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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 maximized loads with no breakages or pilferage. A good transport system complements an efficient distribution system.

Developing a Transport Strategy

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

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

Transport management in emergencies can be a complex task depending on the nature of the disaster. Humanitarian organizations have increasingly begun to tap into the joint transport services as a strategy in emergencies, such as those offered by the Logistics Cluster during emergencies. A joint transportation service is based on a collaborative approach and aims to leverage the advantages of centralized coordination and sharing of assets.

Managing Transport Providers

Humanitarian response organizations have increasingly begun to rely on external transport providers. An external transport provider is defined as any third party who can carry or identify vessels that can carry cargo through commercial means. In the event third party transport providers are contracted, there has to be a structured approach to the selection process, similar to other forms of procurement, 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.

The selection process adopted for the acquisition of all services is covered by the organization's approved procurement policy, processes and procedures. Ideally, contracting should be done in a competitive manner, on market terms, and negotiations undertaken in an open and transparent fashion, thus ensuring cost effectiveness and equal opportunities for the appropriate commercial entities.

There has also been an increasing level of attention to the ethical standards of contractors, including their facilitation and participation what would be considered violations of state and national laws, human rights abuses, or their involvement with parties to conflict. Entities such as ethicalcargo.org provide tools and training to guide agencies seeking ethical cargo solutions.

Criteria influencing transport service providers

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

  • Carrier characteristics and capacity
  • Proven efficiency
  • Timeliness of delivery
  • Known integrity, reputation and reliability
  • Good relationships with other carriers
  • Responsiveness to urgent needs of the organization (if previously contracted)
  • Financial viability to cover costs of providing the service
  • Adequate communication systems to facilitate tracking
  • Assets to safeguard organization cargo
  • Ability to provide a multi-modal service, if need be
  • 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.

Domestic transport movement - Local movements within a specific country will usually involve road transport, however rail, air, river and even at time sea transport can occur in domestic movement. This may involve movement of bulk loads from ports, airports and railyards 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. Domestic transport requires actors to follow all local laws and safety regulations.

International movement - International transport requires the transmission of physical goods across a legally defined international border or boundary, and in most normal circumstances requires undergoing standard customs procedures.  In normal circumstances the local market will not always be able to provide all the products and services required to fulfil the needs identified in an emergency response. Response agencies therefore will source goods externally and organize the transportation of relief supplies to affected locations. To ensure efficiency and compliance with import regulations the organizations seek service providers with expertise and capacity to handle certain aspects of the movement.

Parties to the Transport

When discussing shipping there are general terms universal to transport companies, customs authorities and legal documents.  Generally these terms are:

Shipper - The person or legal entity that is sending the goods from point of origin. The sender does not have to be the owner of the cargo.

Carrier - The person or legal entity that either owns the vehicle or vessel upon which cargo is transported - or "carried" - or has legal responsibility for physically stewardship of the cargo between two points. 

Receiver - The person or legal entity that is duly authorized to receive cargo on the receiving end. Receivers are also sometimes called "consignees," however the term consignee has specific legal meaning in customs proceedings, while a receiver could take possession of cargo through a variety of means, domestic or international.

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Common Terms in General Transport

There are several key concepts that used across all forms of transport:

Shipper 

The person or legal entity that is sending the goods from point of origin. The sender does not have to be the owner of the cargo.

Carrier

The person or legal entity that either owns the vehicle or vessel upon which cargo is transported - or "carried" - or has legal responsibility for physically stewardship of the cargo between two points. 

Receiver

The person or legal entity that is duly authorized to receive cargo on the receiving end. Receivers are also sometimes called "consignees," however the term consignee has specific legal meaning in customs proceedings, while a receiver could take possession of cargo through a variety of means, domestic or international.

Agent A person or legal entity who is legally and contractually designated to act on behalf of a shipper, carrier or receiver. Agents can act in a variety of functions, from handling goods to processing documentation.
Service ProviderAny contracted third-party entity that offers a service, usually on a for profit basis. A service provider may be involved in a variety of activities, including being an acting agent or a contracted carrier.
"Take Possession" When physical goods are transmitted into the direct care and stewardship of one part, be it a transporter, a warehouse, or customs, that party is said to have "taken possession" of the cargo. Taking possession does not mean the party holding the cargo then owns the cargo, they are only physically holding it for their part of the transport process.
IntermodalAny form of transport that changes between two or more modes of transport. Intermodal transport can be facilitated through the use of containerized shipment, however cargo can also be transported through intermodal means simply by directly loading and offloading through a variety of means. 
Material Handling Equipment (MHE)MHE is any form of mechanical equipment used to facilitate the loading and offloading of cargo, or the movement of cargo around an open space such as a port or a warehouse. MHE includes forklifts, cranes, pallet jacks, and more. 
Incoterms

Developing a Transport Strategy

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

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

Transport management in emergencies can be a complex task depending on the nature of the disaster. Humanitarian organizations have increasingly begun to tap into the joint transport services as a strategy in emergencies, such as those offered by the Logistics Cluster during emergencies. A joint transportation service is based on a collaborative approach and aims to leverage the advantages of centralized coordination and sharing of assets.

Managing Transport Providers

Humanitarian response organizations have increasingly begun to rely on external transport providers. An external transport provider is defined as any third party who can carry or identify vessels that can carry cargo through commercial means. In the event third party transport providers are contracted, there has to be a structured approach to the selection process, similar to other forms of procurement, 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.

The selection process adopted for the acquisition of all services is covered by the organization's approved procurement policy, processes and procedures. Ideally, contracting should be done in a competitive manner, on market terms, and negotiations undertaken in an open and transparent fashion, thus ensuring cost effectiveness and equal opportunities for the appropriate commercial entities.

There has also been an increasing level of attention to the ethical standards of contractors, including their facilitation and participation what would be considered violations of state and national laws, human rights abuses, or their involvement with parties to conflict. Entities such as ethicalcargo.org provide tools and training to guide agencies seeking ethical cargo solutions.

Criteria influencing transport service providers

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

  • Carrier characteristics and capacity
  • Proven efficiency
  • Timeliness of delivery
  • Known integrity, reputation and reliability
  • Good relationships with other carriers
  • Responsiveness to urgent needs of the organization (if previously contracted)
  • Financial viability to cover costs of providing the service
  • Adequate communication systems to facilitate tracking
  • Assets to safeguard organization cargo
  • Ability to provide a multi-modal service, if need be
  • 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.

Domestic transport movement - Local movements within a specific country will usually involve road transport, however rail, air, river and even at time sea transport can occur in domestic movement. This may involve movement of bulk loads from ports, airports and railyards 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. Domestic transport requires actors to follow all local laws and safety regulations.

International movement - International transport requires the transmission of physical goods across a legally defined international border or boundary, and in most normal circumstances requires undergoing standard customs procedures.  In normal circumstances the local market will not always be able to provide all the products and services required to fulfil the needs identified in an emergency response. Response agencies therefore will source goods externally and organize the transportation of relief supplies to affected locations. To ensure efficiency and compliance with import regulations the organizations seek service providers with expertise and capacity to handle certain aspects of the movement.

Typical Service Providers

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