Logistician, Shaun Cornelius: Life on assignment

Shaun Cornelius works for Médecins Sans Frontières as a logistician. He has recently returned from his third placement, on the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship operated by MSF and SOS Mediterranee in the Mediterranean. Shaun describes his main duties on board.


“Médecins Sans Frontières’ primary role is to look after people once they are on board. This involves getting them into dry clothing, showering to remove gasoline, providing food, water, toilets and shelter, and of course medical treatment. As a logistician, I keep all the Médecins Sans Frontières equipment and structures on board in good working condition. This includes the shelter structures, toilets, showers and plumbing, drinking water filters, radios, computers and medical equipment. I am also responsible for the stocks of emergency kits and food we provide to our passengers. I carry out the re-order of supplies.

"During and after a rescue I manage the movement of people around the ship and crowd control."

During and after a rescue I manage the movement of people around the ship and crowd control. I coordinate the food distribution process, make sure the toilets keep working, that the rubbish gets picked up and assist the medics as much as possible. In all this I get a lot of help from the search and rescue team. Frequently there are journalists and photographers on board, and they pitch in as well. I am also always looking for ways to improve the facilities we have on board, which involves coming up with proposals and designs for improvements to things like shelter and toilet plumbing systems, and working with the shore based logistician to engage contractors and suppliers. I also liaise with the ship’s crew and engineers if repairs or modifications are needed to the ship’s equipment.


In the unfortunate situation that bodies are recovered I help the medics with the identification, body bag process, and storage and transfer. When we arrive in port, work doesn’t finish with the disembarkation. The decks need to be washed, equipment cleaned and stowed, inventories checked, repairs made. The garbage truck arrives, and around 100 bags of garbage are manhandled off. Supplies for the ship arrive and need to be manually loaded and stowed away. Finally the ship leaves the harbour and we begin the 36-hour trip back to the rescue zone, to start the process again.”

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