Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nicaragua, Rio Coco navigation conditions during food transportation op.

In this brief post I would like to share this interesting video prepared by UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Nicaragua to promote their humanitarian activities.
I was in Nicaragua (post dated Sept. 2nd 2009) in February 2008, conducting a Security Risk Assessment for WFP. Part of my job was assessing the navigation conditions, providing recommendations according with the Minimum Operating Standard Security (MOSS) adopted generally by the UN. The difficult part was connected with the applicability of the MOSS to rented vessels, not UN property. I could not force the owners of the boats to buy and install all the prescribed safety features (fire extinguishers, GPS, life vests, HF radio etc). Yes one could argue that the Organization could choose a different provider with better equipped vessels. Well, in these areas often there is only one provider, the boats are very basic and navigation can be dangerous. The high quantity of floating debris is another element to be considered while planning the operation. Said that, the staff adopt a security posture and bring own equipment (where possible) in order to mitigate the risk.
In this video the boat (Hercules) has been purchased by WFP and it was properly equipped. It seems to be too heavy and large to be able to reach the remote areas in the Rio Coco region, while it could be useful in the sea or segments of river wide and deep. Hercules have been replaced eventually with smaller and more efficient boats. These new boats comply with the safety rules. During emergencies, by the way, it could be possible that rented vessels can be used due to the dimension of the operation.
Very interesting the food cross loading operation. The community who is helping transporting the food from one point to another of the river is not the final beneficiary. Communities help themselves.
My navigation experience on Rio Coco, one entire day, was conducted on board of a rented smaller boat maneuvered by two very skilled local operators. The food delivery was successful. I am sure my visit helped to increase the navigation safety and security awareness among staff and local boat providers and I believe better safety features have been then adopted.

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