A gift from Harbin, China

A gift from Harbin, China

A friendship shipment of face masks and goggles from Sunderland’s Chinese partner city Harbin is being prepared for distribution.

As Covid-19 was hitting the UK in April, Sunderland City Council received an offer of face masks from the Mayor of Harbin in northern China.

Altogether 10,000 masks and 400 pairs of goggles have now arrived in Sunderland and are being readied for distribution. The safe journey was made possible with the support of city business Vantec who handled the logistics.

The disposable non-surgical masks and goggles are suitable for day-to-day indoor or outdoor work, or wearing on public transport. They will be distributed to city partners, including the network of volunteer groups and community hubs who are continuing to support hundreds of people.

Sunderland and Harbin have had a Friendship Agreement since 2009 which has fostered, promoted and grown a range of links between the two cities. The links have included not only education and business contacts, but also a new health partnership with City Hospitals and public health colleagues which was developed last year.

The Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) offer was made by Mr Sun Zhe, Harbin’s Mayor, and was accepted by Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller.

Cllr Miller visited Harbin last year to mark the tenth anniversary of the Friendship Agreement.

He said: "Harbin too has suffered from Covid-19 and the offer of the masks and goggles was a generous civic gesture of friendship. It was a very welcome offer that we were happy to accept and I am now pleased to report that this consignment has arrived safely in Sunderland.

"Covid-19 has not gone away and we will find a positive use for this generous donation from our friends in Harbin.

"It’s a testament to the bonds and strengths that we have with Harbin that this offer was made. It shows our ties are strong and how, in times of international and national crisis, friendships and helping hands can stretch across continents and across the world.

"We are also incredibly grateful to Vantec who have drawn on their well-recognised expertise to handle the global logistics challenge for us.

"On behalf of the residents of Sunderland, thank you to Harbin and to Vantec."

The PPE was part of an airfreight consignment that arrived in the UK this week and was safely delivered to Vantec Europe Limited’s facility at Hillthorn Business Park in Washington, Sunderland.

Vantec’s specialised knowledge in global logistics, from export and import controls to travel and transportation, all helped see the PPE arrive safely.

Martin Kendall, Managing Director Vantec Europe Limited, said: "We were very happy to help. Moving and shipping manufactured goods is what we specialise in and we have worked with the City Council’s Business Investment Team on getting the PPE here safely.

"It’s a nice gesture from China and the masks and goggles will, I am sure, be appreciated by many.

"As non-surgical equipment, they are very similar to what many workers up and down the country have already been using in factories and workplaces across the UK.

"Having more of them is always useful and it is important for us all to ‘stay safe’."

The PPE was manufactured in China at the Harbin Pharmaceutical Factory. Other European countries, such as France and Germany have imported and used masks manufactured in Harbin.

Mr Sun Zhe, Mayor of Harbin said: "We were delighted to be able to offer this donation to our friends in Sunderland as we all do our very best to fight this global pandemic.

"We are very proud of the partnership we have with Sunderland, and the projects we have worked on together over the years, and are equally committed to providing whatever support we can between us as international partners at difficult and challenging times like this."


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