The earth shook in northern Pakistan on October 8th and in the end an earthquake had killed more than 73,000 people as well as leaving about three million homeless at the beginning of winter. Humayun Qamar, CEO, of the Karachi-based Aeroceanetwork member SeaNet Shipping & Logistics sprang into action both personally and with his company’s resources.
Taking immediate leave from work, Humayun put his logistics skills to work for the good of his countrymen. ‘For the first month the disaster was so big we spent days without sleep,’ said Humayun. He worked on relief efforts initially with the Pakistan Airforce (PAF) and then for Eidhi, a local NGO whom Humayun trusted.
People with Logistics backgrounds and entrepreneurial skills were desperately needed in these relief efforts and this is exactly what Humayun Qamar and SeaNet could offer. ‘My duty was to buy all the goods and transport by the collected monies,’ said Qamar, ‘My first major task was purchasing tents, blankets, feeder bottles, and medicine.’ Qamar’s job didn’t stop at purchasing. ‘It [the relief aid] had to be organized in a way that every 40’ container that we accumulated had to contain a full packing list with all items marked,’ explained Humayun.
As most of the relief goods came from overseas there was customs clearance to be done on the goods and transport to the quake-effected regions. ‘We did many customs clearances for free,’ said Humayun, speaking on behalf of SeaNet, ‘and [we] helped overseas companies willing to donate to the right NGOs.’ SeaNet Shipping & Logistics also involved itself in the trucking of the goods from ports and airports in Karachi some 1,500 kilometers to the disaster sites. Some of the organizations Sea Net cleared or transported for included the Red Crescent, the United States Air Force and Direct Relief for Pakistan Presidents Fund.
The actual trucking in the end was quite tricky, according to Mohammad Aamir, Sea Net Shipping & Logistics’s business development manager. He claimed that many truckers became greedy and took up profiteering, charging up to 300% of the normal rate for hauling. ‘It was very difficult to arrange trucks. They charged too much,’ said Aamir, ‘But we had a way out. We worked with the police as it was declared a crime to charge more [than the going rate].’ Even still, trucks were still scarce. The government helped work things out with the relief effort organizers. ‘Even when we required trucks the government helped us confiscate from profiteers,’ said Mohammad Aamir, ‘They simply used their trucks by force.’
Humayun Qamar and Mohammad Aamir are happy that things are beginning to return to normal but as things are in routine now for them but in the quake-stricken areas there is a long way to go. The international community has pledged around $6.2 billion in aid, with most of that earmarked for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. The United Nations is seeking $550 million for a six-month relief operation. So far donors have only given a fraction of that amount. But many still feel that the only way things will truly get done will be by following Humayun Qamar’s example and putting in personal time, money and efforts. Certainly Mohammad Aamir agrees. ‘Things are in a routine now,’ said Aamir, ‘But if you want to help, please do so as it’s a huge tragedy.’
SeaNet has been working as a shipping, freight forwarding and logistics company in Karachi, Pakistan, for three decades. Aeroceanetwork is a non-exclusive network for professional logistics companies and international freight forwarders.