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Emergency aircrafts bolster Victorian PPE supply

A global transport company has collected millions of dollars worth of gloves, masks, swabs, face shields and gowns from manufacturers in China and Malaysia, and critically moved the PPE into emergency storage for Victorian hospitals.

Victoria is building its stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure all Victorian hospitals have the protection they need.

Health Purchasing Victoria (HPV) undertook the first step of locating manufacturers with the expertise and capacity to produce the required PPE. Once stock was secured, HPV set about determining the most effective way to move supply quickly from the point of manufacture into storage in Victoria.

The world’s largest third-party logistics firm, C.H. Robinson, took the challenge of moving millions of dollars’ worth of PPE, weighing hundreds of tonnes, to safe storage in Victoria.

Contracted by HPV, C.H. Robinson Oceania had the task of collecting gloves, masks, swabs, face shields and gowns from manufacturers and distributors in China and Malaysia, sourcing appropriate transport and delivering the goods safely into storage at the State Supply Chain central store.

C.H. Robinson Vice-President Oceania Andrew Coldrey, said its client had done the hard work in securing PPE that met required clinical standards, and needed to get it to Melbourne without delay.

“C.H. Robinson representatives were on hand to guide every shipment from the manufacturer to the State Supply Chain store, through airports, customs and across borders,” he said.

This preparation for dealing with a pandemic has become a priority for many governments and health authorities; securing the right equipment and delivering it to end-users is a highly organised process.

Andrew said the first shipment from Shanghai, on board a specially chartered Boeing 747-400 proved a major challenge, but international cooperation and flawless planning saw 650 cubic metres of PPE land safely in Melbourne at the beginning of May.

“The queues to get into Shanghai Airport were 72 hours long at peak; three days of trucks creeping forward to meet a pre-determined time slot for the aircraft,” he said.

“Slots were so tightly controlled, with 300 charters a day leaving Shanghai, any delays could mean that the plane left empty. C.H. Robinson was happy to execute successful flights 100 per cent.”

A total of 13 flights from Shanghai via Hong Kong between the end of April and the beginning of June will deliver enough PPE to build stockpiles in Melbourne.

These deliveries will be supplemented by additional chartered flights from Kuala Lumpur with additional PPE on board.

Andrew said chartering flights was crucial to ensure essential stockpiles were replenished quickly and the company is now looking to a combination of air and sea freight to bring in more PPE over the coming weeks.

“The urgency of ensuring the availability of adequate PPE was the key objective but we never lost sight of the fact that we had to provide the most cost-effective logistics solutions,” he said.

HPV are grateful for C.H. Robinson’s expertise in assuring the safety of all Victorians.

HPV Chief Executive Officer Elaine Ko, said the health and safety of Victorians is paramount and with C.H. Robinson’s assistance the public hospitals in the state now have the PPE they need to “ensure they can safely continue their incredible work”.

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