Believing technology should help solve humanity’s most pressing challenges, Flexport.org, the philanthropic arm of global freight forwarder Flexport, has partnered with Airlink to ensure humanitarian supplies quickly reach communities impacted by disasters and other humanitarian crises. Read below to learn why this powerful partnership is vital to helping those in need.
Susy Schöneberg | Executive Director David Ashley | Global Operations Manager
The Power of Collaboration & Technology When You Can’t Plan Ahead
Emergency response efforts are inherently difficult and time-sensitive. When nonprofit organizations respond to disasters, they need to ship life-saving relief goods as quickly as possible to help those impacted. Often, these organizations don’t have prior experience shipping to the locations in need given the unpredictable nature of disasters. Not only can customs requirements and import regulations be unclear for these new destinations, it is exceedingly difficult to quickly establish partnerships on the ground and develop shipping operational processes. Moreover, while nonprofit shippers can formulate general response guidelines for different regions and even individual countries, shipping and import requirements often change dramatically during a disaster. Therefore, strong collaboration between partners is key to prepare disaster shipments and act swiftly.
The response to Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas was no exception. Donations were sent through Airlink from nonprofit partners in different countries, each with their own booking and origin shipping requirements. In addition to coordinating multiple flights between different airlines, nonprofit shippers and receiving organizations on the ground, Airlink had to navigate dynamic customs requirements. For example, the Bahamian government implemented a temporary duty-free period for relief goods coming into the islands, but donations needed to arrive by a certain date to avoid being subject to additional requirements.
Fortunately, Airlink and Flexport.org, their freight forwarding partner and Flexport’s sustainability arm focused on providing logistics to nonprofits, had established a playbook for responding to complicated disaster situations. To ensure each hand-off of cargo between the various organizations was quick and successful, allowing the shipments to arrive in The Bahamas on time, all parties needed to be fully aligned. Flexport.org first determined the necessary shipping requirements and settled on a clear step-by-step process for moving the cargo together with Airlink. While this process developed from our joint disaster playbook, it had to be customized for each specific shipment. We then clearly articulated the plan to our partner organizations and carriers, ensuring each party understood what they were responsible for and could quickly execute. By outlining a clear plan of action in advance, we were able to move incredibly fast in coordinating complex shipments and avoid difficulties once the cargo arrived at the destination port.
Ultimately, we successfully delivered about 30,000 kg of relief goods to families and communities in need. Products ranged from tents and shelter equipment to meals and hygiene kits, as thousands of people lacked clean water, food or roofs over their heads.
With so many different partners working together in these disaster relief shipments and the urgency involved, it is inherently difficult to maintain effective collaboration. Full visibility is hard to provide when there are multiple parties coordinating a shipment, each carrying out quick actions in succession. To alleviate this issue, Flexport.org aims to bring everyone together through technology. By centralizing communication in our platform, we help eliminate countless back and forth emails and maintain a single, accurate source between Airlink and its partners. Furthermore, by providing clear tracking and schedule visibility, each party can remain up-to-date on the shipment’s status and next steps, responding right away when action is required.
During an emergency response, clear communication and visibility are vital for strong collaboration. Technology can help avoid confusion and align various organizations, enabling each group to respond more quickly to the situation at hand. With all parties on the same page and prepared in advance, our partnership with Airlink helps strengthen the coordination process during disaster shipments and ensures vital relief goods get to where they need to go, faster.