Nepal dis­as­ter evokes chal­lenges for SCM

The res­cue oper­a­tions car­ried out by sup­ply chain com­pa­nies have pro­vided a glim­mer of hope to the grim sit­u­a­tion in Nepal. The ter­rain poses lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges as pro­vid­ing aid to the re­motest corners of the moun­tain­ous na­tion is not easy. In this sit


The dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake on April 25, 2015 and the re­cur­ring tremors on May 12, 2015 ripped life in Kathmandu Val­ley apart, thou­sands died and many were ren­dered home­less. In a pure lo­gis­tics sense, this earth­quake has done a lot of dam­age to the coun­try that has a tough moun­tain­ous ter­rain. As hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief sup­ply chains are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to trans­port re­lief ma­te­rial to the earth­quake-hit ar­eas in Nepal, Alex Mar­i­anelli, Se­nior Lo­gis­tics Co­or­di­na­tor, Nepal Earth­quake Re­sponse, World Food Pro­gramme says, “United Na­tions has been send­ing re­lief through var­i­ous sup­ply chain com­pa­nies and hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world to the sur­vivors of the quake. Lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles are there due to poor qual­ity of roads that have been re­duced to rub­ble in the quake. The sit­u­a­tion has grown worse due to traf­fic and weight re­stric­tions at the Kathmandu air­port.”

The com­pli­ca­tions in­volved in pro­vid­ing food, medicine along with other es­sen­tial sup­plies is only ag­gra­vated ow­ing to the con­ges­tion at the Trib­hu­van Kathmandu In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Due to cracks ap­pear­ing on the run­way of Nepal’s only in­ter­na­tional air­port, re­stric­tions have been ob­served on the big jets car­ry­ing re­lief ma­te­rial. The strict weight re­stric­tion has added to the chaos as this is the only gate­way for the in­ter­na­tional aid com­mu­nity to send re­lief to Nepal. Talk­ing about the need for co­or­di­na­tion of in­creas­ing sup­plies and en­sur­ing swift and or­gan­ised han­dling of the aid, Chris

Weeks, Di­rec­tor for Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs, Deutsche Post DHL Group in­forms, “The Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Team takes care of a cru­cial part in the re­lief ef­fort chain. When we first ar­rived, we had a big job to do in clean­ing up the con­gested tar­mac area which was filled with re­lief sup­plies – this is crit­i­cal in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion. We im­ple­mented a sys­tem to max­imise the use of lim­ited re­sources for on­go­ing re­lief ef­forts. We also set up pro­cesses to meet the cargo at the air­side to make the nec­es­sary ar­range­ments in the fastest pos­si­ble time.”

Hit­ting the road

Be­sides the con­ges­tion at the air­port, other fac­tors im­ped­ing the speed of de­liv­ery of re­lief ma­te­rial are the lack of nec­es­sary equip­ments and re­sources. Send­ing re­lief ma­te­rial by air has be­come chal­leng­ing and al­ter­nate sources are be­ing de­vised by the lo­gis­tics ser­vice providers. Vishal Anand, Di­rec­tor-North & East, Agility Global In­te­grated Lo­gis­tics in­forms, “The best and the most ef­fec­tive way to move hu­man­i­tar­ian cargo is via road.”

Com­pa­nies in­volved in bring­ing aid are also us­ing roads to dis­trib­ute their sup­plies to the far­thest and re­mote corners of the land­locked coun­try. DP Agar­wal, Vice Chair­man & Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, TCI briefs, “Lo­gis­ti­cally, trans­porta­tion via road is the best avail­able op­tion for Nepal. Though it may take rel­a­tively more time send­ing re­lief ma­te­rial by road, the ma­te­rial can reach re­mote lo­ca­tions door-to-door.” As sup­ply com­pa­nies from all over the world are ex­plor­ing all op­tions and routes to make avail­able the ne­ces­si­ties to the quake-stricken sur­vivors, Agar­wal adds, “With the amount of ma­te­rial (wa­ter, medicines, food) be­ing sent

by peo­ple from across the coun­try, the road net­work is the most vi­able op­tion for Nepal.”

Adopt­ing new routes for get­ting in re­lief ma­te­rial

New ways and means are be­ing adopted for smooth de­liv­er­ies to Nepal keep­ing in mind its moun­tain­ous ter­rain and ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

Deepak Baid, Di­rec­tor, Sid­dhi Vi­nayak Lo­gis­tic ex­presses, “Peo­ple across the coun­try were keen to do­nate items for Nepal re­lief. Ini­tially it was a chal­lenge to cover all ar­eas in In­dia to col­lect parcels, but our team strate­gi­cally planned and com­pleted the process. The trucks are be­ing un­loaded at Rax­aul where the army takes charge of the goods sent. From there the goods will be send­ing for­ward to Bir­ganj where vol­un­teers of re­lief camps will dis­trib­ute them to the af­fected ar­eas.”

