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In the context of humanitarian organisations transport is defined as:
“The activities involved in moving supplies from point of origin to internal customers or beneficiaries”.
The aim of transport is to physically move supplies in a reliable and safe manner, on time, cost effectively and efficiently to its destination.
The rapid growth of technology and the changes in the delivery of humanitarian aid has done little to change the fact that relief supplies still have to be collected and delivered.
Historically, the transportation of supplies has been regarded as an ancillary function of little or no central importance. More recently, efficient transportation has been recognised as an essential determinant in providing consistent, quality service to beneficiaries. A good transport system fulfils three of the "rights" of supply. That is, getting the goods there at the right time, in the right condition and in a cost effective manner. Summarising this thinking into a series of actionable steps, and successfully implementing those steps, will ensure timely and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. Goods will arrive as scheduled, at the right price, in maximised loads with no breakages or pilferage. A good transport system complements an efficient distribution system.
The Role of Transport
The role of transport is to facilitate the movement of goods. This may be from points of manufacture, storage or pre-positioning, to points of use; or between hubs and distribution points; or hubs to end use; or distribution points to end use; or return from end use back to hub and pre-positioning points or manufacturers. The source and destination may be in the same country, or one may be in a different country requiring international movement.
Transport in Emergencies
Transport management in emergencies is a complex task depending on the nature of the disaster. How it is structured is very dependent on the state of the infrastructure, security in the area of disaster, demand, nature of product etc. More and more, humanitarian organisations are beginning to tap into the joint transport services when they are offered by the Logistics Cluster during emergencies. The service is based on a collaborative approach and aims to leverage the advantages of centralised coordination and sharing of assets.
Operations - Transport Strategy
A transport strategy depends, not only on the needs within the organisation, but varies from organisation to organisation and from situation to situation. Some factors to consider when developing a transport strategy are:
The above factors would be valid for both emergency and non-emergency situations.
Managing transport providers
Occasionally the need arises, or the decision is taken to use external transport providers. In this event there has to be a structured approach to the selection (see contracting) and subsequent monitoring and control of the provider or providers selected. There are a number of important issues to be considered to ensure that a reputable provider, who will provide the required level of service, at an acceptable cost, is sourced.
Point to note
The selection process adopted for the acquisition of all services is covered by the organisation's approved procurement policy, processes and procedures.
Criteria influencing transport service providers
The criteria for selection will vary from organisation to organisation. Some factors that may influence the selection of transport service providers are:
For information on International Trade, see International Commercial Terms used in international contracts of sale: INCOTERMS 2000 , INCO terms explanation, INCOTERMS narrative, INCOTERMS practical application chart.
There are two types of transport movement in an emergency:
1. Local transport movement
Local movements within a specific country will usually involve road transport. This may involve movement of bulk loads from ports, airports and railheads to warehouses and depots, bulk movements between facilities such as warehouses or depots, or delivery of smaller consignments from a local warehouse or depot to end users at a number of destinations in an area.
2. International movement
In normal circumstances the local environment will not always be able to provide all the products and services required to fulfil the needs identified in an emergency environment. logisticians therefore become responsible for sourcing externally and organising the transportation of relief supplies to affected locations. Often the relief supplies come from other countries and have to go through various processes before they are received. To ensure efficiency and to allow the logisticians to focus on their core job, the organisations seek service providers with expertise and capacity to handle certain aspects of the movement.
Criteria for selection of above service providers:
Planning and Scheduling Movement
Routine movements, taking place on a regular basis, need to be planned at the outset. Non-routine movements occurring on an ad hoc basis will have to be planned as and when the need arises.
Ideally movements should be planned and managed by a transport office. This office will be responsible for determining the appropriate routing for the goods, allocate resources (own or contracted) and inform the destination of estimated delivery time.
Once movements have been planned and are initiated, it is important to maintain an information flow between all parties involved to ensure the safety and security of the goods and the adherence to service promise. In environments within which humanitarian aid organisations operate, many events can impact the efficient movement of goods. In natural disaster or conflict zones, the risk to the movement is potentially high. Having up-to-date information on the status of the movement allows problems to be quickly identified and dealt with.
See The Relief Item Tracking Application (RITA), a commodity tracking tool available on Logcluster website.
Movements in a national context can usually be managed more closely than movements between or across countries. National movements can be usually planned and co-ordinated more easily.
International movements will often be managed by one or more third parties, working in different time zones and in different languages. Often, international movements are planned and managed by a freight forwarder or logistics service provider. They will work within the broad plan to meet the client requirements in terms of movement time and routing.
Planning sea movement
In planning movements by sea, port capability and the control of port activity needs to be understood in order to assess any possible constraints that could impede the movement of goods. The following factors will indicate the suitability of a port to handle the planned movements:
Where the movement of goods is to an area under the control of the local public authority, a clear understanding of the requirements covering movement of goods must be gained from the appropriate authority prior to initiating any movement.
