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A transport strategy depends, not only on the needs within the organization, but varies from organization to organization and from situation to situation. Some factors to consider when developing a transport strategy are:

  • how How to identify transport service providers;
  • how How to manage transport – self managed or third-party provided
  • capacity Capacity of transport modes available;
  • quantities Quantities of goods requiring movement over time;
  • nature Nature of goods/products/supplies to be transported;
  • distances Distances to be covered;
  • environmental Environmental issues such as climate, government legislature, and infrastructure, and;
  • number Number of destinations, hubs and pre-positioning locations;
  • originsOrigins, routes, and destinations;
  • available Available transport modes & their relative costs;
  • human Human resources;terrain;
  • Terrain
  • funding;
  • security; and
  • Funding
  • Security
  • Special circumstances, such as the nature of disaster.

The above factors would be valid for both emergency and non-emergency situations.


The criteria for selection will vary from organization to organization. Some factors that may influence the selection of transport service providers are:

  • carrier Carrier characteristics and capacity;
  • proven Proven efficiency;
  • timeliness Timeliness of delivery;
  • known Known integrity, reputation and reliability;
  • good Good relationships with other carriers;
  • responsiveness Responsiveness to urgent needs of the organization (if previously contracted);
  • financial Financial viability to cover costs of providing the service;
  • adequate Adequate communication systems to facilitate tracking;
  • assets Assets to safeguard organization cargo;
  • ability Ability to provide a multi-modal service, if need be; and
  • presentation Presentation of timely reports and correct invoices.

Organising transport

In emergency contexts, transport can logically be divided between domestic/local transport and international transport. The general concepts around domestic and international transport remain largely the same, however special considerations are required for both.


The aforementioned service providers are all vendors, and as such the regular procurement process for each respective agencies should still be applied. Agencies would do well to obtain multiple quotes, review performance, and incrementally conduct new bid analysis. Criteria for selection of above service providers might:

  • licensed Licensed by the government to conduct customs clearance formalities and be up-to-date on changes in customs requirements;
  • offer Offer a wide variety of services, so that shippers do not need to contract several different companies for different services;
  • own Own or have access to a bonded warehouse to protect and control shipments in transit;
  • own Own a trucking fleet for inland transport and have access to specialized vehicles when needed such as container trucks, low-bed trailers, tankers, etc;
  • have Have trained, competent, experienced and trustworthy staff;
  • have Have a proven record of reliability, accuracy, and timeliness, as verified by references from other groups that have used their services;
  • are Are flexible in their availability at short notice, also outside of office hours and on public holidays;
  • have Have an established reputation and have been in business for a number of years;
  • have Have influence in the transport market, with port authorities, etc;
  • are Are experienced in successfully handling duty exemption arrangements for humanitarian organizations;
  • have Have an office in the port area or nearby;
  • are Are experienced in verifying goods arriving in the port: discharge, storage and loading operations, checking weights and inspecting shipping packages for visible damage;
  • are Are experienced in hiring porters and stevedores for cargo handling;
  • have Have at least a country-wide, preferably a multi-country regional network; and
  • use Use technology effectively, including a good telecommunications system and, preferably, a computerized tracking system that allows visibility of where shipments are at a given time;

Although it is advisable to use an intermediary such as a freight forwarder or clearing agent to handle international movements, it is still important to have a basic understanding of the roles of other third-party service providers involved in international movement. It should be noted that these third parties may be private companies or in some cases state run organizations.


Mode Transport Selection Criteria

Four key criteria:

  • the The speed which the mode exhibits;
  • the The reliability that the mode demonstrates in its ability to fulfill service requirements;
  • the The flexibility that the mode exhibits; and
  • the The comparative unit costs, which the modes incur.

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:

  • required Required delivery date;
  • cost Cost of transport service;
  • reliability Reliability and service quality;
  • shipment Shipment size;
  • transit Transit time;
  • number Number of transshipment points;
  • item Item type;
  • possibility Possibility of damage; and
  • range Range of services.

Matching Operational Factors to the Selection Criteria