Logistics Team Upgrades Ports on Tsunami-Struck Sumatra

A successful operation to bolster Indonesian ports after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami wraps up in July with a hand-off of means and supplies to local authorities. The WFP Logistics Support Unit trained over 232 port managers and set the ball rolling on a new degree programme at a local university.

ACEH – Shipping in the Aceh region of northern Sumatra has come a long way since the WFP Logistics Support Unit (LSU) arrived there in the aftermath of the tsunami. Brought in to coordinate the delivery of reconstruction materials to areas cut off by road and sea, the LSU’s mission evolved into one of capacity building to train and equip staff at 18 of Aceh’s most important ports.

With the mission’s end in sight, Chris Clark – who lead the training component – says that the ports are running more efficiently than ever.  “Now we have 232 management-level personnel in 18 ports with basic training and all the skills and know-how you need to run a small to mid-sized shipping facilities.”

“Hopefully, that will open gateways to the hinterland, providing easier transportation between the islands, better economic opportunities and improved access to public services.”

loading a wfp boatLogistics prowess

As the UN’s frontline provider of emergency logistics support, WFP launched its sea delivery operation on Aceh in 2005 as part of the post-tsunami relief effort.  Clark said that over the course of the operation, it became clear that Aceh’s port staff were in sore need of training and new equipment.

“Even prior to the tsunami, the kinds of skills you needed to run a port were in short supply,” said Clark. “The systems and technology were rudimentary, and they weren’t collecting enough data to be able to plan ahead.”

When the first phase wound down in 2007, the Indonesia governmental agency Badan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi (BRR) responsible for the reconstruction effort in Aceh asked WFP to help train Aceh’s port staff, many of whom were replacing personnel killed in the tsunami.

Comprehensive training

“To design the course, we started out with a simple questionnaire to see where we stood in terms of skills and experience. Based on their answers, we developed modules that covered every aspect of port management, from accounting to how to offload a ship."

Between December 2008 and July 2010, Clark and his team taught over 137 courses on topics from safety and security to human resources to budgeting and accounting. Over 2,040 trainees attended courses in both English and Bahasa with a wide range of learning materials, from training manuals to videos, which have now been handed over to the University of Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh.

wfp boatBased on those materials, and the experience of students who took part in the course, the University is preparing a new degree programme in Shipping, Logistics and Maritime Studies that will turn out increasingly qualified graduates to run the region’s ports.

The last module of the training programme ends on July 9 with a programme which teaches port staff how to use basic record-keeping tools, like computer spreadsheets, to forecast shipping traffic.


In addition to imparting a wealth of logistical knowledge, the LSU has also handed over a large amount of equipment needed to run the ports, including 16 forklifts, two reach-stackers for unloading ships, six trucks and office supplies like desks, chairs, modems and computers.

Both the training and office equipment were financed through a cost recovery scheme launched during the first phase of the operation, which collected around USD $2.4 million in shipping fees from NGOs and private partners.

Justin Smith
(30 June 2010)