Story told to Silke Buhr by Segundo Lopez
The good news was that in early January, a vessel arrived in Tacloban from Vietnam carrying 4,500MT of rice… But the weather was so bad that we couldn’t unload. It was raining all the time, and the winds were strong. We couldn’t unload the rice without risk of water damage, and it was getting urgent. Our colleagues were telling us they were facing a pipeline break. We couldn’t risk not bringing food to people who still urgently needed it, when we had 3,500MT of rice sitting at the port!
We had to find a solution. We had enough space in the hold to put a container inside – if we could get the container in quickly and cover the hold again, we’d be able to load the bags in dry conditions. Unfortunately we discovered that there was a problem with the ventilation system on the vessel - when the hold was closed, there wouldn’t be enough air for the crew to work. So we had get creative.
The first idea was to cover the hold openings with tarpaulins as we worked, but we couldn’t find any available. But there were still plenty of wikhalls – with a bit of adaptation, we could use the roof structure to cover the hold. We brought in some of our logistics colleagues who work with wikhalls every day, and they told us that our idea wasn’t so crazy after all… So we set about putting up the adapted structure. And it worked!
Slowly, we were able to start unloading. Small, 10-foot containers were filled up with about 160 bags at a time – we couldn’t do more because the derricks couldn’t lift more than ten tonnes. It was a slow, painstaking process, taking nearly three weeks in total – but we did it, and soon the rice was rolling out on trucks again directly to the typhoon survivors.
We dubbed the invention an AWS or All Weather Shelter – who knows, maybe this idea will come in handy in other operations in future.
Of course, as soon as the vessel departed, the rain stopped and the weather improved…