Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Container Carriers Join With Sea Air And Rail Freight Shipping Groups To Help Haiti And Mongolia

Industry Operations are the Experts When it Comes to Disaster Aid Relief
Shipping News Feature

HAITI – MONGOLIA -We have already reported extensively on the assistance rendered by shipping industry groups such as FedEx and UPS in the current Haitian crisis and, once again, the industry has stepped up to the plate to give help to the victims of a national disaster. In October we told of how individual freight and logistics companies had rallied round to support the disaster relief effort in the South Pacific and now it’s time to publicise the efforts of those groups involved in restoring a semblance of sanity to the infrastructure in the island of Haiti.

Help can vary enormously with the size and expertise of those involved and we can only mention a few that we know of within the industry world wide who have offered their services. Plaudits must go to AP Moller Maersk who reacted immediately to news of the tragedy. Within two days they had set up a Disaster Relief Team who then produced a website to enable staff to donate directly with the company matching every Krone with one of their own. In addition Maersk Line offered free ocean freight for humanitarian shipments and coordinated their customers own donations via the World Food Programme.

From their base on the Miami River the Antillean Marine Shipping Corporation, who serve Haiti regularly, have used their expertise to send one vessel, loaded with 1000 tonnes of ready to eat meals, their warehousemen having worked tirelessly for 6 days to discharge delivery trucks and load the vessel which sailed on the 26th January. The company is now loading for the Dominican Republic and Port au Prince and say their regular Haitian services will return as from tomorrow.

The effectiveness of a decent logistics company has been demonstrated by the Crowley Maritime Corporation who report they managed to discharge 462 twenty foot shipping containers from three vessels in a few days. They offloaded at Rio Haina and moved the boxes on to Port au Prince via lighters and trucks. The 202 boxes which arrived by barge made this a larger shipment using the system than or any previous relief operation. The ongoing operations are being carried out on behalf of the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) whose efforts play a real part in winning the hearts and minds of disadvantaged people.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, with long term interests in the region announced a minimum package of $1 million in support of the cause with Royal Caribbean International's representative sent to assist. The group today tell us they have now donated over $2 million. Deutsche Post – DHL have a disaster team in place helping to coordinate deliveries as are representatives from other logistics giants Agility who are also sending a logistics coordinator into the Dominican Republic, and TNT. Airfreight support has been forthcoming from DB Schenker and Lufthansa.

Other, sometimes smaller, donors also play their part, Christopher Alf, founder of National Air Cargo revelling in his recent vindication by the US Courts after they lifted the order debarring him as a contractor for the US Government, announced that the NAC subsidiary National Airlines delivered two plane loads of medical kits and humanitarian aid donated by, amongst others the Swiss Government from bases in Switzerland and Belgium. Kestrel Liner Agencies, long term shippers to the region and based in the UK have covered the costs of two charters to send vessels destined for the island which carried food and supplies including essential earth moving equipment.

Containers have been supplied by companies such as Savannah based ConGlobal Industries and Philadelphia group SeaBox Incorporated loaded with donations from local residents and shelter kits which can be instantly turned into accommodation. Air charter company Tradewind Aviation have been flying doctors together with essential supplies to land on cleared stretches of road in a remote region, managing up to six flights per day.

The offer of help which has received the most raised eyebrows, and has been viewed with extreme scepticism by many, is that of Somali pirates who as reported on a Spanish language site recently, swore to deliver assistance to Haiti whilst criticising the US and Europe who they accuse of robbing the area systematically. Although the natural reaction is incredulity it is worth remembering that the view taken by the poorer nations of the First World countries is very different from their own self image. We were reminded this week by one of our Somaliland contacts of a quotation from a British officer during the Second World War, Gerald Hanley, who came to Somalia, and said "Of all the races of Africa, there cannot be one better to live among than the most difficult, the proudest, the bravest, the vainest, the most merciless, the friendliest: the Somalis.” Perhaps the offer of help from such quarters is maybe just a little more than just a publicity seeking exercise.

In all the drama of the situation which is unfolding in Haiti it is too easy to forget other humanitarian missions going on elsewhere. Hardly anyone in the West is aware of the catastrophic weather across Mongolia where huge snowfalls and plummeting temperatures are reported to have decimated livestock.This week RZD, the Russian rail carrier, have sent a special 34 carriage train carrying 15 million roubles worth of humanitarian aid including medicine, warm clothes, fuel and other essentials plus straw and hay for livestock.

A long dry summer caused crop failures and at least one and a half million livestock animals have perished so far in temperatures of minus 50C. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Mongolian Government both state that $6 million of aid is urgently required to save any further loss of life as thousands of nomad peasant families flock toward the cities in search of food and shelter. The Chinese news agency Xinhua report aid worth around $2 million is already en route to assist the Mongolians.

Donations for the Haiti appeal can be made using the URL weblink below.

Photo: Port au Prince after the earthquake courtesy of Photo Marco Dormino - The United Nations United Nations Development Programme