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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

Reception of Goods

· Have a single consignee and address and inform Headquarters of any changes;

· Use the internationally accepted marking and packaging standards;

· Inspect goods on arrival and register insurance claims: supplies can get lost or arrive damaged;

· Advance arrangements with appropriate government authorities and freight forwarders will be necessary for rapid handling of supplies from abroad;

· Develop and promulgate a clear policy for customs clearance procedures for NGOs.


52. Ensure offices sending supplies know who the consignee is. The consignee would normally be the Representative, with an indication in brackets of any special instructions, for example "For (name of project/NGO)".

Have the same consignee and address for all items required from abroad for the UNHCR emergency operation.

However, where UNHCR was not previously present it may be better to consign c/o a UN organization already well known in the country, for example UNDP, provided no delays will result. Similarly, there should be a single consignee and address at the camp level.

53. Whether purchases are made locally or abroad, proper packing, labelling, marking are essential. All organizations and donors need to use a uniform system for marking or labelling relief consignments - use the following guidelines:

i. Colour code: the colours used for the relief supplies are: red for foodstuffs, blue for clothing and household equipment, and green for medical supplies and equipment;

ii. Labelling: if necessary the consignment should bear one of the international hazard warning signs (fragile, no hooks, keep dry, etc.). Consignments of medicines should state on the outside of the package the content and the medicines' expiration date and whatever temperature controls are necessary. English or French should be used on all labels and stencilled markings, though another language may be added. It is essential that the final destination (or port of entry) appears at the bottom of the label in very large letters;

iii. Markings: all international or regionally procured goods will normally be marked with the UNHCR project code, purchase order numbers, commodity, packing specifications, port of entry and the consignee. Relief supplies should always be packed by commodity type. Mixed consignments create problems in warehousing and in the ultimate distribution at the receiving end. The colour code recommended loses its value if, for example, medical supplies are packed in the same container as food;

iv. Size and weight: packing units should be of a size and weight that one person can handle (ideally, 25 kg; up to a maximum of 50 kg) since mechanical loading and unloading equipment may not be available at the receiving end.

Advance notice should be sent to the consignee. The following information (preferably in one document) is essential, for safe transport and ease of handling at the receiving end:

i. Name of sender (or "shipper") - normally the Supply and Transport Section in Headquarters;

ii. Name of consignee;

iii. method of transport, the name of the vessel or the number of the flight or truck, estimated time of arrival, port or airport of departure, and name of transporter (e.g. aircraft of shipping company);

iv. A detailed list of contents, including weight, dimensions, and number and type of packing units;

v. A pro-forma invoice or gift certificate showing the value of the consignment;

vi. If the consignment is insured then the type of insurance, name of company, etc.;

vii. The clearing agent, including the name of the person to be contacted in the receiving country;

viii. Instructions or special requirements for handling and storing the supplies.

An acknowledgement should be sent to the sender as quickly as possible after consignments are received, and indicate whether the goods were received in good order and/or there was any loss or damage.

Clearance Procedures

54. The supplies coming in for the operation may far exceed the scope of the routine arrangements between the authorities and the local UN community. Problems and delays may be avoided by discussing in advance the procedures to be followed by UNHCR with senior officials in the foreign ministry, ministry of finance, customs authorities, and airport and port authorities. The aim is immediate release of incoming supplies.

Arrangements for clearance procedures and duties exemptions must be made in advance.

55. Arrangements will need to be made with:

i. The Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) and airport authorities for priority clearances for relief flights (whether international or national) and waiver of fees. These arrangements include: over-flight clearance; free landing rights, air traffic control and parking; priority handling of aircraft and charges at cost for handling services;

ii. The ministry of finance and customs authorities for exemption from duties and taxes of goods and services (such as the tax element of landing fees and fuel tax). Ensure the ministry of finance (as well as the CAA) have been advised in advance of planned airlifts for the operation.

56. UNHCR's cooperation and/or implementing agreement with the government should allow for the duty-free import of all items, provided that they are required for the operation (see chapter on implementing arrangements, and the UNHCR Checklist for the Emergency Administrator). Special duties exemption and customs clearance procedures may have to be developed for the emergency.

Implementing partners' clearance

57. UNHCR can undertake the customs clearance for implementing partners' relief supplies, provided these meet the purposes of the emergency operation. This will allow some control over the arrival of clearly unsuitable goods, and help in the coordination of material assistance.

58. Guidelines should make it clear to all potential consignors that UNHCR will undertake to clear only supplies for which notification is received prior to dispatch and which are considered appropriate. The guidelines should be made available to implementing partners active in the operation and to new implementing partners on arrival.

Guidelines on customs clearance for implementing partners should be drawn up as early as possible in the operation.

A copy of these guidelines should be shared with Headquarters and reference to this general procedure made in any NGO briefings at Headquarters, as well as in the first few general sitreps.

Handling costs and other fees

59. The expenses incurred in customs clearance, handling, storage, and onward movement of supplies belonging to UNHCR should be budgeted for. UNHCR might receive supplies procured by an implementing partner on their behalf, in which case all expenses involved should normally be borne by the implementing partner, and UNHCR will be the "consignee of convenience" (not the "owner" or "donee"). However, in certain circumstances and provided the supplies are items directly foreseen in the UNHCR operation (for example blankets, tents), UNHCR may also meet onward transportation costs.

Inspection and Damage

60. All consignments must undergo a visual and quantitative inspection on arrival (by staff) and some deliveries will be required (under government regulations) to undergo a qualitative inspection by a government designated inspection company.

61. If during the inspection, visible damage is noted, the damage must be clearly indicated on the shipping documents and a claim lodged against the last transporter within three days of receipt of the goods. The claim should indicate the dollar value at which UNHCR holds the transporter fully responsible for the loss or damage. A copy of the claim should be sent to the Supply and Transport Section in Headquarters who will follow up. The value of the loss or damage must include any associated transport costs. If damage is not visible and the packaging is undamaged, transporters will only accept a claim if it is lodged within seven days of receipt of the goods.

Do not accept supplies that do not meet contract specifications.

Headquarters should always be informed immediately of any damage or shortfalls or if the products do not meet specifications.


62. Some damage, whether during transport or storage, is inevitable and considerable sums may be involved in the loss. Internationally procured supplies are insured against loss or damage in transit if their value is over a certain threshold ($200,000 in 1998) or the goods are non-expendable (such as vehicles and computers). Insurance claims must be registered at once.