There is lim­ited ac­cess to the af­fected ar­eas by both road and air.

Franck De­de­nis, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor for Maersk (In­dia and Sri Lanka) elu­ci­dates, “As train move­ment be­tween Kolkata and ICD Bir­gunj con­tin­ues un­af­fected, In­dian rail­ways has in­creased move­ment of bulk and con­tainer trains on the sec­tor. Maersk Line is help­ing cus­tomers take ad­van­tage of this ar­range­ment, by al­low­ing empty con­tain­ers at ICD Bir­gunj.”

But Lo­gis­tics Ser­vice Providers al­ready op­er­at­ing in Nepal, and wish­ing to pro­vide its ser­vices to the hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mu­ni­ties pro­vid­ing ser­vices, have a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to share. Thomas Mur­ray, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Flash Freight Lo­gis­tics puts for­ward, “We are send­ing es­cort vol­un­teers along with the cargo to the af­fected ar­eas. Land­slides are be­ing cleared by the gov­ern­ment so it helps us to reach the des­ti­na­tions. We are also send­ing cargo in pick­ups as most of the roads are grav­elled in the ter­rain. He­li­copter ser­vices are the only way where one can pro­vide re­lief ma­te­rial to re­mote places; they need not land but just drop the re­lief ma­te­rial where needed.”

Learn­ing from the past

The scale of dis­as­ters like the 2004 South East Asia tsunami and 2010 Haiti earth­quake have in­deed taught a lot about un­seen lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles, the weak­nesses in metic­u­lously planned sup­ply chains and the need for man­ag­ing the var­i­ous sup­ply chain ac­tiv­i­ties in ex­treme volatile con­di­tions.

The speed of re­sponse in a coun­try where in­fra­struc­ture has col­lapsed and the ex­tent to which sup­ply chains turn frag­ile are high­lighted in the af­ter­math of such a dis­as­ter. Mar­i­anelli stresses, “The chaos that fol­lows as a re­sult of dis­as­ter de­spite the re­sponse teams be­ing in place only teaches us about the level of co­or­di­na­tion re­quired be­tween the var­i­ous gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions along with var­i­ous other agen­cies who rush in to give help to the af­fected ar­eas.”

Pre­par­ing for the fu­ture

Nepal is con­tin­u­ously get­ting sup­port from re­lief oper­a­tions by var­i­ous coun­tries that are work­ing in close co­or­di­na­tion with its gov­ern­ment. The dif­fi­cult road net­works are a hur­dle in pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to re­mote vil­lages. The coun­try’s ge­og­ra­phy makes it vul­ner­a­ble to earth­quakes, land­slides and other nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Is­sues like cli­mate change and in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion in pock­ets like Kathmandu val­ley are fac­tors that need to be ad­dressed. As the coun­try learns lessons to tackle such catas­tro­phe in fu­ture, Agar­wal ad­vises, “In or­der to en­sure its own bet­ter fu­ture, Nepal needs to im­ple­ment stronger en­force­ment of con­struc­tion rules. Learn­ing from coun­tries like Chile and Ja­pan, and seek­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion for dis­as­ter risk re­duc­tion, would also be a great step.”

Shoring up sup­ply chain for the fu­ture

As sup­ply chain com­pa­nies aim to pro­vide lo­gis­tics to any part of the coun­try which needs as­sis­tance, the pri­or­ity of the non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing on re­lief oper­a­tions, in close co­or­di­na­tion with the gov­ern­ment, is to help those af­fected with ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties as food, blan­kets, tarps, and clean drink­ing wa­ter. But gear­ing up the sup­ply chain for fu­ture is also nec­es­sary. Anand ex­plains, “Long-term strat­egy will be to work closely with the Nepal gov­ern­ment to build strat­egy to re­ha­bil­i­tate them by build­ing houses.”

That hu­man life is un­cer­tain and pre­car­i­ous is quite ev­i­dent from the var­i­ous calami­ties the coun­try has al­ready suf­fered and is now bank­ing on ef­fi­cient lo­gis­tics for nec­es­sary sup­plies.

Vishal Anand Di­rec­tor-North & East Agility Global In­te­grated Lo­gis­tics

Chris Weeks Di­rec­tor for Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs Deutsche Post DHL Group

Alex Mar­i­anelli Se­nior Lo­gis­tics Co­or­di­na­tor, Nepal Earth­quake Re­sponse, World Food Pro­gramme

DP Agar­wal Vice Chair­man & Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor TCI

Deepak Baid Di­rec­tor Sid­dhi Vi­nayak Lo­gis­tic

Thomas Mur­ray Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Flash Freight Lo­gis­tics

Franck De­de­nis Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Maersk (In­dia and Sri Lanka)

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