March 26, 2021
One of the news stories that has filled the airwaves concerns the massive container ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal two days ago. The canal is one of the world’s busiest waterways, with nearly 19,000 ships passing through the canal during 2020, for an average of 51.5 per day, according to the Suez Canal Authority. The ship, called the Ever Given, became horizontally wedged in the waterway following heavy winds. Multiple tugboats were sent to the scene to assist in the re-float operation and a team of experts from Smit Salvage have been called in to assist with the operation. Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis who is helping in the efforts said, “We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation.”
The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. Original construction began in 1859 by the Suez Canal Company and officially opened on 17 November 1869. Going through the isthmus can reduce the distance between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Ocean by approximately 5,500 miles (8,900 km). The canal extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez for a length of just over 120 miles (193.30 km). In the summer of 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered the expansion of the Ballah Bypass from 200 feet (61 meters) to 1,024 feet (312 meters) wide for 22 miles (35 km) of the canal. This allows ships to transit the canal in both directions simultaneously. The one-year project cost more than US$9bn.
The cargo ship that is lodged in the canal is more than 1,300 feet long and 193 feet wide, weighing more than 200,000 tons. One end of the ship is wedged into one side of the canal and the other stretches horizontally to nearly the other bank. So far crews have tried moving the ship sideways using tugboats and dredging around the bow which is stuck in the bank, but to no avail. There were no injuries to the 25 crew members and no cargo has been damaged. It is still unclear what caused the ship to move drastically off course in the high winds. This might be one of those incidents where someone gets fired.
Thoughts: As several companies and countries try desperately to fee the ship and get traffic moving it reminded me of a story I heard long ago. An oversized semi-trailer truck had attempted to navigate an underpass and became hopelessly stuck in the bridge. The police brought in tow trucks to pull the trailer out, but it would not move. Next, they brought in engineers who made calculations and discussed the dilemma. No one had an answer. Finally, a young boy who had been suggested, “Why don’t you let the air out of the tires.” They did, and the truck drove itself out. There are times when we try to find complex answers to simple problems. One definition of genius is the ability to see a problem from a different perspective. What we need now is the willingness to look at our problems from a new perspective, and then be willing to act. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.