Route Planning and Scheduling
For effective route planning and scheduling, the transport officers need to be involved in the development of the distribution plan or at least be aware of it and understand it. Vehicle routing and scheduling process needs to fulfil the following objectives:
Mode of Transport
A mode of transport is the means by which goods and material are transferred from one point to another. The basic modes of transport are:
See below a mode comparison matrix for different modes.
Table 1: Criteria of different modes of transport, from Fritz Institute
To download the table, 'right click' on it and then choose 'Save Image As' from the menu or go to Annexes and click on 'Comparison matrix for transport modes'
In emergencies, the criteria of speed and reliability must be
examined when considering the choice of mode. Different modes have
quite different characteristics and will meet the
speed/reliability/cost criteria to varying degrees. The appropriate
mode must be carefully selected if it is to match all the requirements.
Multi-modal solutions may provide the most effective and efficient
Mode Selection Criteria
Four key criteria:
Speed and reliability will have a major impact on the ability to deliver humanitarian aid effectively and efficiently to where it is needed.
Other considerations in the selection of a transport mode are:
Matching Operational Factors to the Selection Criteria
It is important to use a structured approach to mode selection. It is important to understand the following points :
- Air Tranport
(see also Operational Environment)
In emergencies, and especially flooding and conflict situations where road access is difficult, air transport is often the alternative.
Air transport can be provided through:
Sending Goods by Air
The air waybill (AWB) is the most important document related to
airfreight. Its completion is regulated by IATA definitions. Each AWB
has a unique identifying number, the first part of which is the IATA
airline code number. The AWB is the carrier’s receipt by air, evidence
of the contract of carriage and is usually non-negotiable. It is made
out to a named consignee who is the only party to whom the carrier can
- Road Transport
Use of organisation's own vehicles (own account)
organisation decides to acquire its own vehicles, there are a number of
areas to be considered. The type of vehicle, in terms of the
chassis-cab and the body type, needs to be determined. The nature of
the operation may also require that mechanical handling aids need to be
incorporated into the overall vehicle specification
The advantages of owning vehicles include:
A major disadvantage
Management of the transport
function can occupy a great deal of management time, requires specific
expertise and significant capital investment. In contrast, third party
carriers can often provide more cost-effective transport facilities but
careful consideration must be given to the level of service required.
Third party advantages and disadvantages
if an organisation owns its vehicles, there may well be occasions when
a need arises for additional capacity, to meet peak activity or other
short term needs. This can be met by the use of vehicles supplied by a
commercial transport provider (third party).
Selecting vehicle types
is important to be able to select the appropriate vehicle for the
purpose required even if, at a later stage, it is necessary to revise
this choice to reflect availability in the field.
Selecting the body type
The specification of the vehicle body will vary according to the goods or materials being carried and security. There are many variants of body type available; a description of the main body types is shown below.
Table 2: Selecting the body type.
The simplest and cheapest body type is the
platform or flat bed. It provides all round access to the load, but
offers little security or protection from the weather. Loads also need
to be restrained. This will generally involve roping and sheeting,
which is a time consuming operation.
or box body reduces the payload of the vehicle, but provides protection
for a perishable product and added security. Construction will depend
upon the needs for insulation, waterproofing or strength. Access is
usually provided by a rear door. Sometimes a door will be built into
one, or both, of the body sides.
Curtain sided bodies
bodies overcome the disadvantages of access, since the curtains
can be pulled back to reveal the full length of the platform. This
improves the speed of loading as well as unloading. Advantages of load
restraint and weather protection are maintained, while body weight is
less than the box body. Other variants will replace the curtains with
Tankers are designed to carry
powders or liquids. They require a pumping mechanism and piping to
discharge the load.
carriers are generally built as box bodies without the roof. They will
require a tipping mechanism to allow the load to be discharged.
rigid master truck with a drawbar trailer is the usual configuration.
The bodies may be of the demountable type. Drawbars offer increased
cubic capacity for bulky lighter loads.
Road transport documentation
Whether the vehicles being used are owned, hired or are managed by a third party, it is important to ensure that all local laws relating to the licensing, insurance and regulation of vehicles are being adhered to :
Transport contract and considerations for a transport contract (see Procurement Annexes).
- Sea transport
Sea transport is convenient for bulky pre-planned consignments. In the early days of emergency situations, sea transport is not used to service immediate needs in rapid on-set disasters but more to pre-position or serve post disaster and longer term needs. The key document used in shipping is the bill of lading (B/L). Logisticians should familiarise themselves with it.
Bills of Lading
The B/L is the transport waybill for a sea freight consignment. It is usually issued in a set of three originals and several non-negotiable (N/N) copies. The B/L is signed on behalf of the ship owner by the person in command of a ship or the shipping agent, acknowledging the receipt on board the ship of certain specified goods for carriage. It stipulates the payment of freight and the delivery of goods at a designated place to the consignee therein named.
The B/L is the major shipping document and has three roles.
