In South Sudan, an alternative to costly air deliveries is the use of barges along the Nile river. Cargo movements on the river may not be as rapid as in the air however the spacious barges translate into much larger payloads.

Working closely with other humanitarian organisations is at the heart of the Logistic Cluster’s activities. Building on the success of previous years, the Logistics Cluster continues to work with WFP for joint movement of humanitarian supplies. On 30 May, the first barge movement of 2017 kicked-off when roughly 487 MT of WASH and Shelter materials were transported from Bor to Malakal; the barge sets arrived in Malakal port on 8 June.

Barge movements can at first seem like modest operations. Beyond navigation however, the process involves three complex and time consuming stages – loading barges, securing access and cargo reception. Indeed, due to the volume or bulky nature of Non Food Items (NFIs), the first challenge is loading the barges strategically in order to maximise the space. Once full, the barges are not yet ready to navigate: the access to the destination needs to be secured. Securing access includes acquiring the relevant clearances from local authorities for each organisation, finding convoy leaders and negotiating for safe passage of the barges by WFP’s access unit.

Only then are the barges ready to set off.

The last challenge takes place when the barges arrive at their destination – in this case, in Malakal. Cargo reception requires adequate manpower and gear. Certain barge movements even entail an early coordination in order to make storage space available for the arrival of the cargos. Equipped with a fleet of trucks for Common Transport Service (CTS) , the Logistics Cluster coordinates the transportation of supplies from the barges to Mobil Storage Units (MSUs) in the hub – facilitating the barge and common transport services aligns with the Logistics Cluster’s push for prepositioning to take place in key hubs.

The photo on the right provides a good snapshot of barge operations. However, according to the Logistics Officer Issam Abdo, it hardly represents the magnitude of the cargo: what we see is only the load that has been added on top of the barge. Below the surface and out of our sight lie six loading compartment that are filled with Shelter and WASH materials from six organisations.