As we all watch the images on television of the devastation in the Port-au-Prince area of Haiti, the other issues in the world seem so trivial by comparison. This impoverished country is dealing with one of the largest natural catastrophes in history. As many as 45,000 people may be dead. Countless others are injured, starving, thirsty and without shelter, money or clothing.
It is gratifying to see the relief efforts that are being offered by many countries and the huge outpouring of financial aid from around the world. Multiple operations are underway, including flights carrying aid on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
French and German search and rescue teams flew to Haiti Thursday to assist the aid effort there. The teams departed Paris Charles De Gaulle airport Thursday afternoon on a 767-300 aircraft chartered by Chapman Freeborn’s Paris office. Also on board were vital cargo supplies including medicines, purification units and power equipment. Chapman Freeborn Airchartering said it was working around the clock to arrange charters carrying aid supplies from Spain, Germany, the UK and Belgium. Other countries (e.g. Canada, Israel, and Australia) are also bringing support to the country.
However, a demolished seaport, a congested one-runway airport, a shattered communications system, and even questions about how to coordinate the multi-national relief effort delayed the delivery of aid to an increasingly desperate Haiti and highlighted the immense obstacles that lie ahead.
The Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince is largely undamaged, according to a report from Chapman Freeborn Airchartering, but lacks air traffic control and is overwhelmed. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had put a ground stop into place for all U.S.-originating civilian aircraft until 6 p.m. EST on Friday, January 15. Military flights carrying water purifying equipment, medicine and generators have been given priority to land.
A high likelihood exists of extensive airborne holding and diversions due to an overloaded airport. There are currently no slot restrictions, but this is extremely likely to change in the next few days given demand. Limited ramp space and very limited handling capacity is available. An instrument landing system is now operating. Fire cover is now in place. No fuel is available at Port-au-Prince. Carriers must fuel up prior to departing point of origin and so payloads are smaller.
Making matters worse is that supplies cannot come in by sea. Haiti’s main seaport has “collapsed and is not operational,” says Maersk Line’s Mary Ann Kotlarich. The main dock is partially submerged. Cranes that moved containers on and off ships at the port are now partially under water and listing badly. Ships carrying supplies have nowhere to dock. Numerous maritime companies are trying to devise stop-gap solutions, but nothing is in place yet. This is leading to desperation and the threat of violence.
Clearly there is great need for a coordinated logistics and security effort. The situation in Port-au-Prince is very precarious, said Andy James, a spokesman for Chapman Freeborn. “Santo Domingo currently provides a viable alternative to Port-au-Prince,” he said. Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island with Haiti. It is several hours’ drive along difficult roads from the earthquake zone. Santo Domingo airport in the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic provides a viable alternative to Port Au Prince airport.
Aid workers also are calling for more security to get goods distributed in an increasingly chaotic and dangerous environment. An aid coordinator told Agence-France Presse some trucks on the road into Port-au-Prince were targets of hijacking attempts on Thursday.
Clearly there is a requirement to establish a centralized command and control process to bring order out of chaos. The short term priorities are to:
• Develop a comprehensive plan to deal with key challenges this country is facing.
• Provide food, water, security and shelter to those people that have been displaced from their homes.
• Re-establish a communications network in the country.
• Treat the injured and rescue those people who are trapped. Time is running out for people who are trapped and have been without food and water for four days in 35 degree temperatures.
• Remove the decomposing corpses that may lead to the spread of disease.
• Organize a massive clean-up effort
• Develop a plan to channel the donations from around the world to Haiti’s most pressing needs.
President Obama has pledged that the United States will not forsake Haiti. That is a bold statement and it will be a tremendous challenge to follow through on this pledge. Haiti is the poorest country in Western Hemisphere. The per capita income is $660. One percent of the population control 50% of the country’s wealth. Haiti has no oil, gas or coal and demolished much of its forests in its search for energy. Two-thirds of the population are listed as employed in agriculture and only nine percent in industry. The country is plagued by incest and domestic violence, epidemic levels of HIV-AIDS and a host of other problems.
The question is what will happen as the relief effort takes effect and the focus inevitably turns to trying to create a viable economy and life for the citizens of Haiti. Will the other nations of the world maintain their resolve to help Haiti or will they shift their attention to the next area to be hit by a disaster. With Haiti’s shaky political system, will the millions of dollars in donations help rebuild the country’s infrastructure, education, health care system and economy or line the pockets of the political elites? Let’s hope the nations of the world will take this unique opportunity to move this country in a sustainable and positive direction.
Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express.
Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to investors, vendors to the trucking industry, transportation and logistics organizations. All posts by Dan Goodwill