James Bond – now there’s a man who knows a bit about supply chains. Witness his conversation with the eponymous villain in Goldfinger: “Fifteen billion dollars in gold bullion weighs ten thousand, five hundred tons. Sixty men would take twelve days to load it onto two hundred trucks.
“Now, at the most, you’re going to have two hours before the army, navy, air force, marines move in and make you put it back.”
So you wonder what he would make of the supply chain challenge of Venezuela’s plan to repatriate all the gold it holds in foreign banks.
Venezuela, it appears, is one of the world’s largest owners of gold holding some 365 tonnes worth more that $22bn.
And president Hugo Chavez intends to move most of the gold held outside the country back home – that’s about 211 tonnes or $12.3bn. It’s almost unheard of to move such a huge amount of gold. It gets bought and sold all the time, but physically remains in places like the Bank of England and Fort Knox.
The Bank of England is reported to hold about 99 tonnes of the gold to be moved.
A bar of gold is 200mm by 80mm by 45mm (7.9in by 3.1in by 1.8in). And it is very heavy – 400 troy ounces (12.5 kilos or 27.5lb).
You can’t just fly 200 tonnes gold around – no-one would insure it for a start. So the coming months are likely to see a stream of shipments heading for Caracas – anything up to 40 separate consignments.
It’s such an extra-ordinary thing to do that it has led to press comment all around the world. But will it be a supply chain triumph or disaster?