Inspiration for the book

I have long been driven by a curious obsession with cargo transport (one that friends believe is a cover for what would be a far more glamorous career as a secret intelligence agent). It started more than a decade ago, while launching a business magazine in Hanoi, I had struggled to find photographs to illustrate articles on trade and investment, so, armed with my camera, I headed up to Haiphong, Vietnam�s northernmost port.

There, chaos prevailed. Cranes were heaving shipping containers from rusty vessels and dumping them at random across the quays. The colours were spectacular, the disarray beguiling. My love affair with the world of cargo transport had begun.

A few years later, I took a job as a photographer for a shipping company in West Africa. The assignment took me down dirt roads following large trucks to pineapple plantations and rubber factories across Ghana, Senegal and Cote d�Ivoire. A short flight in a two-seater Cessna over Abidjan harbour had been particularly thrilling. With the door removed and a harness preventing me from falling from the plane, I had leaned out over the wing to capture images of the giant cargo vessels docked below.

Today, I rarely pass up an excuse to travel to some industrial corner of the world to observe the stuff of life � vegetables, T-shirts, furniture, fridges � being moved around the planet.


Sarah Murray was born and brought up in Dorset, went to school in Bath and gained her MA degree in history of art from Edinburgh University.

She has worked for the Financial Times since 1990, first in London and, since 2001, in New York, where is a contributing feature writer. She has lived and worked in Asia � in Hong Kong as a journalist at the South China Morning Post, the region�s leading daily newspaper, and in Vietnam where, based in Hanoi, she helped launch the Vietnam Economic Times, an English language magazine aimed at foreign investors.

Her work has also appeared in publications including the Independent, the Observer, the Economist, the Times Higher Educational Supplement, the New Statesman and American Demographics magazine.

She travels extensively and has visited South Africa, Togo, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Benin, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, Tibet, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia, Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Russia and the Czech Republic.