The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Each year it distributes some three million tons of foods by air, sea and road, alleviating suffering among victims of wars, other conflicts and natural disasters. And often, even after the actual catastrophe has faded, extensive areas have to be supplied with foodstuffs, sometimes for years on end. Of the 14,000 WFP employees, a full 3,000 work in logistics. “Logistics is a blend of art and science. It brings order to places where others have instilled chaos,” said Ramiro Lopes da Silva during the discussions with BLG in Rome. With the support of their regional and national offices, the WFP regularly examines and inspects potential transportation corridors all around the world. Harbors play a crucial role here. This is because half of all the foods distributed by the WFP will be transported to the troubled regions by sea. “That can only function effectively if the infrastructure and the capacities are on hand in the ports and if we have exact knowledge of the situation,” added the WFP Logistics Manager, Wolfgang Herbinger.
Since 2012 BLG has placed its harbor expertise at the disposal of WFP, which is financed by donations, at no charge. It has carried out detailed analyses of ports in Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Indonesia and, most recently, in northern Madagascar, which is routinely devastated by cyclones. The BLG specialists visit the site to determine whether the marine ports in a region are suitable for transshipment of aid shipments. They collect massive amounts of information and data – including the depth of the water at the quays, the condition of the cranes in the port, and the customs office hours – and then submit all this to WFP, augmented by an assessment of the capacities and suitability of a particular port. They also appeal to local port management, encouraging more detailed planning and preparation. This is because a sudden increase in the volume of incoming cargo is usually accompanied by virtually insurmountable problems. At the WFP, the information assembled by BLG is stored in a database which is then consulted when selecting transportation routes. This database is accessible to all other aid organizations, as well.
“During our conversations in Rome it once again became clear that our port analyses are of great value to the work done by the WFP,” said BLG CEO Frank Dreeke following consultations. “That is why we are absolutely determined to continue to support the WFP with our expertise. We will also be turning our attention to current and potential areas of disruption, subjecting additional ports to detailed analysis.” Right at the top of the WFP list of wishes are Haiti and southern Madagascar, which for years now has been afflicted by drought. In addition, BLG supports the WFP in specific situations, offering its help in optimizing both warehouses and the organization of transportation services.