Rallying as supply chain stakeholders to solve a unique HS code issue for Guinea

by | Mar 21, 2023

In 2022, PFSCM collaborated with a host of supply chain stakeholders to solve a unique issue of unaligned Harmonized System (HS) codes for a large time- and temperature-sensitive order of COVID-19 products originating from Asia and destined for Guinea.

HS code is the short form of Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. It is a standardized format for classifying or describing types of shipments worldwide. When goods are transported internationally, an HS code is issued based on the classification of the shipment. 

Early in the shipping process, PFSCM’s local agent informed stakeholders that the HS code assigned to the COVID-19 grant did not match the recipient of the shipment, an issue that could result in penalties and delays.

PFSCM Logistics Specialist Anita Rabbles says the unaligned HS codes set into motion a series of complex issues, but PFSCM and stakeholders intervened at just the right time to prevent potential financial penalties, shipment detainment, or product loss.

Rabbles explains that PFSCM helped stakeholders to solve the issue by identifying which of the multiple recipients in the Guinea Ministry of Health (MoH) had the correct HS code for the particular grant. Once the correct recipient was identified, PFSCM proceeded to change the shipment consignee and ensured that all the shipping and export documentation was updated before the goods were dispatched by the supplier in China.

“We collaborate with our local agent, the Principal Recipient, supplier, and 3PL to orchestrate all the changes needed. First, we worked with the MoH in Guinea to amend the consignee address to align with the HS code for the particular grants in question. Secondly, we managed the amendment of the airway bill and exportation documents with the supplier and 3PL. All of these interventions are uncommon and hard to execute, but with experienced staff at the helm, discussions were conducive, and the stakeholders pulled together to ensure lifesaving products were not jeopardized.”

In addition to the HS code issue, the shipment soon ran into more trouble. “Just as we had the HS code and consignee information resolved, we faced unexpected lockdowns in China. Our shipment had to make a cross-country journey from Changsha to Beijing, from where it could finally be shipped by air to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.”

Once the shipment arrived in Amsterdam, it underwent packout for reconditioning with fresh coolant. From there, the goods were shipped further to Conakry in Guinea. 

The normally six-week delivery time turned into several months, with the HS code documentation alone taking two months to resolve. In anticipation of the known delays and in response to the unexpected lockdown disruptions, PFSCM and stakeholders arranged early on in the process for half of the products to be delivered to Cornaky, a portion of the goods to be delivered at a later date, and a portion of the short-shelf life goods to be directed to other countries to increase the likelihood of timely consumption.

Rabbles concludes that PFSCM is adept at managing unique fast-changing procurement and logistics challenges, and the quick interventions for the Guinea delivery prevented product loss and disruptions in patient care. 

“Solving problems and dealing with abrupt changes like this comes with the territory of public health supply chain management. With the right partners, open communication, and the ability to respond rapidly, we can, together, solve complex supply chain problems.”