Friday, November 5, 2021

New Covid Government Medicine Contract Will be Looked at Closely After Past Cases

Competitive Tendering is Now Apparently the Order of the Day
Shipping News Feature

UK – Following the controversy of a company such as Uniserve picking up a contract of more than three quarters of a billion pounds for supply and delivery of PPE, all without having to go to the trouble of tendering for the business, it is hardly surprising that the latest government contract has slipped past without any great fanfare.

There is no criticism of the Essex based company, any logistics outfit worth its salt would jump at the chance to take on business like that and, as this was at the height of concerns about the rapidly spreading pandemic, will be understood, indeed envied, by many. The criticism however has made a move this week remain a little low key.

On Tuesday this week the government unveiled their latest weapon against future problems with essential supplies such as medicines to deal with an unfolding emergency. Grandly titled the International Express Freight Service (IEFS) this body has launched to deliver contingency measures for products to the UK rapidly when a supplier’s own logistical arrangements are disrupted, to ensure patients can continue to get access to the treatments they need.

The service will aim to collect and deliver small parcels within 24 to 48 hours and pallets or shipments within 2 to 4 working days, with specialised products with a controlled or regulated handling requirement fast-tracked within 24 hours. Announcing the service, Health Minister Edward Argar said:

“Our absolute priority is to help ensure NHS patients can always access the treatments they need without delay. Global supply chains are unpredictable and our new International Express Freight Service will rapidly transport medical products in shortage to the UK within days. We are committed to building back stronger from the pandemic, and more resilient supply chains are a crucial part of that.”

Aah, I hear you say, so the government is getting involved at the coal face of freight forwarding then. Well no. What it is actually doing is exactly what it has done before, passing the entire contract over to someone in the industry, in this case Swiss owned outfit Kuehne & Nagel. In other words simply putting another layer of bureaucracy between shipper and consignee. One hopes it will leave the actual process to the professionals and not slow the system.

Now at least on this occasion there was a degree of competition apparently with the authorities keen to state that the contract was issued procured through open procedure under Public Contract Regulations 2015. An initial Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) contract for the supply of airfreight charter services, airfreight and ground handling services and road haulage services commenced on 1 March this year after K&N won it.

Looking dispassionately at the new contract K&N would seem to be a sensible choice given the scope of the organisation and its undoubted competence in matters pharma. On release of the news Stuart Innes, Air Logistics Director for UK for Kuehne+Nagel International, said:

”Kuehne+Nagel are committed to ensuring the UK public continue to receive the treatment they need, when they need it most. We are immensely proud to be providing the logistical support behind the International Express Freight Service for the Department of Health and Social Care, applying our expertise, capabilities and robust global network to transport critical medical supplies.”

With the government’s unerring ability to announce something but reveal nothing of substance, no indication of the cost to either shipper or consignee has been given, despite the fact the tender presumably included detailed rates and costs and, as there are no contact details released for the International Express Freight Service (IEFS), nor sign of any web presence as yet, one assumes it will be necessary to contact K&N and trust that company's probity until the bureaucratic mists clear should a supplier or end user be having problems.