Skip to content

Lessons learned from the Global Supply Chain Forum in Barbados #unsupplychain: What are the unique challenges the SIDS face, and how can we mitigate against them? 

10th June 2024

Due to climate change and the global recession, supply chains are now less reliable than previously, with disruptions caused by climate and health emergencies being the “new normal”. Given their geographical position, size and nature of their economies, it is the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) which are some of the most affected nations in the world.  

As the Prime Minister of Barbados, Her Excellency Mia Amor Mottley, pointed out, 80% of world trade is delivered through shipping, and it is the SIDS which are heavily dependent on maritime imports for much of their consumption needs, meaning that any disturbances in the international trade and logistics systems affect them immediately. Furthermore, SIDS pay disproportionately more for maritime imports, which is exacerbated during a global crisis.

“During COVID-19, transport and insurance costs rose by 76%, whilst the cost of empty containers increased by 500%-600%.
Hon. Kerrie Symmonds, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Barbados”

To ensure no one is left behind, the global procurement community must recognize the unique problems SIDS face and find targeted solutions that work for them in the face of global and regional crises, and beyond.  

As an award-winning procurement and supply chain specialist, we have been active across the Caribbean for almost two centuries, implementing system reforms and responding to major natural disasters and health emergencies. We feel that a strong, regional supply chain for the SIDS is within reach and share our insights and recommendations on how we think this can be achieved.  

Preparation is key: Establish procurement framework agreements 

Setting up framework agreements pre-disaster, is an important tool in preparation for an emergency; this cuts lengthy processes and tackles procedures which would be ineffective in times of trouble. Frameworks offer benefits including pre-identifying suppliers and they ensure that ethical and financial guidelines are met and prices controlled.  

Whilst disasters take many different forms, many needs remain the same such as housing, health and debris clearance. A framework agreement will ensure specific categories are pre-identified, as well as their anticipated frequency and volume. Countries can use their data and knowledge from past emergencies to establish a priority list of commonly procured goods.   


Consider Pooled Procurement through regional frameworks 

During COVID-19, the SIDS found it challenging to access life-saving PPE, equipment and vaccines at competitive prices due to the rising costs in shipping, procurement and inability to achieve suppliers’ minimum order quantities. Crown Agents increased purchasing power through pooling the SIDS procurement to obtain vital goods. We achieved lower unit costs through greater economies of scale and reduced administrative expenses by consolidating procurement requirements.  

Getting the right goods at the best quality 

Crown Agents’ Quality Assurance and Inspection Services (QAIS) gives organisations a guarantee that all items supplied are safe, effective and fit for purpose.  Faulty products do not only waste resources, but can risk lives  and where countries are reliant upon imports, such as the SIDS; it is particularly important to ensure that the goods are inspected prior to shipment. 

We have over 100 years of experience in providing a range of inspection types, from vendor appraisal, to pre-and-post-shipment inspections, to sampling and lab testing. Our inspectors work behind the scenes to check products at every point in the supply chain for our clients around the world. 


Warehouse essential emergency items at regional hubs 

Many islands have one shipping and one airport with small capacities, and logistics are completely reliant on them.   

The cost for build out is disproportionally high for the SIDS. Through our global experience we know that central warehousing at regional hubs is essential. Our logistic arm, Greenshields Cowie, has previously used Antigua and Puerto Rico as such hubs when arranging the urgent transport of temperature sensitive shipments of vaccines to SIDS around the globe including Anguilla, BVI, Montserrat and the Pitcairns. Using cost effective scheduled air freight services, vaccines were delivered to the hubs then last mile logistics organised via air charters to end destination.     

Pre-arrange Partnerships with specialist freight and logistic providers 

Greenshields Cowie has learnt through their decades of experience that mapping the key supply chain infrastructure to identify and reduce the risks of supply chain failures is a crucial part of disaster preparedness. Transportation within a supply chain can become more complex, with varying barriers preventing smooth delivery. Due to their comparative size/volume of trade, airlines often withdraw services for SIDS. Alternative routings must be found.   

Establishing partners who are experts in freight, logistics and clearance procedures ahead of time is key. In the event of a health emergency, it is vital to ensure these partners can manage end-to-end cold chain storage for vaccines and health related emergency goods.   

Port of Bridgetown-Edit fin lo res

Implement single window systems 

An effective way of increasing the trade competitiveness for SIDS is to implement a Single Window. The single-window system is a trade facilitation platform which allows traders to submit information just once to a central hub to complete their import or export processes. Single Window environments must be implemented nationally to remain efficient and remove the danger of a ‘Double Window’ whereby customs and port platforms are designed and implemented independently.   

Crown Agents has implemented Single Window platforms in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Each implementation should start with an assessment and gap analysis; if a port system is already established, we can work with you to see how to best harmonise existing systems, increasing revenue through enhanced compliance and improved efficiency.   

What next? 

The conference has provided great insights into opportunities for intervention and the gaps that still need to be filled. Now it is the time for action.  

Through our long-term engagement with the SIDS, Crown Agents is ready and willing to collaborate.  We have an excellent understanding of the challenges and opportunities being faced. As evidenced by our programmes transforming the lives of over 70 million people across the globe, Crown Agents is one of the world’s leading procurement agent, supply chain and logistics specialists.