With the container delivered to Beira, our journey has come to an end. Alex will return to Lilongwe with a load of grain, and I will fly back to the United States to prepare an article for Tobacco Reporter’s print issue about the logistics of tobacco in southern Africa.
Our cargo, on the other hand, has only started its long voyage to Philip Morris Germany. The container has been booked on the MSC Chaneca, which will sail on June 15. The vessel will take it to Durban, South Africa, where it will probably sit for a few days until it can be loaded onto a mainliner—one of those huge containerships that traverse the high seas.
Depending on where else the mainliner will call—Rotterdam or perhaps Antwerp—the journey to Bremen can take up to four weeks.
When Philip Morris’ employees finally unload the Malawi tobacco in late July or early August, they are unlikely to reflect on the dedicated efforts and careful coordination that made the delivery possible.
And why should they?
After all, if the transportation companies are doing their jobs well, their clients will never have a clue about the obstacles that must be overcome to get them their tobacco—unless, of course, they’ve followed this blog or are a regular reader of Tobacco Reporter.