Strong ports help save lives

As we approach the official opening of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on tough lessons learned. We have all witnessed the central role our Caribbean and Latin American airports and seaports serve in the wake of extreme weather, and the serious consequences that unfold when they are weakened. These ports must develop more resilience so they can better support recovery efforts in their communities.

A coalition of concerned leaders has formed a public-private partnership to apply lessons from the past to strengthen our ports for the future.

Strong, resilient airports and seaports are at the heart of effective response and recovery following a hurricane or other natural disaster. The tragic aftermath of Hurricane Georges demonstrated just what happens when ports fail. In 1998, Georges swept across the Caribbean as a Category 4 hurricane, devastating Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the United States, causing 604 deaths and nearly $6 billion in property damage.

Sadly, severely damaged ports greatly complicated the distribution of relief supplies and personnel, slowing the pace of life-saving humanitarian aid. Incapacitated or poorly-functioning ports further delayed the recovery of fragile island economies, creating a ripple effect that deepened the distress of stricken communities.

Since Georges, the lessons of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as of the Haiti earthquake of 2010, have illustrated the full range of negative impacts that damaged ports have on relief efforts. Compromised airports and seaports seriously disable the local community — indeed the whole country or region — as the very crisis that injures the port impedes recovery. Critical medical and other evacuations are delayed.

Delivery of badly needed food and supplies is stalled. Trade slows or stops, businesses fail, jobs are lost, and revenue from duties, taxes, and tariffs declines.

A coalition of organizations that provided relief to Port-au-Prince following the Haiti earthquake have joined together to systematically apply the lessons learned from past disasters. They have created the Port Resiliency Program, or PReP, a public-private partnership that aims to work with Caribbean and Latin American airports and seaports to strengthen their ability to respond to and recover quickly from a crisis.

PReP facilitates significant, cost-effective improvements by focusing on fortifying current capabilities and building on existing knowledge and relationships. The program assists ports in strengthening disaster plans, programs, and procedures through self assessment, peer assessment, gap analysis, targeted training, customized exercises and aftercare.

In February, led by AmericasRelief Team and funded by FedEx, PReP completed a highly successful proof-of-concept pilot test at Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo. Other sponsors are joining FedEx to help bring this service to additional ports at no cost. MIA, FIU’s International Center for Disaster Preparedness, American Airlines, PortMiami and Smith-Woolwine Associates are among the many participants and sponsors supporting this important program.

PReP is based in Miami, a city with strong ties to the Caribbean and Latin American region. The program works closely with airports and seaports to guide them from where they are to where they want to be. Site visits foster support for employees and their families as well as interagency cooperation and mutual aid. In addition, PReP will fly in participants to attend workshops that incorporate best practices and continuous improvement to ensure optimal interoperability among personnel and agencies facing the complex challenges inherent in restoring ports after a crisis.

Miami is proud to be part of this effort to learn from our past experiences. This structured, functional port restoration program will standardize and streamline response, promoting timely repair and reopening of damaged ports and rapid restoration of normal trade activity. Strong, resilient ports protect vital assets and interests, and they help communities bounce back from disasters. But most of all, strong ports save lives.

Teo A. Babun Jr. is executive director of AmericasRelief Team, a crisis response organization.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Dade, Broward lead the way

    Miami-Dade and Broward county jails have stopped detaining immigrants for the federal government at taxpayers’ expense. Florida’s other jails and prisons should do the same.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">GANG WARFARE</span>: The end of a truce between street gangs in El Salvador has led to a steep rise in homicides this year, adding impetus to the migration of youths and children to the United States.


    The real failure in Central America

    The failure to manage the crisis of Central American child refugees at the Mexican border is not only about the inability to enact a comprehensive immigration policy reform. The real problem is the failure to build transparent and competent criminal justice institutions in Central America, especially after millions of American dollars have been provided to reform and strengthen security institutions there.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">EXULTING:</span> Vladimir Putin is still refusing to accept complicity in the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner as Western leaders fail to agree on sanctions.


    Historians will recall our leaders’ inaction

    When historians look back on 2014, they will note not just how flagrantly Vladimir Putin disregarded international law or how stubbornly Gaza and Israel kept firing missiles at each other. They will also be puzzled at how poorly the United States handled its economy.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category