On the road and inside the box
Janet Porter, October 2007 Lloyds List
WHAT an exotic life the humble container enjoys. Yes, that’s right, that oblong metal box that to many represents the least glamorous side of shipping.
Boxships, their decks piled high with anonymous containers full of everyday consumer goods and confined to scheduled services, have never captured the public’s imagination in the way that supertankers or luxury passenger liners have. Numerous attempts by container lines over the years to raise their profile and impress on the outside world that globalisation would be impossible without this vast network of regular and reliable shipping services have generally fizzled out. Now NYK of Japan has taken up the challenge with a book that traces one particular container as it criss-crosses the world carrying an assortment of cargoes from alarm clocks and electric pianos to whisky, pharmaceuticals, coffee beans and more.
Around the World in 40 Feet follows the progress of Box NYKU596070-1 on its epic 125,000 km voyage as it sets off from Shenzhen with a consignment of household items such as dinner place mats and barbecue tongs, finally returning to that part of the world 200 days later when the container is discharged at Yokohama after calls in all six continents. “The movement of a shipping container is, for most of us, a crucial yet unexciting part of our business,” NYK senior managing director Hiroyuki Shimizu frankly admits in the foreward to book.
“Around the World in 40 Feet provides us all with a wonderful opportunity to see things differently.”
And it certainly does, with British writer Richard Cook and Canadian photographer Marcus Oleniuk bringing to life an adventure that goes largely unnoticed by those who barely give the container revolution a second thought until caught behind a slow moving truck completing the final leg of a door-to-door delivery that has brought goods to a local department store from the other side of the world. For Cook and Oleniuk the book started out as “a vague, almost comic idea,” but one that, “through a combination of our blind determination and the far-sighted vision of NYK’s senior management, eventually became reality”. The project also brought the pair into contact with the unsung heroes of the global economy, seafarers. “No matter the nationality or rank, all of the countless NYK mariners we crossed paths with — and often inconvenienced with eccentric requests as they tried to carry out their daily tasks — showed us nothing but hospitality and respect,” Cook and Oleniuk recall from their long and often gruelling project.
But the real star of the show is Box NYKU596070-1 as, on the first leg of its circumnavigation, it is loaded aboard NYK Kai in Hong Kong and heads off across the Pacific, where it arrives in
Next comes a consignment of electric pianos to be shipped from
By then it is Day 57 of the trip, and 48 hours later the pianos will be on display in a central
Day 131 finds the container back in
Finally the container is heading north on the final leg of this journey, arriving in Yokohama on Day 200 and filling the air with the aromatic smell of coffee as its valuable cargo is discharged. The book not only throws light on the hugely complex web of multilateral trade, with a clear illustration of what different countries export, but also shows how much effort goes on behind the scenes to deliver goods to market in the timely, efficient and no-nonsense manner that we all take so much for granted. At each stage of the voyage Cook interviews and Oleniuk photograghs those responsible for making sure these supply chains that stretch half way round the world do not fracture.
As for Box NYKU596070-1, there was just time for a wash, fresh coat of paint and minor repair to a small dent in one corner. Then, as maintenance welder Toshio Kosugi remarked, “It is good for another few thousand kilometres.”Check out the book at Amazon
Labels: around the world, container, seafarers