REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: MID-ATLANTIC
Mid-Atlantic Logistics Hub Thriving
Belts Logistics 170+ Year Partnership with Port of Baltimore Key to Dynamic Growth
Founded in 1845, Belts Logistics is the seventh oldest family-owned company in Baltimore, Maryland. DCA’s member company for the Mid-Atlantic region, Belts is Maryland’s most experienced warehousing and distribution company, and central to the successful growth of this region as an adaptive and thriving logistics hub. Belts excels in innovative and integrated solutions that maximize customer investments in distribution. As a third-party logistics provider, Belts takes pride in their longstanding history of trust, integrity and accountability. Belts Logistics now operates three facilities and is scaling up as demand for services — and dedicated space — continues to grow.
In a recent interview, Belts Logistics VP Business Development, Larry Smith, shares his insights on trends affecting logistics in the nation and Mid-Atlantic particularly, sectors showing steadiest growth, and the key drivers of Belts’ success at staying ahead of the curve. Read below for highlights of the culture and practices that make this Team DCA member company the leader in logistics and trade services for the greater Mid-Atlantic region.
Q: What are some key factors in providing the best service possible to your customers?
Smith: Fulfilling our customers’ evolving food safety & security requirements by staying up to date on the GFSI certifications they need, such as premium BRCGS food grade certification; certifications combined with dedicated space have been extremely important to our customers.
Having the right partners in growth has also been crucial. Partners like the Port of Baltimore have steadily grown with their volumes of containers, RORO (roll on, roll off) vehicles, forest products, and consumer goods. They continue to apply new technology to their Seagirt Marine Terminal, making improvements across the board (i.e. weighing trucks as they’re moving, going paperless, and becoming “appointment only” to get containers); with these improvements we were able to be more efficient than other ports with congestion issues, such as New York and New Jersey.
CERTIFICATIONS THAT STAND OUT TO CUSTOMERS: BRCGS
Previously the BRC (British Retail Consortium), the global food safety standard has recently rebranded to BRCGS (Brand Reputation through Compliance & Global Standards) and updated the guidelines for their standards with their Issue 8 release.
These global standards for food safety, packaging material, storage, distributions and more ensure that products are safe, legal and of high quality.
PORT OF BALTIMORE
Founded over 300 years ago, the Port of Baltimore has steadily grown, expanded services and capabilities, innovating and amplifying its position as an e-commerce logistics hub. The Port of Baltimore is one of Maryland’s most powerful economic engines, directly generating over 15,000 jobs and indirectly supporting another 140,000 jobs through port activities.
When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit, consumer demand increased rapidly. The amplified import and export of container cargo strained supply chains everywhere, congesting American ports and causing severe delays due to lack of space for storage, staging and handling. While other ports across the country struggled to meet rising demands, the Port of Baltimore was adapting, making the most of their strategic location, (closer to the Midwest than any other port on the East Coast and within an overnight drive of one-third of the nation’s population) The Port of Baltimore was able to accept dozens of “ad hoc” ships to accommodate the overflow happening across the nation.
The Port of Baltimore is a key part of Maryland’s growing logistics, distribution and transportation industry. The state’s central location and powerful assets such as the Port of Baltimore and interconnected distribution and logistics ecosystem, combined with major investments in new and improved equipment infrastructure, have positioned it for continued growth and prosperity in the years to come.
KEY PARTNERS IN GROWTH
Founded more than 170 years ago, Belts Logistics has grown right alongside the Port of Baltimore, to become one of the most respected warehousing and distribution companies in the Mid-Atlantic region. This growth is possible due to the relationships that Belts Logistics has been able to cultivate over their many years of service excellence. Belts continues to be a dynamic leader in fully integrated third-party distribution.
“Belts has been a staple in the Port of Baltimore dating back to 1845! We appreciate Belts’ partnership.”
William Doyle, Maryland Port Administration’s former Director
Q: Where are you seeing the most growth?
Smith: Belts is growing in several areas: Food & Beverage, which is always a staple customer base, and consumer goods, especially ones requiring direct-to-consumer delivery options, such as traditional e-commerce or large shopping platforms like Shopify and Wayfair. We’re also seeing more customers request transloading services that include “retail compliance,” where we take in their product, and then get it to conform to the receipt requirements of large retail platforms such as Amazon, Walmart, and Costco. In today’s world, “chargebacks” for incorrect palletization or improper labeling, for example, are a major worry for entrepreneurs who send their goods to be sold by these large platforms. So, our help with retail compliance, which often includes putting our customers’ product and carrier data into a platform’s unique “Seller” web portal, is a big value-add for many of our customers.
Food & Beverage
Transportation, storage, and distribution of food will always be an essential aspect of what we do. As long as people need to eat, there will be a need for food logistics.
We are one of very few warehouses on the East Coast with Processing Authority in a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), which can add many additional benefits for our customers including assembly and product manipulation in a tax free or deferred environment.
In addition, Belts is extremely proud to have earned a top “AA” BRCGS rating for storage and distribution.
FTZ’s Foreign Trade Zones
In 2 of our 3 facilities, we have FTZ Processing Authority. This means we can help customers defer taxes until they are ready to put goods into the US economy. This benefit is mostly utilized by beverage alcohol importers. There can be up to 30% duty on some spirits, which hurts cash flow if they must pay that duty before a buyer is identified. And if goods are just “stopping through” on the way to Canada, they can stop at an FTZ, having effectively never been in the US. FTZ’s also work well for products that fall under quotas, such as sugar, staying at Belts while their respective quota is closed, and shipping out on orders when it opens.
Q: Are there any new services people are requiring of you or new service areas for you?
Smith: We’re doing a lot more value-added kitting services for a number of our Food & Beverage customers. For example, creating gift boxes, where we might make 45,000 gift boxes and fill each one with a mug, a mixer, and a bottle of spirits, and then help distribute them across the country.
Q: What is something that sets Belts apart from competition?
Smith: We do a lot of work with our sister companies – a trucking brokerage (Belts Intermodal Corp.), and a transportation carrier – Belts Transportation Services (BTS). BTS runs a dedicated drayage fleet, focusing its main effort on our own warehouse customers, which is helpful in this market, with time often constrained and occasional equipment scarcities arising, such as shortages of the chassis needed to move ocean containers off the Port. We also do transloads, where we take floor-loaded and/or palletized freight into our warehouse, and have it out again within 5 days. These are usually “one-off” ocean containers with say 800-1000 cartons inside them, that get palletized onto 20-24 pallets. Then, these new pallets ship out on a 53’ trailer to….wherever. It’s a win-win situation. We don’t necessarily have to provide long-term storage space, because the goods are in constant movement. If a customer doesn’t want to ship an ocean container to Kansas, we can transload its goods into a 53’ trailer and ship them there that way. It helps to have sister companies that work closely with you on solutions like this, either for our regular customers, or for people that just want to deliver efficiently and need to re-order the way their goods are positioned in the trailer; or maybe they need to rework loads that have shifted in transit.