Interview with Christophe Peyrichou and Nicolas Petit from Bioport on the Ukraine Response Consortium initiative.
Bioport is a non-profit association whose mandate is to improve the aid delivered by humanitarian actors by providing logistics services and supply chain advice in order to minimise costs and maximise service to beneficiaries. Since 1994, Bioport has been offering a pooling of international logistics resources to its partners. As an NGO support organisation (H2H), Bioport works with some forty humanitarian actors in all their fields of intervention and interfaces with its network of logistics service providers. Bioport is also a company for professional integration through logistics activities.
Défis Humanitaires : Why did you take this “Ukraine Response Consortium” initiative, how is it composed, what are its objectives and how does it work?
Christophe Peyrichou and Nicolas Petit : The Ukraine crisis has led to a significant mobilisation and demand on supply chains, which pushed logistics-sensitive actors to coordinate in order to offer better services to NGOs working in the field.
This consortium is composed of 3 complementary entities under the acronym BAR (Bioport, HI Atlas Logistique, RLH)
- HI/Atlas Logistique specialises in the delivery of humanitarian aid, supporting organisations and the humanitarian system, particularly in the management of the last kilometre (difficult-to-access red zones),
- RLH Coop (Humanitarian Logistics Network Cooperative) through networking, advocacy, and the search for optimisation of humanitarian logistics through shared actions between NGOs,
- Bioport through its logistical support to solidarity actors, particularly on aspects related to transport.
Our aim is to offer a common pool of knowledge and resources through this mechanism. We are working on an operational capacity to provide better logistical services to those who help. This collaboration is supported administratively by HI (Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion), which represents the consortium to the CDCS (Crisis and Support Centre at the French Minitry of Europe and Foreign Affairs), the donor of this project. Each of the actors has complementary activities in their respective specialities.
In addition to greater operational efficiency, do you also aim to reduce costs and how can this be demonstrated?
Of course, at the beginning of the crisis, the first challenge was to identify service providers who could deliver in Ukraine. With the general mobilisation on the ground and the security situation, only trucks with Ukrainian drivers could circulate in the country, which limited the options at first. But from April onwards, we were able to include a growing number of providers so that we could continuously survey the market and improve the service while optimising costs.
Is transport in the countries crossed and at the destination easy? We have seen queues of lorries blocked for up to 27 km at some borders.
The transport and border crossing did not pose any particular problems for us. The Ukrainian government quickly put in place an accelerated border crossing procedure for humanitarian cargo (customs procedures). Ukraine is a country with an efficient infrastructure and logistics companies. There were indeed some congestion problems at times. However, working with service providers with local experience and contacts, as well as a rigorous documentation system, allowed us to optimise border crossings and minimise waiting times (generally no more than 24 hours).
Was the experience of the humanitarian airlift during the Covid-19 pandemic inspiring and useful?
Yes, this experience has inspired us and it has been very useful. Before the airlift in place, we had discussions and simulations of shared charters with strong interests by the different logistics departments of the NGOs’ headquarters, in order to start a dynamic on logistical mutualisation.
The airlift experience highlighted the need to decompartmentalise the various existing logistical support systems and that donors were ready to support this type of operation if it was promoted. Before the COVID19 period, an organisation capable of carrying out this type of project was missing and this enabled the RLH to change its scope. Since the airlift, this decompartmentalisation has been established and we at Bioport wish to contribute to the logistical pooling. The setting up of this consortium in co-construction is a result of this.
How do you fund the humanitarian work of the Consortium?
The humanitarian action of this consortium is funded by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and more specifically by the Crisis and Support Centre. The consortium and all activities are covered by this funding from May 2022 until October 2022.
It should be noted that this project is co-financed by:
- For Atlas Logistique: by ECHO via the EHRC (European Humanitarian Response Capacity) mechanism
- For Bioport: by funding from the AURA region and the Bullukian Foundation from an emergency fund in response to the crisis.
These fundings therefore complete the system and are managed directly by those concerned.
Do you have any relationship with the ECHO mechanism of the European Commission?
As mentioned in the previous question, HI/Atlas Logistic is a key partner of this new ECHO mechanism of the European Commission and operationalized for the first time in Ukraine. RLH has been a partner of ECHO’s EHRC mechanism since the launch of the European Airlift (EUHAB created at the beginning of the COVID crisis, which is now sustainable in the long term). We, Bioport, should be exchanging with them soon.
