Just off the island of Cuba, at the bottom of the sea, sits a bulldozer and three tractors from a damaged barge. The barge was filled with Haitian building supplies and equipment for the relief effort, but it never made the port. Now these valuable tools lay rusting in the salt water off Cuba and represent one more sad loss for Haiti’s recovery.
News reports suggest that PermaShelter, a Haitian building manufacturer hired a barge to transport the inventory and equipment to build 1000 shelters for the displaced families of Haiti. During the journey the tugboat pulling the barge encountered engine difficulties off the coast of Cuba. That is when the bad luck turned into sadness, as the Cuban government allowed the barge filled with humanitarian aid to run aground and to spill out tractors and supplies into the water.
PermaShelter and their partners at USAID and World Vision attempted to save the supplies from a watery grave, but Cuba did not cooperate and let it all go to waste. Then, to add insult to injury, it seems that the insurance company for the shipment has denied the claim to recover the $2 million in losses, because of the age of the ship.
This story represents just one more reason why it is very hard to rebuild Haiti. The Cement Trust Coalition sees this as the result of the broken supply chain in under-developed nations. Our focus is on the development of concrete and cement-based resources, but shipping assets are an important part of getting the rebuilding of Haiti started. We need international shipping cooperation to see that the tools make their destinations without greed or global politics interfering and sinking the efforts.
We know that PermaShelter’s factory is currently building homes for Haiti, despite the loss of their barge. We hope that this story reminds us that something must be done to insure that tractors and tools aren’t wasted at sea.