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Shortages Loom After Gangs Attack Haiti's Main Container Terminal

The CPS terminal in Port-au-Prince (file image courtesy Caribbean Port Services)
The CPS terminal in Port-au-Prince (file image courtesy Caribbean Port Services)

Published Mar 10, 2024 9:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

Haiti faces a serious risk of shortages of food, medical supplies and other basic necessities because of extreme gang violence in Port-au-Prince, where heavily-armed criminals have sacked homes, stores, police stations, hospitals - and the nation's largest port, Autorité Portuaire Nationale (APN).

Early last week, gang members tried to destroy the electrical power supply for Caribbean Port Services, the main container terminal at APN. On Wednesday night, they attacked from multiple directions and ransacked the storage yard, and they continued looting into the next day, the manager told the Washington Post. The extent of the damage is unknown, and the terminal has shut down. 

Air flights and cross-border trucking to the Dominican Republic have also been impacted by the gang violence. The closure of Haiti's main cargo terminal will have an immediate impact on basic goods and services, aid agencies have warned.  

"Very soon, if there isn’t an aerial, port or road opening, all hospital institutions, including Doctors Without Borders, will be unable to continue providing care," Jean-Marc Biquet, head of Doctors Without Borders in Haiti, told the Post.

Violent gangs have spread throughout Haiti over the past several years, and have grown in strength through extortion, kidnapping, corruption and theft. Last week a consortium of gang leaders organized a prison break to release 4,000 inmates, then launched a campaign to seize the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Their demands include an amnesty for their past crimes, a role in the political system, and the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is currently in Puerto Rico. 

As the security situation in Port-au-Prince remains tenuous, the U.S. State Department asked the Pentagon to help airlift nonessential personnel from its embassy, which is located two miles by road from the airport. Military personnel carried out an operation overnight Saturday to remove some of the civilian staff and deliver additional security support to the embassy site. The mission will allow the embassy's work to continue, U.S. Southern Command said in a statement.