Coronavirus: Logistics company flies in tonnes of PPE as imports procedure gets tricky

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A plane loaded with 68 tonnes of disposable gloves, masks and visors has arrived at Heathrow and is already on its way to the frontline.

The flight packed with personal protective equipment from China landed at the airport in west London on Saturday afternoon.

It had been chartered by global freight forwarders Far Logistics after orders were placed by multiple suppliers with manufacturers in Asia.

Managing director Louis Phillips, based in Felixstowe, said the first discussion about bringing in the cargo was only a week ago but that this would be the first flight of many.

He said: “There were tens of thousands of individual pieces on this one and there are tens of millions to come behind that.”

Many of those items will be imported by other companies like his.

He added: “When you are working on a project like this, it’s about contributing to the national effort to the frontline, which is struggling currently.”

From the airport, the goods head to distribution centres, and, by Sunday afternoon, Mr Phillips expected some of the items to have already arrived where they are needed most.

“The NHS is a primary concern but it’s going to care homes; it’s going to GP surgeries and police forces; anyone who requires PPE in the UK,” he said.

The pandemic has made importing goods more tricky than normal, removing the ability to move them in the holds of passenger planes.

Ships are also out of the question considering the necessary timeframe.

Mr Phillips added: “Goods from Asia to the UK depart and arrive in one day by air. With ocean freight, it takes a month to transit from port to port.

“Usually, we would have lots of options to get planes in but because of the lack of commercial airlines operating, there are fewer options.”

Importing is also made complicated after becoming more heavily regulated due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the process, he said the company was in contact with the government “on multiple levels”.

And Chinese authorities are carrying out additional checks on each shipment, issuing commodity inspection certificates to ensure standards are met.

Mr Phillips says further flights are planned at least weekly.

He added that his company has “been knocking on doors looking for this business,” but ultimately “it’s all about being able to help”.

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