Transport industry fights the fire

By: Samantha Freestone

The VTA, Linfox, Toll and many other transport organisations are working with non-government organisations (NGO) and government to organise a supply chain for fire victims

The VTA, Linfox, Toll and many other transport organisations are working with non-government organisations (NGO) and government to organise a supply chain for fire victims.

A group has been assembled with eight executives ranging from a community level to Federal Government, to essentially create a transport and logistics service to co-ordinate, sort, store and dispatch donations to fire victims.

Bill Hesketh, who currently represents the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) in its role associated with the group, says it is an effort that could be operational into 2011.

"It is an 18-month to two-year venture. We are currently looking for head-quarters for the warehousing that will [encompass] aid from all eight departments ... we are looking for a centralised warehouse that will needed for at least a year," he says.

The Group Logistics Group—as it has been named—comprises executives from the Department of Human Services (DHS), logistics and supply chain specialists from both Linfox Group and Toll Holdings, VTA representatives and logistics coordinators from the Australian Defence Service.

They have been it talks over the past 10 days to co-ordinate a long-term solution.

"This is on the scale of hurricane Katrina in terms of devastation," Hesketh says. "Over 2,000 homes have been lost.

"We are sitting down to try to coordinate logistics. There is a supply chain flow that starts with the community and then to DHS and then to community support [and beyond]. We are currently looking for logistics coordinators at each location to feed back to the central warehouse".

It is probable that defence personnel will fulfil that role but, says Hesketh, "we are negotiating that now and nothing is finalised".

He says a system is being implemented "from the community right through to the warehouse".

The warehouses are inundated with donations—many of which have not yet been sorted.

"There are containers full of donations and we don’t even know what we have", he says.

As a result, what will be in function, a transport company, will manage the tonnes of goods coming in overtime and deliver it to the families that are in need.

"I am very impressed with the way [the team] are working, and these people are trying to get through [the red tape] to get things moving so they can help people," Hesketh says.

"Today we are 70 percent there towards getting a good system together but until we get computerised systems in place in respect to warehouse management ... it is going to take a fair amount of time.

"The industry is doing its normal job and getting on. People are really putting themselves out."

Victoria Minister for Roads and Ports Tim Pallas says temporary warehousing and storage has also been set up in locations including Traralgon and Whittlesea, with supply of forklifts and other equipment to operate mobile warehousing facilities.

"Beyond the immediate emergency response efforts, the long-term recovery from a disaster of this size will take time. In some cases offers have been taken up immediately, while for others it may take some time for their services to be called upon for the recovery effort," Pallas says.

"The Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority is working hard to plan and implement a long-term strategy to rebuild affected areas. The offers of support are being relayed to the authority, which is incorporating the assistance into long-term recovery plans".

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