'Logistics’ is a broad term, referring to an industry bringing together many different skillsets. Likewise, WFP Logistics, the organizations' crucial logistics arm, has expertise in areas ranging from air operations to vessel chartering to land transport. Its skills in one of these areas -- land transport -- won global recognition last week, when the WFP Sudan land transport team received a prestigious international award in humanitarian transport.
The ‘Best Transport Achievement Award 2013’ was presented to WFP Sudan’s land transport team on March 28th in Dubai by Fleet Forum, which every year identifies a humanitarian organization that most exemplifies excellence in one or more 'fleet management' areas. These include road safety, fleet safety, environmental impact, and cost efficiency. Fleet Forum is an interagency organization which works to promote sustainable efficiency and effectiveness in the transport sector in low and middle income countries. The jury was made up of representatives from UPS, TNT Express and Indiana University.
Efficiency in fleet management couldn’t be more important for an organization like WFP, which delivers food to some of the most remote places on the planet. In areas where commercial transport capacity is not available due to security concerns or lack of road infrastructure, WFP uses its own fleet to reach those in need – making optimal running of the Fleet very important.
-Paul Jansen, Executive Director, FleetForum
Humanitarian actors have long faced challenges in reaching the regions of Sudan’s Darfur and South Kordofan. Insecurity and poor infrastructure continue to pose immense difficulties and at times hamper food deliveries. In 2011/2012, WFP made a number of operational changes that contributed to reaching beneficiaries in Darfur and South Kordofan – and it earned the Sudan land transport team 2013’s Best Transport Achievement Award from FleetForum. But first, a few big things had to happen.
Re-organizing the fleet
In the past, WFP fleet hubs across Sudan were individually managed, as if they were independent workshops. The Sudan Logistics Unit saw an opportunity to centralize the management of their land transport network, meaning that Khartoum would oversee all fleet hubs and their assets, maintenance and deployments across the country. This would prove to be an important move down the line.
Securing WFP convoys in Darfur
As an already high-risk environment, WFP requires military escorts by UNAMID-DPKO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Daily coordination between UNAMID and WFP Sudan fleet team led to the opening of new routes which had never before been used, ensuring that WFP was able to reach even more remotely located beneficiary sites.
Opening strategic fleet hubs in South Kordofan
Around the same time, conflict broke out in South Kordofan, leaving an estimated 900,000 Sudanese in dire need of humanitarian assistance, according to reports. Not only were they caught in the crossfires of conflict, but they were scattered across the State in remote areas, making them extremely difficult to reach. Commercial transporters were sought by WFP, yet none were willing or able to reach these locations – due to either the insecurity, the road conditions, or both.
WFP Sudan Fleet Manager Nenad Grkovic knew the team had to act fast if they were to achieve the South Kordofan deliveries. With no commercial transport capacity, WFP would use 30 heavy-duty trucks of its fleet of 97. By April 2012, the team quickly mobilized staff and set-up fleet hubs in El Obeid and Abu Jebeeha, from where deliveries would set out to many remote beneficiary sites. The most experienced of WFP’s mechanics were sent to El Obeid, along with the 30 trucks.
Due to the operating environment, WFP was the first agency to enter South Kordofan and oftentimes, the only one in the region. WFP also assisted humanitarian partners such as UNICEF and WHO, among others, in bringing their life-saving goods to the volatile and unstable area.
Increasing Operational Efficiency
Not only was the WFP Sudan team able to deliver food to over 180 remote locations throughout Sudan, but they were also able to achieve significant cost savings through improved fleet management – amounting to a savings of USD$.07 per metric tonne/kilometre and in average had a truck fleet utilization rate of 79%, which was an 11% increase from 2011. This may not sound like a lot, but for a WFP truck fleet that travelled 1.2 million kilometres in 2012, this translated into annual savings of over USD$ 1 million.
This was done through optimizing idle fleet, closely managing and monitoring fuel consumption, advance planning of spare part requirements using WFP’s central Fleet Management System. Given the context in which WFP operates and the challenging external factors that can hinder food deliveries, a big round of applause goes to the WFP Sudan Team!