Tracing a Shipping Container of African Market Baskets from Ghana to the Rocky Mountains
Once Bolga baskets are woven, have been sold at the local market in Bolgatanga, and eventually make their way onto a shipping container in the port of Accra, they embark on a transatlantic journey. Joining thousands of other shipping containers on a cargo ship, our container of baskets becomes part of the ever-constant stream of international shipping routes. Over the last two decades, containerized cargo trade has grown by over 300%, and container ships transport up to half the value of all overseas oceanic cargo. Standard containers are either 20 feet or 40 feet in length, and although we receive basket shipments of both types, 40-foot containers are our reliable standby. For perspective, a 40-foot shipping container weighs 4 tons and can hold upwards of 12,000 boxes of shoes. But in our case, it transports thousands and thousands of the handmade, fair-trade African Market Baskets™ that you have come to know and love.
From Accra to Denver: Across the Ocean and Along the Rails
The exact timing of how long it takes our container to cross the Atlantic ocean can vary depending on weather and other variables, but eventually, it arrives at the port of Houston. And although singular in name, Houston’s “port” is a sprawling complex of shipping docks stretching some 50 miles long. In terms of cargo type, our baskets are in good company, as this port is the epicenter of shipping for international goods arriving in the States. Next, US Customs does an inspection, which can sometimes be a drawn-out process, and then it makes its way north on a train towards Denver. Much of the cargo destined for areas between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains arrives in Houston, as Houston serves this area of the country more quickly and efficiently than the other massive ports on the east and west coasts.
At this point in its journey, we have a much better timeline for when the container should arrive at our warehouse, as there is only one last step, which is to transfer from train to truck in Denver. With the container arrival now better-defined, we strategize and plan to fit the new baskets into our space while keeping close tabs on exactly how many sacks of each basket type are actually in the container. Our past two warehouses were more constrained space-wise, and both lacked proper loading docks, so planning and executing container unloads was a bit more challenging. However, in our current state-of-the-art warehouse space, with a dock specifically designed to accommodate containers, unloading is a smooth and well-oiled process.
Container Days: Filling Our Warehouse With New Bolga Basket Arrivals from Africa
We excitedly mark “container days” on our calendar, and with the warehouse prepped, our team dives in. After opening the rear hatch, we get our first glimpse at the rows and rows of basket sacks (each sack contains anywhere from 20 to 60 baskets, depending on style and size), packed with unbelievable efficiency by our African Market Baskets™ crew in Accra. With good tunes playing and the shared energy high, it’s an upbeat affair as we start unloading sack by sack, with 1-2 people pulling sacks from the container and 2-4 people hauling them to their assigned and labeled places. Our shelving system in the warehouse rises up some 24 feet (a dramatic improvement over our old warehouse space, which had less than half the height allowance), so we use a mechanical lift to load baskets into the shelving bays up high.
Over 90 minutes or so, we unload all of the baskets, and it’s impressive to watch the container gradually clear out, while at the same time, the warehouse simultaneously fills in from concrete floor to lofty ceiling. We then begin to unpack and inspect the baskets, marveling at the variety of color schemes and intricate weaves. And as we send out those same baskets to your doorstep, another shipping container sits empty in Accra, soon to be filled with a new wave of beautiful African market baskets.