South African suppliers airlift 2,8 million facemasks to China


Dube Cargo Terminal processed a 100-tonne capacity freighter that airlifted facemasks, and other protective gear as well as medical equipment to China, as part of that government’s efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Over 2,8 million facemasks, from local KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng suppliers, bought by the Chinese government from local suppliers were consolidated and processed through the Dube Cargo Terminal at Durban's King Shaka International Airport, and loaded on specially chartered freighters destined for Guangzhou China. 

" The freighter will airlift up to 50 tonnes of medical facemasks to China. The Dube Cargo Terminal and ACSA have worked with local freight forwarders and Air China to ensure that we are able to land and process this aircraft timeously.

'We have established ourselves as a reliable partner within the aviation industry, so when time-sensitive air cargo needs to be moved via South Africa, we get the call from the shippers, freight forwarders and aircraft operators.

"One of the biggest challenges for operations like these is being able to respond to very short turnaround times, while still servicing scheduled aircraft." Notes Mr Hamish Erskine, Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone, CEO.

The proximity to suppliers and the available capacity to handle charter flights that require rapid airlift is what lead to Air China initiating a direct flight from  Guangzhou China to Durban, for this airlift.

"Key to Dube Cargo Terminal achieving quick turnaround times has been automation and staff training." Says Mr Mlibo Bantwini, Executive Dube Cargo Terminal. “The equipment we have in place allows us to work seamlessly from loading, processing and scanning all cargo allowing us to find efficiencies to handle additional aircraft with the same team and still achieve the same excellent service. 

"Staff training has also been instrumental in us being efficient in our operations. We are widely becoming known for our handling capability, achieving an average of 20-minute turnaround time.  We have invested in training and maintaining staff – with some 90% of our staff holding International Air Transport Association (IATA) diplomas and other certificates.

‘Through the implementation of these measures, we have also been able to achieve a zero losses or pilferage since we began operations in 2010, while maintaining fees that provide value for money for our users.”

To ensure that the aircraft was able to land at King Shaka International Airport to uplift the urgent cargo, all stakeholders implemented an operational plan to facilitate the aircraft and ensuring all health , security and government agency requirements we strictly adhered to.

Terence Delomoney, General Manager of the airport said, “We understood the situation immediately and together with the relevant airport stakeholders, a plan was implemented. The priority was to ensure the safety of the staff facilitating the aircraft. As the aircraft landed empty, only to pick up cargo, all teams were fully trained and briefed and equipped with the necessary PPE and the Department of Health took lead to ensure that the aircraft and crew were properly screened. As the airport we are very pleased to be part of this operation and to positively contribute to the helping to curb the spread of this virus.”

Dube Cargo Terminal is geared to service another freighter later in the week as part of the same shipment of medical equipment and facemasks headed to China.

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