The B/L states to whom and on what terms the goods are to be delivered at destination. Without an original B/L the goods will not be released. The usual way to get the goods without the presentation of the original B/L is the establishment (by the consignee's bank) of a bank guarantee covering the value of the goods. Such guarantee can only be cancelled by remittance of the original B/L to the bank. It is sometimes possible, at the discretion of the carrier, for the consignee, holding a copy B/L to sign a Letter of Indemnity in return for delivery of cargo. On receipt of the B/L it should be passed to the party responsible for clearing the goods. Once the vessel has docked and the goods have been unloaded, the B/L and appropriate customs documents will be required to obtain release of the goods for onward transport.
Terms of the B/L
There are three different entries possible in the box headed “CONSIGNEE”:
The Straight B/L may be assigned by means of a document instrument in writing, evidencing the assignment, which the assignee must present to the master of the vessel together with the original B/L when he collects the goods.
On a straight B/L, the term "to the order of" printed on standard B/L must be crossed out, and the deletion initialled by both the shipper and the Master.
A Clean B/L is a B/L, which contains nothing in contradiction to qualify the receipt on board of the ship, the goods in "apparent good order and condition". Goods may sometimes be ‘received alongside’, which can result in a delay prior to the physical loading of the goods onto the vessel.
An Unclean B/L is a B/L containing notation that goods received by carrier were defective.
The Through B/L is issued when a shipper wishes the carrier or shipping line to arrange for transport to a destination beyond the port of discharge. The through B/L, in addition to the agreement to carry goods from port to port, includes a further journey (by sea or land) from the port of ship's destination to a distant place (for instance, a destination inland instead of a port). See INCOTERMS 2000 , INCO terms explanation, INCOTERMS narrative, INCOTERMS practical application chart.
- Rail transport
Rail transport is a safe land transportation system when compared to other forms of transportation. Rail transportation is capable of high levels of passenger and cargo utilization and energy efficiency, but is often less flexible and more capital-intensive than highway transportation is, when lower traffic levels are considered. Rail transport costs less than air or road transport. It is very suitable for the movement of large load sizes over longer distances, but it has the following disadvantages:
Documentation for movement by rail is controlled through the rail waybill. The rail waybill is a non negotiable document. It contains the instructions to the railway company for handling, dispatching and delivering the consignment. No other document is required expect for international transport across borders, where enquiries should be made locally as to the proper documentation needed.
- Other modes of transport
Other modes of transport especially valid for emergency situations and remote under-developed areas are:
The goods being moved must be packaged in relation to the weight that the particular animal being used can carry. For information, the table below shows the animals used most frequently in such situations and their approximate work rates. These may vary locally because of climatic or other local conditions.
Barges and boats
Where road and rail transport is not possible due to lack of
infrastructure it may be necessary to transport goods by river. This
mode of transport also suits bulk shipments of commodities. This will
often be done using motorised barges or similar vessels. Goods can be
loaded and unloaded using jetties and quayside facilities. In some cases
they may be unloaded from seagoing vessels direct for onward transit.
Administration - Safety and security of goods to be moved
Legislation and regulatory frameworks for transport usually include a specific requirement for vehicle safety. Most humanitarian organisations also lay down safety and security policies that need to be followed. Requirements will include the vehicle weight, the way it is loaded and how the load is distributed.
Drivers and operators of vehicles are responsible for using a vehicle on the road with a safe and secure load. Legislation will often state that, in transit, the drivers have full responsibility for the safety of their load, even if they did not load it personally. Even if, in some countries, the legislation is not implemented, respected or followed, every effort must be made to ensure that the organisation’s drivers are following the legislation that has been laid down.
Avoiding in-transit theft
A thief intending to steal a loaded vehicle requires:
Consequently, careful recruitment and selection of drivers is critical. Training will impress upon them the need for care, and procedures to follow to avoid risk of theft. Driver identification cards can be used for added security and to avoid thieves gaining access to vehicles by misrepresentation when parked on third party premises. However, there is little to prevent deliberate collusion by drivers. Vigilance is essential and attention to any pattern of discrepancies on loads.
Insurance is required for both the load and the vehicle. Insurance for the load may be covered by the overall shipping terms, if the road transport is performing an onward shipment for example. In other cases the load may be covered by a blanket insurance policy. It is advisable to confirm the insurance status and requirements with the sender/owner of the goods to be moved. Necessary precautions must be taken to avoid theft and loss.
The risk of using a transport provider in the required area must be assessed and the appropriate insurance taken out. In moving goods through the use of third party providers, as part of a humanitarian aid initiative, there will be potential risks attached in terms of theft or loss of the goods. It is necessary to understand the level of insurance that the provider will offer to cover the goods it carries on behalf of its clients. Often if any insurance cover is offered, it will be fairly nominal. It is important, therefore, to ensure that the goods that the third party provider is carrying are properly insured.
The cost of this may be influenced by the reputation of the haulier. In setting up contracts with providers, it is important that the situation on insurance be clarified and if appropriate, incorporated in the contract terms. If there is any doubt as to the cover provided, advice from the organisation's office handling insurance should be sought. If insurance costs differ for transportation provided by different hauliers, these should be included in the overall cost comparison matrix.
Things to look out for: