UN upgrades ports in post-tsunami Indonesia

1 July 2010

A United Nations provider of emergency logistics support has upgraded port facilities and implemented training that will form the basis of a new university degree as part of its long-term commitment to the tsunami-ravaged region of Indonesia’s northern Sumatra region.

The programme, which began in 2005, will conclude this month. It was carried out by the Logistics Support Unit of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the port province of Aceh, where it was sent to coordinate the delivery of reconstruction materials to areas cut off by road and sea in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004.

“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,” says Chris Clark, who led the training component.

The ports are running more efficiently than ever, he said, and “hopefully, that will open gateways to the hinterland, providing easier transportation between the islands, better economic opportunities and improved access to public services.”

The relief programme shifted towards training after it became clear that Aceh's port staff – many of whom were replacements for personnel killed in the tsunami – were in sore need of both training and new equipment. “Even prior to the tsunami, the kinds of skills you needed to run a port were in short supply,” Mr. Clark said.

So, responding to a request from Badan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi, the Indonesian governmental agency responsible for the reconstruction effort in Aceh, the unit crafted the training programme. Since December 2008, it has conducted more than 137 courses on topics from safety and security to human resources to budgeting and accounting.

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

More than 2,000 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, the provincial capital.

Based on those materials, and the experience of students who took part in the course, the university is now preparing a new degree programme in shipping, logistics and maritime studies, which will turn out increasingly qualified graduates to run the region’s ports.

WFP’s Logistics Support Unit 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 such as desks, chairs, modems and computers.

Both the training and office equipment provided were financed through a cost recovery scheme launched during the first phase of the operation. It collected around $2.4 million in shipping fees from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private partners.

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

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FEATURE: Five years after tsunami, Indonesia better prepared for catastrophes

The devastating tsunami which hit Indonesia so hard in December 2004 had two positive effects: it pushed the population to reflect and improve its mechanisms for managing catastrophes, and in the country’s Aceh province it led to the end of a conflict which had lasted 70 years.