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UPS plays multilayered logistics role in FEMA relief effort (with video)

Aircraft, dedicated distribution center are among the assets UPS is providing to move COVID-19 relief supplies

A load of medical supplies is unloaded by UPS at its global sort facility in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: UPS/Tyler Delawder)

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UPS was identified early on as one of the private-sector logistics companies involved with Project Airbridge, the airlift coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help plug the shortage of critical medical supplies for the coronavirus pandemic, but few details about its role were available until now.

On Sunday, a UPS Airlines 747 freighter arrived at the company’s Worldport air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, carrying personal protective equipment from Shanghai. And earlier this month, a UPS Boeing 767 aircraft delivered 43,000 pounds of equipment to Miami.

Those flights were previously disclosed, but on Tuesday UPS revealed the extent of its participation in the logistics operation.

The Atlanta-based company, which offers integrated logistics services from express delivery to warehousing and customs clearance, said it is brokering airfreight shipments on third-party aircraft as well as operating its own flights. During the next two weeks, it will arrange and manage 25 flights carrying more than 3 million pounds of masks, surgical gowns, gloves, medical swabs and thermometers.

Shipments are originating in China, Malaysia and Honduras, among other countries.

The UPS Healthcare unit is also opening a 450,000-square-foot facility in Louisville with dedicated space for FEMA shipments of personal protective equipment. In addition, UPS is in charge of kitting and distribution. The proximity to the Worldport allows UPS to quickly fulfill orders for overnight delivery anywhere in the U.S.

“UPS Healthcare, and our full portfolio of services, is providing a suite of highly-choreographed logistics solutions in support of Project Airbridge,” said UPS Chairman and CEO David Abney in a statement. “We are bringing the full power of our integrated global logistics network to bear to assist FEMA in the pandemic fight.”

Project Airbridge is part of a supply-chain partnership between FEMA and health care distributors such as Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp. to procure, transport and expedite delivery of critical supplies from overseas sources to areas of the country where more resources are needed to deal with a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Since March 29, cargo planes have delivered nearly 300 million gloves, almost 8 million masks and 3 million gowns, according to FEMA.

UPS Healthcare and the overall UPS organization are working with many public and private entities to help with the rapid deployment of lifesaving medicines, test kits and other supplies for combating the novel coronavirus.

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]