14 December 2000 | Geraint John
Electronics manufacturer Sony is carrying out secret massive airlifts of its PlayStation 2 (PS2) video game console into Europe amid the tightest security the company has ever put in place.
Giant Antonov 124 cargo planes are being used to bring in bulk quantities of the new console, which was launched in Europe on 24 November. But Sony won't say where planes are landing or how the consoles are being distributed, for fear of raids by criminal gangs intent on exploiting a worldwide supply shortage.
"Somebody could end up dead if we are not very careful," said Gordon Marshall, vice-president of logistics at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), in an exclusive interview with SM. "In the past we've had truck drivers seriously injured. Some of them won't walk again."
Trucks have been fitted with satellite tracking devices and are travelling in convoy to guard against the threat of attack.
Special measures are also in place to protect the Antonovs, which have to refuel in high-risk countries en route from Japan.
The supply chain assembled especially for the PS2 is capable of getting consoles from the factory gate to retailers' shelves in just 72 hours.
SCEE expects to sell one million PS2 units by Christmas, 165,000 of them in the UK.