|Category:||Caring for Communities|
|Tags:||distribution, global disaster relief, Haiti, logistics, planes, planning, UPS Foundation, volunteerism|
Watching the pictures of the hungry people of Haiti, it’s easy to wonder why food and water aren’t yet accessible everywhere. After all it’s been nearly a week since the quake, thousands of relief workers are on the ground, and people around the world have donated money and supplies.
The reason is logistics. The Haiti relief supply chain is global and complex. Chip Chappelle, an Atlanta-based UPS transportation manager, is spending nearly 24 hours-a-day trying to coordinate shipments of life saving food, water and medical supplies. On top of the usual complexities of international trade, these deliveries are all hampered by broken infrastructure, limited equipment, shifting supply origins and conflicting information.
Chip is talking to his logistics counterparts at these relief agencies – in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the Dominican Republican and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He’s in touch with The UPS Foundation who has built long-term strategic relationships with the disaster relief agencies. And he’s talking to one UPS employee who is on the scene as a private volunteer.
Today, Chip has been focused on getting the supplies to UPS flights. There are truckloads of bottled water in Florida. High-energy biscuits are in Norway. Donated underwear is in North Carolina. Blankets, tarps, water cans, tents, and hygiene kits are in route from Utah to Miami in a truck. Other food is spread around Europe traveling to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
It’s pretty easy to load up a UPS plane with relief goods and get as close as the Dominican Republic, where we have a regular daily scheduled flight. It would be easy to just unload the pallets and crates on the tarmac and fly away. But Chip won’t do that. “I have to know that there’s someone there to pick up the right paperwork to get it through customs, some place safe to sort it, and trucks and drivers to get it across the border to the relief centers. I have to know it will get to the Haitian people.”
In logistics terminology, it’s called the challenge of delivering to “the last mile.” Without planning, one distribution center might end up with all water and no food; another may have blankets and no water. If the goods get there too early, security might not be on site to protect it.
Behind Chip, more than 100 UPSers are checking the availability of ocean containers, identifying space available on ocean vessels and UPS planes, preparing the customs documentation required to fast-clear the shipments, and locating the trucks and rail space that might be required if the goods are in the U.S. and need to get to ocean ports in Savannah or Miami.
Chip is taking his signals from the relief agencies themselves who know where their supplies are being stored, packed in pallets, and prepared for pickup. He’s also getting information from UPSers on the scene. He knows from UPSers in the Dominican Republic that Santo Domingo has become a de facto logistics center for relief into Haiti. The reason is that the infrastructure is undamaged. Ports and airports are operating efficiently and the government is streamlining importing processes for relief shipments. It’s a 6-10 hour drive across rugged mountains to get to Port-au-Prince. Trucks and drivers are in short supply as are workers to unload goods. Congestion is growing, especially at the border where the military is recommending that armed security forces accompany each truck convoy to protect its precious cargo. Chip knows that storage space is also being snapped up and that tents will have to be used as warehouses.
In Port-au-Prince, secure storage facilities and distribution centers are still being established. The airport is now secured by the military and more relief flights are landing and taking off but fuel remains in short supply. Unloading equipment is there but is rudimentary.
For Chip, this mission is personal. He is doing what it takes to get the right supplies to the people who need them right now – the people of Haiti.