When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it created a humanitarian crisis that quickly rippled across the globe. The invasion caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II as nearly 8 million Ukrainians fled the country. With their key transportation routes cut off and supply chains in disarray, Ukrainians found themselves short of critical supplies, food and medicines.
In April, Melissa Cooper, DB Schenker’s Airfreight Healthcare Product Manager North America, received a call from DB Schenker Poland asking for help getting a shipment of relief items into Ukraine. Cooper called the pharmaceutical company in the US and learned that the delivery was a shipment of thyroid medication she herself had relied on for years.
Of Ukrainian descent herself, Cooper jumped into action quickly. Mobilizing DB SCHENKER’s life+ logistics solutions for the healthcare industry, she spent about two weeks gathering all of the necessary information, setting up the accounts, obtaining the export licenses and taking other steps to ensure smooth delivery of the shipment.
“I coordinated all of the steps from the shipper’s door to departure to Poland,” said Cooper. “We planned how we could move this from the US to KTW (Katowice Airport) in Poland and even engaged our teams in Poland and Ukraine for support.”
“Since the war in the Ukraine started, all logistic supply chains to and from the Ukraine faced challenges in terms of solutions, safety, and capacity. The transportation of humanitarian aid goods took a separate prioritized position. Despite of the fact that all port and airports in the Ukraine are currently blocked, we still found safe solutions to deliver goods from all parts of the world into Ukraine. These solutions can be offered to our clients and donors.” – Daria Senchenko, Head of Land DB Schenker in Ukraine.
You Can’t Just Toss a Box Across the Border
One of the biggest challenges DB Schenker faced was the fact that there were no flights going into Ukraine at the time due to the invasion. In response the country’s entire flight network was taken down and temporarily offline. Knowing this, Cooper looked at just how close she could get the shipment to Kiev, and determined that either KTW or Warsaw were viable options.
“We rallied the team, contacted our office in Poland, and reached out to our office in the Ukraine and asked, ‘What can we do?’” said Cooper. Shipping by truck presented its own obstacles, mainly because the drivers who would have to move the shipment from Poland to Ukraine risked voiding their insurance policies and motor carrier statuses by entering a war zone.
Any driver coming from Ukraine and going into Poland to pick up the medical shipment would face similar challenges. With no domestic flights from Europe going to Ukraine, the options were dwindling. “Neither side wanted to really make this delivery,” said Cooper, “and you can’t just go to the border and toss a box across the line.”
Crossing the Border
Not willing to give up on the many patients who were out of their thyroid medications and anxiously awaiting a refill, Cooper turned to DB Schenker’s Philadelphia office for help. There, the branch manager set up a booking with Lufthansa and initiated the actual freight movement to Ukraine. “I asked her if her branch could issue the airway bill for this important shipment,” said Cooper, “and before I could even finish my sentence the branch manager, Nicole Kulbacki, said ‘yes.’”
The freight was coming from Kentucky, with DB Schenker’s Philadelphia office issuing the commercial documentation and airway bill, and then executing the shipment. “They followed up all the way until handover into Ukraine,” said Cooper. “We ended up successfully pulling it off.”
The shipment was flown into Poland on Lufthansa and then DB Schenker took it into Ukraine. “Our team in the Ukraine was on standby with a truck for immediate transfer from Lufthansa over the Ukraine border,” said Cooper. “They delivered it the next day in the Ukraine.”
Scott Shepherd, DB Schenker’s International Air Manager in Philadelphia, handled the shipment himself. He coordinated the pickup in the US, booked with the airline, and issued the air waybill. The first shipment arrived in Ukraine in early-May, and a second shipment was delivered two weeks later.
“It was a great pleasure for our Ukrainian team to participate in this project by taking a lead for preparing safe logistic solutions for delivery from PL into Ukraine, and we were really happy that despite of all challenges the process of delivery went smoothly. The cargo was safely delivered and at the end reached medical organizations, which are supporting our soldiers and civils with medical care.
DB Schenker in Ukraine has great experience and expertise in projects like this and we are ready and motivated to contribute by providing safe logistic solutions for any kind of transportations into the Ukraine.
The Patient is the Focus
Encompassing all corners of the healthcare market, DB SCHENKERlife+ worked in concert with three different company offices to contribute to the success of these urgent shipments for a country in distress. “With healthcare, we know that there’s a patient at the end of every single shipment and we take that responsibility very seriously,” said Cooper.
“It’s not just a transaction or the shipment of a box; deliveries like these impact the person who is using it and relies on it,” she added. “We were completely humbled by our ability to jump into action with our teams—many of which are still in the process of getting their life+ certifications—and handle these humanitarian shipments. It was amazing.”