At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, there was a multitude of goodwill but sometimes inadequate aid initiatives. What is the situation today?
Indeed, unsolicited donations have been pouring in since the beginning of the crisis and this phenomenon, which is common in such situations, has been accentuated by the proximity and land access to Ukraine from Europe. This has contributed to the clogging of supply chains, with goods not meeting the needs or already available locally.
Bioport is used to supporting small associations in their logistics but also in questioning the relevance of their donations. We have therefore developed tools from the outset to inform the general public about the risks of unsolicited donations and their more effective alternatives for helping populations (Donation Awareness). Many other organisations have had similar educational initiatives. In addition, the Ukrainian administration has always remained functional and has been able to quickly control the influx of donations into its territory.
Do you have any idea to date how much product you have brought in ?
At Bioport level, we have organised the shipment of approximately 124 tonnes of goods from international destinations to Ukraine for some fifteen organisations. The trucks are shared with several organisations. We have mainly organised the shipment of products with high added value or complex to transport (pharmaceutical products, vehicles, products under controlled temperatures, etc.) for which there is a need for logistical expertise for the partners.
HI/Atlas Logistics has opened 3 logistics hubs in Ukraine: Vinnytsia, Dnipro and Kharkiv. Since the beginning of the crisis, some thirty partner organisations have benefited from storage and kitting services including temperature-controlled spaces (storage capacity available to humanitarian organisations of more than 6,000m2) and transport services (5,500 tonnes of humanitarian materials transported) to the most difficult to access areas, close to the front lines.
The consortium ensures the continuity of the logistics chain from Europe to the hardest-to-reach areas, including eastern Ukraine, as well as free and optimised logistics services for the main humanitarian actors working in Ukraine.
There are many aid actors in Ukraine today and you have to choose your partners. On what criteria do you do this and with what follow-up?
We have a fairly strict working framework, firstly we screen the partners and suppliers. Secondly, we take into account the needs of the partners, their complementarities and their specificities in order to maximise the logistical support that is currently offered within the framework of this consortium. To date, we have not had to “choose”, and there has been a logic of solidarity and financial balance on the activities between our three entities, allowing us to cover the needs expressed by our field partners.
Can you ensure that the aid you carry gets to the people who need it most?
We provide logistical support to organisations that operate according to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. We work together with them and trust them to provide appropriate assistance in the difficult conditions of war.
How do you see the continuation of this Consortium for Ukraine and could it be implemented later in other countries?
We think it is important that there is continuity in the project in Ukraine. Discussions are underway on this point. As far as replicability is concerned, there is a need for further reflection between the organisations. For Bioport, there is no doubt about the interest of this type of model, which allows field actors to concentrate on the victims while relying on shared logistics at their service.
How would you like to conclude this interview?
Perhaps with a note of optimism and realism. At the very least, the consortium will have made it possible to take a new step towards more shared logistics for the benefit of partners and the humanitarian community.
This consortium responds to a real need to optimise humanitarian logistics chains, both for ISOs responding to crises and for institutional donors. The complementary nature of the actors in this consortium makes it a relevant intervention tool to be reproduced in other areas of operation.
Nicolas Petit and Christophe Peyrichou
Pour aller plus loin:
Nicolas Petit a occupé différents postes dans les services logistiques siège au sein des ONG et en missions d’expatriation notamment en Afrique du Nord (Tunisie), en Afrique centrale (RCA RDC) et en Afrique de l’Ouest (Bénin, Guinée Conakry et Cote d’ivoire). De retour en France en 2011, il intègre parallèlement Bioforce en qualité de consultant formateur et Bioport au poste de logisticien, où il poursuivra son engagement en tant que chef de projet, responsable du département OSI et aujourd’hui en tant que directeur des opérations et du développement. Il a effectué des études de Logistique à Bioforce en 2008 puis un master2 en management de la Supply Chain au CNAM en 2017. Il est consulté régulièrement sur les questions de logistiques mutualisés, de mise en œuvre de flux complexes et sur les aspects liés aux transports internationaux.
Christophe Peyrichou, 37 years old, is the manager of Bioport’s OSI division. He has been managing the team that coordinates and develops the international logistics operations of Bioport’s partners for the past 5 years. He first joined Bioport as a project manager in 2016.
Before Bioport Christophe worked in the private sector in industrial supply chain.