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Flying High! Overcoming Challenges to Import PPE During a Pandemic

Updated: May 19, 2020

As the coronavirus raged on in the United States, the demand and need for personal protective equipment (PPE) grew exponentially. OEC Group understood the urgency of the situation and wanted to use its expertise to help import this much-needed equipment.

OEC moved quickly because the customers — a variety of organizations performing essential services — had no time to waste. The company formed Team Mask: a multidepartment group of executives tasked with running a smooth PPE import operation that avoids shipment cancellations and moves the masks, gloves, testing kits and other materials on time from China to New York.

“We’re operating on a 24-hour schedule to make sure that our PPE orders proceed exactly as planned,” said Peter Hsieh, Regional Vice President of Sales and Marketing here at OEC Group.

The team knew that the fastest way to import PPE was via air freight. However, just as the urgent need for the equipment necessitated air travel, COVID-19 restrictions led to cancellations of hundreds of daily flights to the U.S. from China. Due to the air cargo space shortage, freight rates kept soaring to new heights.

The team decided that the most effective way to import PPE was to acquire more buying power and lower costs. It accomplished this goal by chartering passenger aircraft. While the practice would be exorbitantly expensive under usual conditions, the effort was aided by remarkably low fuel prices and other factors that made it financially feasible.

Customs officials on both sides of the Pacific reacted quickly to the pandemic ensuring both safety and flexibility. In order to stay consistent with the latest regulatory changes and help move things along more efficiently, Team Mask worked very closely with the factories and customs, giving our locally licensed customs brokers in China enough time to ensure compliance.

“The flights we’ve chartered have been crucial to the success of this work, as have our reliable brokerage partners in China,” Hsieh added. “OEC will keep working nonstop to ensure that the shipments continue to move efficiently.”

Many OEC employees across different departments continue to work around the clock on the PPE shipments, allowing the company to bring in much-needed materials at arguably one of the most urgent times in modern history.

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