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From Amazon to West Coast Dockworkers, Logistics Leaps Into Russia-Ukraine Fray

The stateside logistics industry aims to flex against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine either through the restriction of goods movement or humanitarian aid.

Digital freight forwarder Flexport said Friday it would help manage the logistics of sending aid to Ukraine, in partnership with the United Nations, United Nation’s Children’s Fund, Project Hope and Airlink. Flexport’s system would be used to help coordinate airlines, trucking, warehouses and customs.

“A humanitarian crisis is unfolding as over one million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, at below-freezing temperatures. Another four million people are expected to leave in the weeks ahead. Refugee sites are already short of critical supplies due to the scale of the crisis,” Flexport founder and CEO Ryan Petersen said on social media.

The first cargo plane filled with relief supplies is being paid for by Flexport, while the second is personally being paid for by Petersen. Shipments are being sent using grounded cargo and passenger planes. The cost for a fully loaded plane is about $400,000, according to Petersen.

West Coast dockworkers have also taken a stance on the war in Ukraine with the decision not to load or unload Russian cargo in a move announced Thursday by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

The ILWU represents more than 20,000 members across 29 ports running along the West Coast.

“With this action in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we send a strong message that we unequivocally condemn the Russian invasion,” said ILWU International President Willie Adams. “West Coast dockworkers are proud to do our part to join with those around the world who are bravely taking a stand and making sacrifices for the good of Ukraine.”

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It’s unclear how long the ILWU’s members intend to carry out the stoppage. A representative for the union could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

The announcement comes as the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, the organization representing the employers, are expected to begin negotiations for a new contract. The current agreement expires July 1.

Earlier in the week, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company would lend donations from the company and its employees to non-governmental humanitarian organizations, logistics services to move supplies and any cybersecurity assistance.

“The situation in Ukraine is deeply concerning, and gets more so each day,” Jassy said. “Amazon stands with the people of Ukraine, and will continue to help.”

Ukraine Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov made an appeal in a letter sent to Amazon founder and executive chair Jeff Bezos to push harder and pull the plug on Amazon Web Services and other operations in Russia.

“As the head of one of the most influential companies in the world, you have the power to make decisions that contribute to the values your company is committed to,” Fedorov wrote. “Suspending the provision of AWS services in the Russian Federation will support a global united motion of many governments and businesses who have chosen long-term stability and growth over potential temporary profit losses.”

Elon Musk recently sent his SpaceX Starlink satellites to Ukraine at the request of Fedorov.

The SpaceX founder and CEO confirmed Thursday 47 of the company’s Starlink satellites were deployed in Ukraine, but the shipment also came with a word of caution.

“Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution,” Musk tweeted.

Instability in the region has severely limited the flow of goods since Russia’s initial attack on Ukraine, forcing vessel re-routing and a number of logistics carriers to pull back on their services.

An Estonian cargo ship was sunk this week while anchored, with reports saying the Russian navy had used the ship to hide from the Ukrainian army. That followed the explosion of a ship from Bangladesh in the Black Sea.

The NATO Shipping Centre, which acts as a hub of information and also connection between international shippers and NATO, sent out an alert Friday warning ships of “very high” risks of cyberattacks, GPS and other electronic interference, vessel diversion and military operations in the northwestern portion of the Black Sea.

Ocean carriers such as Ocean Network Express (ONE), Maersk, Mediterranean Sea Co. (MSC) and CMA CGM suspended new bookings to and from Ukraine and Russia as a precautionary measure in response to sanctions, import controls at the borders and other limitations, amid rising fuel and insurance costs.

The restrictions continue to impact services, with Maersk and MSC saying Friday they are now limiting new bookings to and from Belarus to food, medicines and humanitarian aid. Maersk warned of “extensive screening” prior to items being accepted.

FedEx and UPS have both stopped services to and from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus due to the area instability.