Posted in Consulting

The challenge of humanitarian logistics in disaster relief operations for the Caribbean?

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Here you are, working at a private logistics company that has invested in state-of-the-art technology, heavy equipment, and a fleet of commercial vehicles. And due to a proactive recruiting process and choosing the right freight forwarders, your enterprise with its supply chain and logistics wing, has a winning team and the right infrastructure to deliver customers’ expensive freight on-time, directly to authorized agents in almost every corner of the world. Your ‘Director of Operations’ has countless meetings with his/her team to discuss effective logistics operations, ETA’s, In-Transit and on-time delivery of freight to several ports of discharge. But never in 100 years, would entertain the idea of providing fast and reliable service at cost to customers, let alone for FREE. In business, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ And that expression gets thrown around a lot during difficult times and when a natural disaster happens. High paying customers and the ‘super rich’ determine how resources are allocated in this industry. Therefore, most transport and logistics companies are usually caught off guard when approached and then asked by individual customers to assist at the lowest cost possible during a natural disaster. As humanitarian organizations mobilized to provide relief during a natural disaster, most of the time in a devastating and chaotic environment, it becomes apparent that complex supply chains are needed and become paramount for effective relief in the form of food, water, medical supplies, and emergency aid. Damaged infrastructure as a direct impact of hurricanes, earthquakes, or a tornado, is accompanied with a rapidly changing environment. That new reality should drive the need to optimize those complex supply chains. The outcome would be an adequate distribution system that includes specialized vehicles and equipment to deliver goods and services under a new set of difficult circumstances. Every year, during the hurricane season, I, on behalf of CentEx Cargo, get many calls from a number of potential customers who unexpectedly find themselves in a dilemma. Right off the bat, they inform me that they don’t have much money but want desperately to provide immediate help to people, some of whom are relatives that are in ‘dire need’ of relief in some remote town. Here is the thing, according to the world economic forum on disaster management, more than 250 million people each year will be affected by natural disasters. To make matters worse, the number of natural disasters has more than doubled since 1980 and still on the rise possibly as a result of climate change, population increase, and rapid urbanization. Moreover, natural disasters and catastrophic events need immediate ‘media attention’ to get more concerned citizens like yourselves to get involved and synchronize our energy in the right direction. The only silver lining in all this, is the fact that the frequency of those disasters will compel private companies, NGO’s, and government agencies to work together by forming the necessary partnerships. The objective is a seamless network capable of generating collaborative solutions at a cost-effective rate. It is crucial, however, to distinguish between a private company and a non-profit one/NGO. CentEx Cargo is a for profit entity. Consequently, the main purpose and goal to our contributions is to transport and ship donated goods at the lowest cost possible and provide private sector expertise to established NGO’s that already have a presence in the country where the natural disaster happens. Thus, before you ask for my assistance, you should already have a list of NGO’s that has extensive experience dealing with the government of the country where a given hurricane or earthquake did wreak havoc. Those NGO’s are more than likely capable of applying major discounts and a tax break to your account. Their main mission should be to subsidize some of the crucial services you are going to need on the ground in Cayes, Haiti for instance. There are always budget constraints as an economic reality even when private citizens are lending a helping hand to people in need.

As stated previously, the number of natural disasters has more than doubled in the past decades, and will continue to rise. And for that reason, I am continually looking for feedback from concerned citizens, interested parties, CEO’s of NGO’s, and Supply Chain and Logistics Directors to create a much better ecosystem for the entire Caribbean. This way, all of us can be sure to have a better, faster, and cohesive response to natural disasters

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