Crisis confronted

While there is still more to do in the fight against Ebola in West Africa, the critical logistics provision phase has now passed, and Maersk has wrapped up its USD 1 million donation efforts for the UN’s World Food Programme. According to Group Sustainability, the Ebola crisis presented various logistical and operational challenges, since it spanned international borders.

World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia free of Ebola on 9 May, after no new cases were reported for 42 days or twice the virus’ incubation period. Photo: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA/Scanpix

The Maersk Group has been chosen as a finalist in the Lloyd’s List Awards 2015 for its Ebola response and relief efforts. The award in the Corporate Social Responsibility category celebrates excellence in corporate, social, ethical and environmental activity for global shipping, and seeks to identify the company or organisation that best exemplifies the social and community spirit which is at the core of the shipping industry.

Read more here.

“The Ebola response critically needed logistics support. Maersk and other corporate partners supported the humanitarian aid community in shifting gear to keep up with the huge challenge we were facing.”

Wolfgang Herbinger, Logistics Director from the UN’s World Food Programme, comments on the fact that it has been over a year since the West African Ebola outbreak, which claimed thousands of lives and ravaged the economies of the affected countries, broke out.
Virginia Dundas, CSR Manager from Group Sustainability explains that the Ebola crisis presented various logistical and operational challenges, since it spanned international borders.

“We have assisted the World Food Programme within the response period where we could make the biggest difference in relation to our business operations – at the very beginning when building an efficient logistics supply chain and infrastructure was critical to the affected countries, for the import of relief items,” says Dundas.

Summary of relief efforts contributed by Maersk

  • 81 shipments carrying over 480 containers of food, medicine and vehicles to affected countries
  • 72 dry containers and 11 reefers donated for storage purposes and inland transportation
  • 11,200 tonnes of shipping capacity donated
  • 15 humanitarian organisations supported

As of the end of March this year, the total number of cases exceeded 25,000 with over 10,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation. The crisis has slowed. New daily cases of the deadly disease have dropped to zero in Liberia, and about 30 in Guinea and Sierra Leone, which were the worst-hit countries last year.

In a six-month response period to the outbreak, and as part of a USD 1 million donation drive, Maersk has shipped more than 480 containers of medicine and supplies, totalling over 11,200 tonnes of shipping capacity, to assist countries in fighting the Ebola crisis in West Africa. These supplies have been used by the UN Logistics Clusters under the World Food Programme, and 15 of their partner humanitarian organisations in emergency operations.

While the UN continues its humanitarian efforts in the affected countries, the critical phase of setting up a proper emergency logistics infrastructure has passed. Since the end of March this year, Maersk has agreed with its UN partners to close its response programme.

Highest impact

Currently, efforts by agencies on the ground will be to focus on inland replenishment and reallocation of relief items, rather than emergency shipment of aid from abroad.

To date, none of the Group’s employees in the affected countries have contracted the disease, which is testament to the efforts of local business units to protect the safety of their staff.

George Gyamie Adjei, Managing Director of APM ­Terminals in Liberia, says:

“We have been mindful of the safety and health of our workforce, as we need to keep the port running. The management of APM Terminals Liberia instituted ­stringent protocols geared towards protecting staff and other stakeholders from the virus, such as the distribution of sanitation packs, and a 21-day quarantine rule for any staff or contractor remotely connected to a reported case of transmission.”

“Even though Liberia has not recorded any new Ebola cases recently, we have maintained the same level of vigilance and precautionary measures; because the virus is still extremely active in two of our neighbouring ­countries and therefore we need to guard against ­complacency in order to prevent a potential relapse in the rate of transmission here.”

Proud of the team

Over at Maersk Line, besides temperature checks and sanitisation procedures, efforts include the ongoing evaluation of medical facilities in affected areas in order for employees to have access to both inpatient and outpatient treatment if needed.

Eva Kops, Managing Director of Maersk Line in ­Liberia, sums it up: “I am proud of how disciplined the team has been in dealing with all the precautionary measures and sticking to them throughout this stressful period so that we could all stay safe when going to work. Despite the threat of Ebola, we have a social responsibility to the countries in which we operate. This includes maintaining open trade lanes for both the local economy and the supply of aid and relief cargo.”

“We have been in West Africa for many years and will continue to be, so this is our way of committing to the region.”


Keeping trade lanes open

Besides donating to humanitarian aid, it was vital that trade lanes to Ebola-hit countries remained open so that businesses could continue, and sustained food supplies and products could be provided for the crisis. This is an ongoing process. Efforts by local business units include:

Maersk Line has maintained its weekly calls to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, dedicating four vessels in one specific loop to support trade into these countries.

APM Terminals in Monrovia, Liberia continued operating the port while taking the necessary precautions, under advice of the WHO, to ensure the safety of employees.

In October 2014, APM Terminals Monrovia built and handed over an Ebola treatment centre to the Liberian government. The camp consists of 50 tents for up to 100 patients, as well as 10 tents to be used as offices for doctors and administrative staff. The tents were made using plastic liners donated by Maersk Line. The camp includes showers, toilets, a disposal site and a visitor centre.

To read more, check out the Maersk Group Sustainability Report