On the evening 19th December the MV JATIWANGI PB 400 arrived in Malahayati Port from Batam to discharge 41 x 6 meter fully loaded containers and 50 x 6 meter empty containers. This was the first time that commercial containers had 'crossed the rail' in Malahayati Port since the site devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
In the years following the tsunami, WFP's Logistics Support Unit and teams from other international organizations, businesses and government agencies have worked to rehabilitate the port. Situated between Lhokseumawe and Banda Aceh in the Aceh region of Indonesia the port is the gateway to Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar. Officially opened in 2008 to commercial traffic the container offload is a first for the port which hopes to gain in prominence alongside neighboring Lhokseumawe Port and the main regional Port of Belawan in North Sumatra.
As part of a government initiative to reduce commercial truck traffic along Aceh's narrow roads, Malahayati Port has seen various improvements including the construction of a cement plant and silos, grain storage silos, warehousing facilities and, more recently, a bitumen storage plant. The port can handle bulk, break bulk, unitized, palletized and now containerized traffic making it an excellent point of entry for raw materials essential to the reconstruction of Aceh. Imports include sugar, cement, bitumen and fertilizer while exports primarily focused on the developing agricultural exports including the region's specialty exports, coffee and cocoa.
In addition to reconstruction activities, WFP teams have also provided Malahayati and Lhokseumawe Ports with heavy equipment to facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo. Forklifts, all-terrain Manitou forklifts and Kalmar Reach Stackers are currently in service in support of vessel operations and managing cargo in and around the port. While containerized shipments are still unloaded using hooks and cables refinements in techniques and the use of the new equipment should considerably reduce cargo handling and vessel port dwell time.
WFP has also provided training to over 2,000 individuals from 18 ports in Aceh and Nias in 22 maritime courses covering a wide range of port and shipping related disciplines through its Port Capacity Development Training program. Port management, marine services, warehousing and numerous other skills have been taught as both introductory and refresher courses. Chris Clark, Head of WFPLSU in Aceh, commented that, "the strong commitment of the students makes it easy to move through the coursework."
Future plans for the port include the import of cattle and livestock as well as increasing the amount of traffic to Aceh, Nias and nearby islands. With the ongoing support of the WFP Logistics Support Unit the port and its facilities will continue to develop which should enable the still recovering region to flourish grow.
Special thanks to Chris Clark, the entire WFP Logistics Support Team and WFP Indonesia!