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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder18. Supplies and Transport
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganization of the Supply Chain
View the documentSupplies
View the documentTransport
View the documentReception of Goods
View the documentStorage
View the documentStock Management
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes


· Vehicle fleets should be standardized (same makes and models);

· Ensure there are sufficient drivers, fuel, lubricants, spare parts, tyres, maintenance personnel and facilities;

· It may be necessary to improve access roads, bridges, airport, or other infrastructure;

· A substantial margin of spare transport capacity (10-20%) must be provided;

· With health and community services, assess particular requirements for transporting refugees in a repatriation operation, and/or distribution for vulnerable groups.

International Transport

33. Arrangements must be made in advance with the relevant authorities for priority clearance and duties exemptions.


34. In the emergency phase, supplies from abroad may arrive by air. Provide Supply and Transport Section at Headquarters with an update on the handling capacity of the airport (state of equipment, working hours, etc.) and the list of documents required for import and export of relief supplies.


35. As soon as details of the arrival of relief supplies by sea are known, arrangements should be made for clearance and priority allocation of an alongside berth and/or handling of cargo. In principle, relief supplies should be loaded only on vessels with the capacity for self-discharge. Whenever discharging alongside, they should do so directly onto trucks if possible. Arrangements for onward movement of the supplies and any interim storage necessary must also be made well in advance of the estimated time of arrival of the ship.

National Transport

Transport Networks

36. In many countries, existing transport services do not have a large spare capacity or may not serve the area where the refugees are located.

37. Where a suitable rail network exists, this can be an effective way of moving supplies. However, many railway systems are either congested or short of rolling stock (the locomotives and carriages used by railways) and long delays may be encountered. In most cases, onward movement by road to the final destination will be necessary.

38. Assess rail, road and inland waterway capacity, journey times, reputable transport contractors, freight rates, capacities and facilities at transhipment points (for example transferring goods from ferry or rail to road), and availability of fuel supplies and maintenance facilities.

Evaluate various transport corridors (including reception capacity) for cost and speed Of delivery - even airlifts may not always significantly reduce delivery time.

Road Transport

39. Light vehicles will be needed for staff and for specific purposes such as ambulances, and heavy vehicles for transporting cargo, and for transporting refugees in repatriation operations.

40. There must be appropriate servicing facilities, including fuel, spare parts, and administrative support. Special arrangements, e.g. establishing workshops, may be necessary.

Managing a transport fleet: requires strong administrative skills, good communications and dose coordination With the procuremert and other functions to ensure efficient timing for collection and delivery.

Assessing and planning vehicle needs and servicing facilities is described in Annex 2.

41. Drivers must be given training in UNHCR procedures. A sufficient number of drivers must be hired to ensure that recommended working hours are not exceeded.

Accident rates increase markedly with tired drivers.

A system must be established to monitor and control vehicle use, (see Annex 4 for an example of a vehicle log sheet). For light vehicles, drivers should be assigned to a specific vehicle for which they should be responsible.

42. In some situations, urgent action may be necessary in order to improve access roads. Technical advice will be of paramount importance in deciding how improvements should be made (seek advice through Programme and Technical Support Section at Headquarters). These improvements could be undertaken by the ministry of transport (or appropriate authority), perhaps supported by refugee labour. In some situations, careful briefing will be required about alternative routes in case usual roads are impassable.

43. Vehicles, bicycles, or animal or hand carts could be used for final distribution. Observe how local movement of supplies normally takes place.

Transport Capacities

44. If a commodity is to be transported by truck, the number of trucks needed should be calculated from the following information:

i. The quantity of goods to be transported in weight and volume;

ii. Type of truck available and its capacity in weight and volume;

iii. How long a round trip takes (including loading and offloading);

iv. Time allowed for routine maintenance capacity or time allowed for other known factors (driver breaks);

v. A margin for unpredictable events (such as breakdowns, accidents, bad weather, road and bridge repairs). The size of this margin will depend on many factors including the likelihood of new arrivals and the need to build up buffer stocks near the refugees. In difficult conditions, the theoretical capacity might need to be increased by 25% or more.

45. To give an example for food:

i. The number of refugees served is 30,000 who need 500 g/person/day, which is total 15,000 kg / day, or 15 MT /day;

ii. Truck capacity is 20 MT per truck;

iii. The rainy season journey time from the port of entry to a regional warehouse serving the 30,000 refugees is 3 days out and 2 days back;

iv. One day per round trip is added for routine maintenance;

v. The road surface can take a truck and trailer with a combined payload of 20 MT.

46. Therefore it will take 6 days for one truck to transport one 20 MT load, and 30,000 refugees will require 90 MT of food every six days.

Therefore the theoretically required capacity is for 4.5 such trucks. In such circumstances, it is clear that six trucks would be the prudent minimum.

47. Appendix 2 (Toolbox) sets out the capacities of different means of transport.

Transporting people by road

48. Logistical support will be necessary when transporting people for e.g. repatriation operations or relocating refugees to another site. Ensure there is close coordination with health and community services. Take particular care to look after vulnerable individuals, and minimize any risk of family separation. Passengers must be registered on a passenger manifest, wristbands should be used whenever possible, and water and food provided if it is a long journey. Ensure trucks have safe access (for example ladders).

49. When transporting medically vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women, it is preferable to use buses or ambulances. If trucks must be used, weigh the trucks down with sand bags to minimize the roughness of the transport. If there is a risk that some passengers might have a contagious disease, disinfect the vehicles after the journey.

50. Determine the number of light and heavy vehicles needed. These could include minibuses for 8-12 passengers to transport staff and vulnerable individuals, ambulances or mobile clinics (ask health staff about specifications), vehicles for transporting possessions, and mobile workshops.

51. If a convoy is necessary, plan for escort vehicles at the front and back of the convoy. If the operation involves many journeys over a short distance, consider having roving patrols with telecommunications, in case there are problems or breakdowns.