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In the context of humanitarian organisations organizations transport is defined as:

“The activities involved in moving supplies from point of origin to internal customers or beneficiaries”.


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 recognized as an essential determinant in providing consistent, quality service to beneficiaries. A good transport system fulfils fulfills 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 Summarizing 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 maximized loads with no breakages or pilferage. A good transport system complements an efficient distribution system.


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 organizations 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 centralized coordination and sharing of assets.


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


The selection process adopted for the acquisition of all services is covered by the organisationorganization's approved procurement policy, processes and procedures.


The criteria for selection will vary from organisation organization to organisationorganization. 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.

  • carrier characteristics and capacity;
  • proven efficiency;
  • timely delivery;
  • known integrity, reputation and reliability;
  • good relationships with others carriers;
  • responsiveness to urgent needs of the organisation organization (if previously contracted);
  • financial viability to cover costs of providing the service;
  • adequate communication systems to facilitate tracking to the vehicle;
  • assets to safeguard organisation organization cargo;
  • ability to provide a multi-modal service, if need be; and
  • presentation of timely reports and correct invoices.

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.

Organising movement

There are two types of transport movement in an emergency:


In normal circumstances the local environment will not always be able to provide all the products and services required to fulfil fulfill the needs identified in an emergency environment. logisticians therefore become responsible for sourcing externally and organising organizing 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 organizations seek service providers with expertise and capacity to handle certain aspects of the movement.


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

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.

During the movement the transport officers will track the progress of the goods and update delivery times accordingly. They will manage the staff involved in the movement and deal with any issues that arise. They will also handle any problems that occur during the movement, liaising with contractors, freight forwarders and shippers as required. The transport office may actually produce the required documentation to cover transit, alternatively they will be responsible for collecting the required documents together for despatchdispatch.

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 organizations 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 item Tracking Application (RITA)(, a commodity tracking tool available on Logcluster website-, a commodity tracking tool available on Logcluster website.

Planning Movements

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.


Factors that influence the decision to charter and the nature of the aircraft chartered:

  • availability of and cost of different types of aircraft;
  • the nature, quantity, weight, size and volume of the cargo Institute All Rights Reserved;
  • aircraft equipment available for handling at for the aircraft and cargo handling available at origin and destination;
  • the distance to be travelled and possible constraints on certain airspace;
  • ability of certain airports to handle particular types of aircraft regarding take off and landing;
  • possible noise restrictions at and/or operating hours restrictions at certain airports;
  • securing landing and over-flight permission.;
  • availability of customs and/or immigration at the airport

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 deliver.

Packaging and labelling for air transport is an important consideration. Transport by all-freight aircraft will usually take place using some form of unit load device, so reducing the need for packaging. HoweverLimited space on aircraft will require packaging, plus cargo, to be within the allowable weights and dimensions for that specific aircraft. Unit load devices vary and the specific requirements need to be coordinated before final packaging to avoid delays. However, the method of loading and unloading and onward transit may still require a strong and durable packaging medium.


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 conditionsThere are many possible variations of available local animals depending on geography, climate, the local economy, and a variety of other local conditions. Advise consulting a local expert.

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.


  • type of insurance: Who and what is covered and to what extent;
  • duration;
  • scope: in-country coverage only? What happens when the vehicle crosses borders?
  • how are high risk areas covered, if at all; and
  • reimbursement process and how long it takes.


 WFP manuals/guidelinesTransportation Manuals