Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Those Freight and Logistics Outfits Just Keep on Giving Aid Where It's Needed

Cyclone, Earthquake or Just Injured Children - the Shipping Industry Stands Up As Usual
Shipping News Feature

VANUATU – NEPAL – PARAGUAY – It can be a continuing source of pride to the shipping industry that so many companies associated with the freight and logistics sector seem always willing to step up when others need help. Perhaps it is the international nature of the business, or maybe just because their day job is delivering whatever, wherever as quickly as possible but those involved in the movement of goods seem always the first to travel as far as needs be to help those less fortunate.

In the last month we have seen Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic Cargo airlines join with cruise line Carnival Australia and others to assist Soles4Souls, a global social enterprise that collects shoes and distributes them to people in need around the globe. The trio of helpers have teamed up to provide shoes and clothing to people in need in Vanuatu following the devastation of Cyclone Pam that hit in March 2015. Through this partnership, Soles4Souls are able to distribute 10,000 pieces of clothing (including shirts, shorts and skirts) and 20,580 pairs of flip-flops.

The island of Vanuatu, situated 1,090 miles east of northern Australia, was devastated by Cyclone Pam in a storm which was regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the island, and left behind destruction, death and injury. Thousands of homes, schools and buildings were damaged or destroyed, with an estimated 3,300 people displaced as a result. Many were left without proper footwear and clothing, leaving them susceptible to injury and disease.

Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry pointed out that shipping flip flops to a disaster zone might not seem an obvious measure but in fact, to people who have lost everything, shoes and clothing were the most basic of essentials. John Lloyd, Senior Vice President Cargo for Virgin Atlantic, which manages Virgin Australia’s long-haul international cargo capacity, said:

“We are pleased that through our combined efforts we have been able to help victims of the cyclone. I also want to acknowledge the support of our partners who also gave their administration, trucking, cargo handling and freight forwarding services free of charge as part of this relief effort, notably Intell-AWA Logistics, Worldwide Flight Services and Forward Air in the US and dnata and Geodis Wilson in Brisbane. This was a real team effort.”

The Soles4Souls clothing and shoes were transported at no cost from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia by Virgin Australia. The airline flies to Port Vila, Vanuatu and has been providing continuing support in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

Meanwhile the assistance given by Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) and its Disaster Response Team (DRT) following the tragic earthquake in Nepal, which we reported previously, was extended after the second shock hit the already devastated country. The 18-strong team of volunteers from DHL, all logistics experts and trained in disaster management, were deployed in three waves and tasked with improving logistics operations at Tribhuvan Kathmandu International Airport for incoming relief supplies. Over a three week period, the DRT handled over 2,000 tonnes of incoming relief supplies, sorting and moving goods with limited equipment into centralized airside warehouses run by the United Nations World Food Programme for further distribution by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This airport, the main gateway for incoming international aid, has one runway servicing both passenger and cargo aircraft, and can process nine planes at a time, with a 196 tonne cargo weight restriction per plane. The airport's capacity, coupled with a current lack of equipment and resources in the currently very demanding situation, are huge factors impacting the speed of delivery of relief goods to those in need.

Fast unloading at the small airport and expert warehousing administration has been key to keeping the airport open and ensuring the right equipment gets to the appropriate relief agencies as fast as possible. DRT has been involved in coordinating the arrival and distribution of food, shelter, medicines and water including over three million high-energy biscuits from the United States of America's Department of Agriculture, a 35-ton inflatable hospital from Medecin sans Frontieres, solar lamps, tools for rebuilding and plastic sheeting. The team also managed one chartered DHL plane carrying goods donated by sponsors from the Middle East.

The DRT, which is activated by a request from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), worked closely with the Nepalese authorities, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), numerous governments, aid agencies and NGOs. The team used any available resources they had, from locally borrowed forklifts, tractors and makeshift dollies to UK donated K-Loaders to speed up the logistics operations, ensuring that relief goods are delivered through vertical take-off US Osprey airplanes and even local tractors. Gagan Mukhia, Country Manager, DHL Express Nepal, said:

"The generosity of people can literally be overwhelming in an emergency such as this and aid comes in many sizes and forms. Some of the huge air cargo pallets initially had to be dismantled before we could move them because there just wasn't the equipment to unload them as a whole. With the latest earthquake on 12 May, we are still able to continue with our DRT operations as we now have the equipment and systems in place to deal with the ongoing relief effort that Nepal will desperately need for many months ahead. Planes can now be unloaded quickly and aid distributed more efficiently to the Nepalese community."

In addition to the ongoing voluntary work of the Disaster Response Team, DHL's Aid and Relief commercial service has moved over 100 tonnes of relief goods for organizations like ShelterBox and Norwegian Church Aid. Additionally, bookings for over 90 tonnes have already been received for the coming weeks. Alex Marianelli, the Senior Logistics Coordinator for the World Food Programme’s Nepal Earthquake Response team said that DHL had undertaken a mammoth, tough and thankless job which was critical, handling the deluge of incoming relief aid with commendable speed and dedication.

In Japan this week the Paraguayan Ambassador to Japan, Naoyuki Toyotoshi, presented container shipping line Mitsui OSK (MOL) with a letter of appreciation from Minister of Secretaria National por los Derechos Humanos de las Personas con Discapacidad (SENADIS) Rocio FLorentin Gomez. MOL takes its social responsibilities very seriously and the thanks was for the company’s assistance once again in delivering wheelchairs to children in need of them.

MOL supplied ocean transport to ship a total of 80 wheelchairs from the Port of Yokohama to the Port of Asuncion. The Volunteers Group to Send Wheelchairs to Overseas Children is a certified NPO which collects used wheelchairs in Japan, cleans and repairs them, and donates then to disabled children overseas. The group was established in 2014 and to date has donated 4,320 wheelchairs to children in 21 nations. Ambassador Toyotoshi commented:

"Even when organizations seek to support Paraguay from overseas, their support cannot be realised without transportation. We greatly appreciate MOL’s efforts to assist this project with free transport."

Photo: On Vanuatu villagers survey the wreckage that was their home before the cyclone struck.