5.2.1 Characteristics of different means of transport

Type of transport Characteristics Advantages Disadvantages
Air (airplanes)
  • Urgent need
  • In case of emergency
  • No other way to reach the area
  • High value low weight freight
  • Starting up large-scale operation
  • When there are no other means
  • Quick and reliable
  • Can reach far-away areas
  • Makes it possible to come closer to the area of operations
  • High cost
  • Depending on size of plane, cargo capacity may be small
  • Subject to weather conditions
  • Requires special fuel and safe conditions to operate
Air helicopters
  • Much more versatile than planes
  • Can land in difficult areas
  • Has limited cargo space
Land (motor vehicle)
  • Use depends on the physical and safety conditions of the access routes to the delivery points
  • Within a region or country
  • Highly flexible
  • Inexpensive and readily available
  • Given its availability, cargo space increases
  • Routes might be in bad shape, impassable or simply not exist
  • May be dangerous (floods, armed conflict, bandits, etc.)
Land (rail)
  • Use depends on existence, route and conditions
  • Not used much
  • Large load capacity
  • Operating costs are generally low
  • Limited network
  • Need to use other transport to take the supplies to the warehouse or operations sites
Maritime (sea)
  • Large lower value freight, less urgent
  • More and more used during the second phase of a crisis, whenever possible
  • Used mostly for transporting supplies from abroad
  • Need access to a harbour or pier
  • Large load capacity
  • Economical
  • Slow
  • Need to use other transport to take the supplies to the warehouse or operations sites
  • Useful for supplying riverside and nearby communities with moderate amounts of aid, for moving people or supplies in the event of a flood
  • Low cost
  • Access to areas hard to reach by other forms of transport
  • Limited load capacity, depends on size of the vessel
  • Use depends on the characteristics of the river and waterways
Human and animal
  • Small loads, generally in remote areas where vehicles can’t reach
  • Low operational cost
  • Access to difficult areas
  • Limited load capacity
  • Slow