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Japan Relief Support Update from ALAN president Jock Menzies

ALAN Japan report March 19, 2011

A week into the Japan earthquake/tsunami response ALAN has had success making some connections both with in country individuals and organizations. It does feel something like trying to see a broad panorama through a straw though this is not unusual for an event of this magnitude.

We have seen the communities which have been devastated in television reports however working though the community of individuals involved in the supply chain/logistics field one realizes that their ranks have suffered equal devastation. An exchange Friday with one of Japan’s major motor carriers had them reporting that 5-600 of their staff and the staff’s families were among the missing and that they were working hard to find their people and reestablish service levels. Extraordinary with that company and with many others ALAN has been in touch with is their willingness to politely and constructively respond in the midst of the challenges they are facing.

ALAN is being very attentive to only try to speak to work and the needs of established relief agencies with appropriate distribution capacity in Japan. We have received volunteer offers including that of a highly qualified logistician based in India with extensive humanitarian relief experience. We have been able to connect some agencies with logistics support resources and see connections being made between natural and appropriate partners e.g. the Aidmatrix Foundation’s connecting Second Harvest Food Bank of Japan and AERObridge and ultimately AERObridge partnering with the Points of Light Institute, a Japanese registered NGO.

AERObridge which was quite active in the Haiti response, more than 700 flights, connects corporate and private aircraft capacity with relief needs. A group that works with and in a similar fashion to AERObridge is AirLink which has access to larger equipment and was established by ISTAT, an association of aircraft leasing companies. AirLink has been offering capacity for both personnel and cargo.

ALAN partner the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) was very helpful with a connection with Ms. Hikaru Kajita who has been providing daily transport situation reporting and links to updated government maps showing transport matters. Other ALAN association partners have also been very supportive in using their networks as a source of information and potential support for responding agencies. I mentioned communities before, there is a subset of the greater logistics community that engages with and knows the humanitarian relief world. We find ourselves reconnecting with individuals who were important resources during the Haiti response. Another community exists on the relief agency side and relief agencies are seen engaging one with another based on trusted relationships that have evolved over years and that have been tested by events.

Larger international logistics companies are active with their relief agency clients and supporting efforts in Japan. We have been in touch with DHL, Maersk/Damco, UPS, and FexEx. While they report their offices functioning they confirm the difficult conditions as you approach the devastated areas. Our conversation with UPS pointed out the obvious, if not the intuitive, when you shut the power off on a rolling basis to an automated sorting system you disrupt operations. The next sentence was, in the best logistics tradition, “It limits but doesn’t stop us.” It was also reported that the staff, while shaken, was energized to “get back to business.” Apparently not at UPS but we have had a report of distribution centers with automated storage and retrieval systems having failed structurally.

A report by a relief group we monitor, Pathfinders Task Force Japan, reports 50,000 of the Japan Self Defense Force and 2000 of the Japanese Red Cross active in relief efforts as of Saturday March 19. They also note a US military response in the thousands as being active. Their reporting as others you will have heard confirm issues with fuel supply and transport capacity. This group also notes 262 aftershocks of more than 5.0 magnitude and concerns and uncertainty about the potential drift pattern of the radioactive plume. Their report is available as a link on the ALAN website and contains a considerable number of related links on its last pages.

We understand from an International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Discussion Group report that airline tickets sold out Thursday and firms hired private jets to move staff out as foreign governments told their nationals to get out of Tokyo, fearing the nuclear crisis could escalate. The United States, Australia and several European nations urged their citizens in the sprawling capital and the quake-hit area northeast of there to leave.

Unleashing the capacity and ingenuity of the supply chain community represents a substantial force as it represents about 8% of the US GDP (down from 18 1n 1980) and in most other countries the range is between 13-15% of GDP. That coupled with the fact that some 85+% of infrastructure and resources reside in the private sector make this an important resource to call on during extreme events. The most important component of the supply chain sector is its operational bias; this group is about right product, right place, right time, right condition, right price day in and day out.

Your help most needed and welcome. Japan’s needs will evolve as the effort moves from relief, to sustainment to economic recovery. The coverage of this calamity will soon diminish but the needs will not so I encourage all who care now to make whatever commitment you make to be one that might be drawn down over time. Additional contacts with relief agencies responding in Japan or logistics professionals in Japan will make our network more robust and valuable to all. Your attention to needs published on the ALAN website will make a difference, they may not be appropriate to your capabilities however your network may include a contact who would have an interest. See http://www.ALANaid.org “Relief Needs.” Please send questions or intelligence ALAN should be aware of to info@ALANaid.org.

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