The term “adrenaline junkie” has been used to define those rare individuals who, bored with tedium of ordinary life, seek ever more imaginative ways to entertain, shock or even scare themselves. We in the logistics industry are well familiar with this term: it describes an impressive number of us. While supply chain management may seem like a straightforward call to get cargo from one place to another, there are quite a few special circumstances that require for an uncommon level of daredevil nonchalance to accomplish.
The logistics surrounding delivery of essential supplies in areas of extreme climates are nothing short of fascinating. With necessary military installations and research stations nestled in places with unnatural climes, such as the North or South poles, transportation of goods becomes a synchronized effort fraught with complications.
One may imagine air travel to be the most convenient option, but it is at the mercy of frequent blizzards and snow storms which can ground operations for days on end.
The preferred method of cargo transportation in such areas would be billion dollar vessels known as “ice breakers”. While specifically designed to maneuver through the mostly frozen waters safely, icebreakers are still vulnerable to becoming trapped by shifting sea ice blocks, meaning they can only be used along confirmed routes for a few months in a year. Even so, the possibility of being marooned in an vast expanse of ice as far as the eye can see constantly looms, making such excursions the mainstay of few, courageous souls.
Similarly requiring bravery is the delivery of goods to conflict zones and war torn areas. In areas such as our neighboring Somalia or less peaceful parts of the Sudan, humanitarian aid remains greatly in need, with little respite from the warring factions to allow their delivery.
Logistics of getting supplies to civilians takes on new dimensions with logistics firms forced to get creative. Most industry players are advised to keep a low profile, by removing logos and other identifying marks from vehicles, which may invite bandits to attempt to commandeer the vehicles and supplies for personal gain.
Supply chain firms are also encouraged to establish links with local organizations that can be trusted, such as NGOs that have some freedom of undisturbed movement, to deliver the cargo to the needy. One defensive strategy developed has been to make frequent deliveries of small quantities of aid, discouraging military or civilian raids that often befall larger consignments. This has so far proved successful in allowing the World Food Program to deliver aid in Congo. As for the delivery crews that risk life and limb to ensure this precious cargo reaches its intended recipients, we find the word “brave” an inadequate descriptor.
We in the logistics industry must also contend with the wrath of Mother Nature in carrying out our calling. Where natural disasters such as earthquakes have unleashed their devastating might, it is often difficult to establish when it is safe to deliver supplies or help evacuate residents, and yet it must be done. The recent flooding of Lake Bogoria in Kenya remains a volatile situation with the lake likely to flood again and the survivors now sharing the Lake Bogoria National Reserve with a host of wild animals, raising the stakes in human-wildlife conflict.
Delivery personnel to such areas must also risk contracting diseases associated with lack of clean water and proper sanitation witnessed in similar events, as the humanitarian volunteers in Haiti found out from the gruesome cholera outbreak that has persisted for three years now, claiming over 8,000 lives.
With wild animal attacks, super-bugs and the possibility of being marooned with no hope of rescue to consider, it would be safe to say that supply chain management is home to some of the most adventurous souls to walk the Earth. Are you brave enough to sign up?