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Freight forwarder company 'Seastar' implements unique business model

Fida Mourtada, who was born in Africa, had moved with his parents to Montreal, Canada in 1990. While he spent the majority of the 90s living there, Mourtada would occasionally visit his brother who was living in the U.S. It was there he met his wife Zainab, and after marrying in 2001, Mourtada eventually relocated to the U.S and wanted to try his hand at the transportation business.

"I have always been intrigued by and interested in supply and demand," stated Mourtada. "I looked for a job that had this involvement, and freight forwarding was the closest I could get to that," he added.

Around 2003, Mourtada and his wife became employed by a freight forwarder company. It was then they developed and sharpened their skills in the transportation business, even though they had seen many flaws in their employer.

"When we were employed by someone else, we saw a lot of things that could be improved," stated Mourtada. "We did not like the way our employer handled his business…we felt saturated and restricted, unable to do what we thought was right," he added.

In January 2009, Mourtada and his wife opened Seastar, an FMC licensed freight forwarder company located in Dearborn that transports with carriers across the globe. The company has dozens of agents all over the world, including Nigeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and several locations in the US, from New Jersey to Los Angeles.

"We employ the top of the line companies, trusted name brand companies," Mourtada stated. "We truly maintain close to zero packages getting lost or shipped to the wrong destination."

The company deals with all sorts of shipments, whether boxed, containerized, or even vehicles that need to be shipped overseas. It's one of just a few companies in the area that is a licensed broker by the FMC.

Getting licensed is a process in itself. The Federal Maritime Commission is an independent regulatory agency responsible for the regulation of ocean borne transportation in the foreign commerce of the U.S. The FMC requires that an individual have over three years of experience before receiving their ocean transportation license. In addition, they do a tremendous amount of background checks to make sure the individual is not a threat or has a criminal history.

Another feature the company offers is through its website, where a client has the ability to log in with a unique name and password to check on the tracking and status of their shipment and estimated delivery date. They are also able to pull up documents such as their history of orders and receipts.

Sometimes packages can get delayed, but that is out of Seastar's control. Obstacles such as port congestion and mechanical problems on an airplane can delay a package's estimated delivery date. With the online tracking services the company provides however, the client can keep tabs on when exactly their shipment is expected to arrive.

"One of the biggest challenges in this field is providing your client with innovative solutions," said Mourtada. "My wife sometimes has to tell me to take it easy and go one step at a time," he added. "I want to sometimes grasp more than I can handle."

On a day to day basis, Zainab is responsible for dealing with vehicle shipments as well as handling the accounting aspect of the business. Mourtada is responsible for containerized shipments, airfreights and dealing with customer service.  Both of them are usually in the office from 9 to 5 and are grateful that they are able to manage the business together.

"I really like that we have a history of working together," stated Zainab. "With this business, we both knew what we wanted and we got to implement our own rules," she added.  "It's very convenient because we understand each other."

Seastar is not the only job the couple has to manage. They also have two boys at home, Mohammad, 8, and Ali, 6. And according to Mourtada, there always needs to be a time where the line is drawn between work and family time.

"We try our best to provide some quality family time for the boys," Mourtada stated. "A lot of the times we bring work home and my kids will put me on the spot and tell me 'Baba it's family time.'"

The Arab American News

New Michigan Media
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