Effective pandemic response relies on strong logistics planning and capacities - both upstream and downstream. The PSCN has engaged in a number of efforts to improve both upstream and downstream logistics. Progress includes pre-identification of upstream sea and air routes and assessing options for consolidation hubs.
As shown in the first figure, a vast logistics framework was built during the West Africa Ebola outbreak to enable international assistance to reach not just the affected countries but also affected communities, and provide logistical support to medical responders on the ground. As well as supply chain management of medical and other humanitarian supplies, it included air transport and medical evacuation services for responders, and the design, construction and equipping of satellite communications hubs, end-user community care facilities, and treatment centres.
Between 50 and 100 developing countries are likely to require international support in setting up downstream logistics and supply management structures.
Detailed logistics planning is essential to ensuring that incorporating virtual supplies in an emergency supply chain is viable, and that such supplies can be delivered when needed to complement and support the deployment and replenishment of publicly-held reserves. Identifying the best possible sea and air routes in advance allows faster and cheaper movement of critical items when a crisis occurs. For example, advance arrangements for sea freight can cut delivery periods for relief items to a few weeks, reducing reliance on costly air transport over extended periods. Sea freight can be up to 95 percent cheaper per shipment than air transport.
The Logistics Cluster has commissioned a Container Routing Study on behalf of the Pandemic Supply Chain Network. The resulting 300-page report provides a statistical overview of major ocean trade lanes, load and discharge ports. It also quantifies weekly capacities for particular services, carriers, containers and refrigerated containers (reefers).
Under the leadership of UPS a similar study has been conducted on air transport routes.
Once it has been fully developed, the dashboard will be used for simulations; to help inform decisions on whether ocean shipment is a viable option in a specific situation; and to identify the best shipping routes in an acute emergency. Being able to visualize the data on the dashboard will help to:
- recommend suitable locations for upstream staging areas and consolidation hubs;
- highlight opportunities for operating shared services from these hubs;
- detect ports at risk of congestion;
- recommend alternative routes to avoid supply corridor bottlenecks; and
- prioritize critical supplies.
Establishing temporary consolidation hubs (also known as humanitarian staging areas) during an emergency can help to reduce costs and make the delivery of supplies more predictable and better timed. Work has been done to quantify their effect on humanitarian supply chains, and the Logistics Cluster is developing a system dynamics model to support decision-making about consolidation hubs during a pandemic. By simulating the humanitarian supply chain from supplier to point-of-entry into the affected area, this model will show whether consolidation hubs are beneficial to a particular response.
The model will highlight where consolidation hubs would be beneficial, and provide locations. The suitability of locations is informed by a range of variables, such as: total transport cost, lead time, supplier locations, flight and shipping schedules, and the forecast demand for supplies.