The coach arrived in Brisbane’s miserable concrete Roma Street Transport Terminal around noon and I was off like Usian Bolt off the blocks to the library. Air conditioning, free internet and still clinging to the possibility of a ship getting me to Taiwan before April 15, I had work to do.
After an hour of scouring the internet, I came across the Holy Grail: A ship. On Monday. Going straight to Keelung in Taiwan. Arriving April 13. And it was owned by – oh joy of joys – PIL. The same owners as the Southern Lily 2, the ship that had happily taken me from Fiji to New Zealand in January. The KOTA JUTA, you are my saviour!
Emails went out to everybody I could find who worked for the charterers, an Aussie company called PAE. Within 20 mins I had a call back from Trish in the Brisbane office saying it would be okay with them, but I needed to talk to PIL head office in Singapore for confirmation.
Happily, I still had my PIL contacts in my old emails, and so another email shot went out to the good guys over there – especially Captain Panneer, the head of operations. In a very short space of time (we normally have a few weeks to organise these things – here we had just a few hours) Captain Panneer had written back with a massive thumbs-up pending a decision by the ship’s management company, Anglo-Eastern. I told Captain Panneer I owed him a beer or two when I got back to Singapore.
Job well done (Anglo-Eastern are based in the UK, so I wouldn’t hear back from them until the evening our time), I packed up my stuff and headed over to the City Backpackers to abuse not only their free internet (sorry!), but also their cheap (for Australia!) beer they have on at happy hour. At exactly 19:58, the final confirmation came through. This must rank as the fastest hitch in the history of international container ship travel – a green light from three companies: one in Australia, one in Singapore and the other in the UK, in less than a working day.
Having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, I ordered a jug of Carlsberg and the celebrations began. Ran into a couple of scousers from West Derby (it has almost become weird if I don’t meet people from my home town), played pool like a champ, met a couple of lads wearing ‘Pussay Patrol’ T-Shirts from the Inbetweeners Movie and singularly failed to chat up the topless waitress. There was a topless waitress. In the backpackers. After five days of excruciating frustration, it seemed that all my dreams had come true.
Major major MAJOR thanks to PAE, PIL and Anglo-Eastern.
I’ll see you in Taiwan my friends.