The cargo industry is working hand-in-hand with governments and non-profit organizations to ensure uninterrupted transport of much-needed medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the ongoing coronavirus outbreak worldwide.
Many airlines have converted their passenger planes to launch cargo-only flights to move masks, respirators, and other life-saving medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPEs), as demand continues to increase.
Major ports worldwide also remain open to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain as logistics companies facilitate the movement of essential goods worldwide.
Airlines pitching in to keep supplies moving
Numerous airlines have launched cargo-only services by deploying passenger aircraft that would otherwise be parked to keep the supply of essential goods moving.
United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines have also supported government repatriation efforts and flying medical volunteers within the US for free. Delta and American also announced they will be giving away thousands of pounds of food that it won’t be able to use due to the grounding of most passenger flights.
“The air cargo industry plays a critical role in pulling the world together in times of crisis, and it takes all of us to get the job done,” said Rick Elieson, president of cargo and vice president of international operations at American Airlines.
“With the expansion of cargo-only flights, we have more capacity to bring critical medical supplies and protective gear to the areas that need it most. We also play a key role in transporting essential goods to keep the world’s economy moving. I take immense pride in all the ways our airline and our industry are responding to make a difference when the world needs us most,” he added.
Atlas Air Worldwide is also supporting the US government’s Project Airbridge, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), by arranging charters to various destinations in the US and overseas to move PPEs, thermometers and other life-saving equipment.
“Air cargo is essential to the global fight against coronavirus, and we are proud to support the efforts of companies and agencies across the public and private sectors to deliver life-saving supplies to where they are needed the most,” said John Dietrich, president and chief executive of Atlas Air Worldwide.
In Europe, Lufthansa is operating freighter flights to move mainly medical goods across Europe – including the delivery of 8 million protective masks to Munich, and 30 tons of highly urgent medical goods, masks and PPEs to Frankfurt.
Swiss WorldCargo also operated cargo-only flights on some of its passenger aircraft to transport high-value and care-intensive goods. Initially, it flew two flights between Zurich and Hong Kong.
Austrian Airlines has completed two cargo flights transporting medical equipment from Xiamen to Vienna, carrying 130 tons of PPEs.
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, Africa’s largest cargo operator, also helped transport 108 tons of test kits and other healthcare products from Jack Ma, the founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, to support the fight against Covid-19 in Africa.
MASkargo, the cargo arm of Malaysia’s flag carrier, worked with its government to ensure the uninterrupted transport of much-needed medical supplies and equipment in Malaysia to combat the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. MASkargo also flew a flight from China carrying 300,000 disposable masks, 50,000 protective suits and 8,000 protective suits with eye masks which had donated by Alibaba.
As part of cost-cutting measures, several industry CEOs have also reduced or stopped taking salaries as the coronavirus pandemic has forced the airline industry into one of its worst crises in history.
World’s main ports remain operational
Meanwhile, like the airline industry, the shipping sector remains committed to keeping the supply chain running despite the pandemic.
The world’s main ports assured uninterrupted operations to support areas relying on supplies mainly through ports. The Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport, said despite the far-reaching social impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the port “will remain operational” – while following safety regulations.
The Port of Antwerp also maintained that the port remains fully operational as an essential sector and gateway for the supply of Belgium and a large part of Europe.
In Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the outbreak, port operations are in full swing but in compliance with measures adopted by the Italian government.
“Ports are fully operational with all their regular services guaranteeing complete functionality,” the Italian Port Association said. It noted that the government order to close ports to all cruise vessels, both foreign and domestic ones, until April 3, only covers the cruise sector and does not apply to cargo transport. “The measures adopted by the government in no way restrict the transport of cargo in the country.”
The Port of Los Angeles, America’s largest port, also said it continues to move cargo at all of its terminals to ensure the flow of much-needed goods as the US battles the coronavirus disease. “Our highest priority is maintaining a safe and healthy working environment throughout the port complex while continuing our role of keeping consumer goods and critical supplies flowing into all of the nation’s 435 congressional districts served by the Port,” said Gene Seroka, Port of Los Angeles executive director.
In Asia, the Port of Singapore has also announced it remains open but with additional precautionary measures in place.
“As maritime is a key economic sector and the Port of Singapore is critical in ensuring the flow of goods, it will remain open for cargo operations and will continue to provide essential marine services including bunkering, ship stores and ship supplies,” Southeast Asia’s biggest and busiest port said in a statement.
In response to the outbreak, COSCO Shipping Group also made a point to donate 20,000 face masks for frontliners in Belgium battling the Covid-19 virus.
Logistic firms arranging for transport of healthcare shipments
Logistics companies are also moving to support global efforts to maintain the supply chain — particularly the movement of much-needed healthcare supplies.
GEODIS, for example, has been commissioned by the French government to organize the emergency shipment of millions of masks from China to France for a total of 16 charter flights as part of the expected delivery of 1 billion masks over the next 14 weeks.
CEVA Logistics is also supporting the mobilization of essential goods meant to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic around the world.
In North America, CEVA Logistics is handling the distribution for one of the medical technology companies appointed by the US government to manufacture and supply Covid-19 test kits. In Spain, CEVA took charge of the import process, customs clearance and delivery of the important airfreight shipment for Huawei’s donation of a million masks to the Spanish health service.
In the UK, the firm also managed the infrastructure and logistics for manufacturing protection visors as part of the PPE, which will eventually be dispatched and delivered to hospitals across the region.
“Keeping frontline services operating in this global time of crisis is our duty and a team challenge between CEVA Logistics and its partners. We remain committed to ensure supply chain continuity to the highest possible standard,” said Mathieu Friedberg, chief executive officer at CEVA Logistics.
UPS is also working in collaboration with global customers and US agencies to transport testing kits, PPEs and medical devices needed in support of public safety and to support speed diagnosis for Covid-19.
It is also working with state health agencies, and customers to facilitate the movement of PPE and other needed materials from suppliers to testing centers and distributors. UPS said it is also moving new FDA approved rapid-response test kits to test sites across the country to help flatten the curve of the virus’s impact.
By Charlee C. Delavin
Asia Cargo News | Hong Kong