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A Team Effort

Problems, problems, problems.

We were asked the other day to sort out a problem. We got a call at 7.30 in the morning.  A celebrity on board a charter yacht in Antibes had requested Diet Pepsi for his week long charter  starting Sunday. It was a last minute request on a Thursday night. Seems pretty straightforward: go to a local supermarket in Nice, buy the stuff, deliver to the berth, carry on board, keep chilled, serve to our celebrity on request. Drink, be happy.


I can’t name the celebrity because this industry runs on confidentiality, like a doctor patient relationship. I won’t reveal the name of the yacht either. This sound a little coy but in the industry we don’t blab. The stories we could tell!

Suffice to say, this celebrity is a legend and almost everyone  in the West – and a good percentage of people on the planet who watch Hollywood movies- know who he is. Maybe a bit past his prime, but still as big as you get. He is one big superstar. Perennial A-lister.

As for the yacht, it charters at US$1,000,000 per week – plus tips etc, add another$ 135,000. It’s a beauty. A Lurssen. Ninety metres, twenty eight crew.

Pepsi everywhere and not a drop to drink

So what’s the problem? Well, for a start, you can’t buy Diet Pepsi in France. You can get Pepsi Max but different sweetener, acesulfame potassium  versus aspartame. Second problem, it’s a Friday  and the couriers don’t do next day delivery on a Saturday in France. In fact, nobody seems to like working on a Saturday in France. But you can’t tell that to our celebrity who is paying over a million bucks for a week’s charter that he can’t have his Diet Pepsi. Maybe it’s not even for him but for his wife – Diet Pepsi is targeted to women who like the association with diet; Pepsi Max is targeted to men who like the macho feel. No is not an option.

On the other had sending a truck down with 48 cans of Diet Pepsi is going to cost in the region of two grand (sterling) at short notice on peak day Friday. 2000 kilometers round trip. That is really the last do or die option.

Mission not quite impossible but more than dificult

You say can’t we  fly it down? There are early morning flights from Heathrow into Nice. Yes, but there are problems there too. Due to security, the cargo would only feasibly make it for a Saturday flight. BA ships freight on the last flight of the day as they need fast turnaround on the planes. Only the last flight of the day stays long enough to off load cargo. This is the height of tourist season after all.  Anyway Saturday and Sunday the air cargo terminal is closed even the Pepsi does arrive, Earliest looks like Monday. No good. The yacht will have sailed.

Air Freight looks a no-no as well. And in any case, even if we can et the Pepsi there, agents at Nice airport shake their heads. They don’t do Saturdays.

The boat is leaving Sunday. Seems mission impossible.

So we call in the A team.

First point of call is Superyacht Cargo, which is a joint venture between London Express Cargo and Chiltern Air Freight. They send in somebody to a supermarket near Heathrow and buy 48 cans of Diet Pepsi. Next they call Superyacht Supplies who have a close working relationship with Panalpina who books it on a Swiss Air flight to Zurich that evening, with onward flight to Nice arriving Saturday at 10.45. The 48 cans are delivered to  Panalpina who cut the air way bill and deliver into Swiss Air at Heathrow with five minutes to spare before cut off.  Flys out that evening to Zurich;  reloaded on the first flight out for Nice. The next day the Superyacht Supplies team in Antibes  pull some strings to get the Airport Director  to open the air cargo terminal just for the Pepsi. The 48 tins are collected and delivered to the  yacht’s local agent in Antibes who liaises with the purser to arrange a tender to come pick the fizzy drink up.

By 2.pm done and dusted. Job done. Our celebrity gets his Diet Pepsi when he steps onboard the next day.  Happy days.

How many roads must a can of Pepsi take before it gets served on board?

This gets me thinking. How many people were involved in getting this to our Hollywood legend so he (or his wife) can enjoy a refreshing Pepsi while experiencing the ultimate in luxury on a boat that is as splendiferous as it gets?

The cast of characters:

Alex who rang Paul of Superyacht Cargo

Paul of Superyacht Cargo who rang Ian of Superyacht Supplies who rang Jezz of Panalpina who booked with Swiss Air

Trish who drove to Tesco supermarket in Ashford to by 2 packs of 24 cans of Diet Pepsi

Vinny of London Express Cargo who delivered to Kevin at reception in Panalpina who carried into the waehouse.

The warehouse staff who weighed and measured the cargo. An employee who cut the air way bill and a driver who delivered into Swiss Air cargo handling terminal.

The cargo handler who checked in the cargo; the person who -x-rayed the cargo; the documents guy who updated the manifest; the guys who loaded onto the plane.

Repeat for the operations at Zurich. The cargo handler who released the cargo to Superyacht Supplies’ driver at Nice who delivered to the local agent who called a driver to deliver to the berth where the tender pulled in, navigated by two crew. The stewardess who poured into a glass.

Plus a host of pilots, air traffic controllers and flight controllers.

Check, please

I estimate twenty five people actually laid hands on the cargo and another twenty were indirectly involved. Plus the accounting functions – paying everybody involved – twelve companies. Estimated cost £700.

A tin of diet Pepsi costs £0.33. The 48 tins (2 packs of 24) cost £16. Or £15.00 a tin.

I asked Paul of Superyacht Cargo what kind of profit he would expect to make. He said it’s not about the money. This was a glory job. The kind of challenge we love. Most of superyacht logistics is predictable, all about forward planning, no surprises, smooth as clockwork. This mission impossible is the stuff of movies. Cue the theme tune. And no, our celebrity was not in any of those movies.


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