Event: Hurricane Matthew, 2016

In 2016, the Port of Haiti was hit by Category 4 Hurricane Matthew. Although small, the port is a vital gateway for the country.

Causes and impact

Hurricane Mathew was the main cause of the disruption and the congestion that followed. Amplifying factors included: (i) Poor infrastructure and construction standards; (ii) insufficient infrastructure maintenance; (iii) limited redundancy such as alternative routes and hinterland connections; and (iv) slow reconstruction progress after the 2010 earthquake. The impact was felt nationally and not just by the transport and trade sectors. Hurricane Matthew brought in its wake large-scale flooding and mudslides, collapsed bridges, widespread crop damage, and destruction of residential, schools, and health facilities, as well as widespread lack of electrical power. In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, infrastructure-deprived Haiti saw a rise in food insecurity, lack of clean water, and cholera cases. Death tolls and damage reports rose rapidly in the days immediately following the hurricane, making Hurricane Matthew the most significant humanitarian emergency in Haiti since the earthquake of 2010. Overall damage to transport infrastructure were estimated at $1.9 million. The flood-related damages and debris and overall power outages in Port-au-Prince disrupted port operations.

Response and mitigation measures

In cooperation with international organizations, such as IFRC and the United Nations, the government responded to the crisis by adopting a coordinated emergency plan, including prompt intervention logistical support for food and non-food primary items, agricultural recovery, shelter, and health measures, especially after the ongoing cholera outbreak worsening after Matthew. A logistics working group was created to work with the government (Logistics Cluster, 2018). Coordination units with dedicated staff in the major logistic hubs, above all at the Port of Port-au-Prince, provided logistics coordination and information management support and facilitated the handling of incoming cargo. A logistics coordination hub in Port-au-Prince was set up, with the primary objective of assessing the requirements, coordinating and facilitating access to common logistics services, including GIS/mapping services and cargo tracking. To support the response efforts, private sector actors, such as the logistics emergency team (comprised of four global logistics and transportation companies: UPS, Agility, Moeller Maersk and DP World) made available logistics capacities on a pro bono arrangement, and provided upstream supply through airlifts and international ocean freight to Port-au-Prince. Inland logistics, such as warehousing space, forklifts and trucks were made available to receive aid and transport it within the country.

In 2018, the port established plans to expand its capacity by: (i) constructing a new wharf (PROPARCO, 2018); (ii) developing new storage areas, buildings and offices; (iii) dredging; (iv) acquisition of new port equipment; and (v) constructing a larger container yard to ensure better physical connectivity. It also intended to improve maintenance works through, among others, improved lighting, upgraded perimeter security and fire systems, better sanitary facilities and potable water supply at the port, as well as achieve higher operational efficiency (USAID, 2019).

Lessons learned and good practice

  • In terms of pre-event preparedness, mapping, engaging with and expanding suppliers, partners and logistics stakeholders around the port’s wider interface can enable an agile participation in the response.
  • Improve understanding and shared awareness of the logistical bottlenecks and transport assets in and around the port.
  • Strengthen international support and cooperation. International support should not, however, inhibit local stakeholders and prevent the formulation and implementation of longer-term strategies.
  • Elaborate risk assessment and risk management plans to minimizing the risks.
  • Set up regional partnerships to jointly face common challenges and provide early warning systems, especially through shared technology investments.
  • Elaborate methodological assessment and guides that help identify the most likely natural hazards and map these against the most vulnerable assets and priority areas requiring mitigation measures.
  • Ensure long-term investment and planning to reduce vulnerability to disruptions, including natural disasters and promote adaptation action in ports.