpoint, shares Russo’s enthusiasm.
‘We love the service tremendously,’ said Marrero, who noted that Matson quickly has become his firm’s first choice for service from Shanghai and is increasingly being used for shipments from Ningbo as well.
Matson, a US-flag carrier based in Oakland, CA, distinguishes itself in the China-US market not only because it uses ships built in the United States and manned by American crews, but also because it typically offers faster service than global steamship lines that operate vessels three or more times the size of those deployed by Matson.
Also, Matson’s comparatively small ships ’ in the capacity range of 2,200 to 2,600 twenty-foot-equivalent container units ’ facilitate faster loading and discharge of cargoes than can be accomplished with the behemoths that dominate the busy trans-Pacific trade lane.
Traditional carriers take 12 to 14 days in transit from Shanghai to Southern California, to which two or three days can be added for discharge. In contrast, Matson’s CLX service boasts an 11-day transit time from Shanghai to Long Beach, and containers are available for pickup at Matson’s dedicated Long Beach terminal or an off-port yard the day after the vessel’s Sunday arrival.
‘At first,’ said FAB/Starpoint’s Marrero, ‘we were, like, shocked when the following day we heard, ‘Containers are available.’ That’s just not normal.’
Marrero added that his firm saves money as well as time in that pickups can take place during off-peak hours, meaning cost benefits under the PierPass congestion-reduction program in place at the Port of Long Beach.
Truckers take the containers with FAB/Starpoint merchandise to a third-party warehouse some 40 minutes inland. From that distribution center, trucks for big-box retail giants such as Target and Wal-Mart, as well as numerous more upscale and smaller concerns, pick up the goods to deliver them to their own distribution centers throughout the United States.
Marrero said he is hoping that his company will secure its own Southern California distribution center property in the near future. That day may indeed be close at hand, considering the near-doubling of FAB/Starpoint’s import volume, from 800 forty-foot containers to 1,400 forty-foot containers on an annualized basis, since Marrero joined the firm a year ago.
While backpacks and handbags lead the import gains, other divisions of FAB/Starpoint handle diverse commodities, including licensed Hello Kitty accessories for children, stationery items, Clicks watches and various domestic goods, such as towels and blankets.
FAB/Starpoint, with headquarters in Midtown Manhattan’s fashion district, was the first of what now are about a dozen members of the New York-based, not-for-profit Gemini Shippers Group that use Matson’s China-Long Beach Express. The group, formally known as the Fashion Accessories Shippers Association Inc., negotiates discounted ocean freight rates on behalf of member companies.
‘The rates are excellent, very competitive,’ Marrero said of the Matson CLX service, adding, ‘The customer service is very good, highly professional.’