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When An Unusual Problem Needs To Be Solved.

While it is tempting to google and find answers to questions, progress happens only when the knowledge that Google helps find with ease leads to a questioning mentality, thinking & imagination among students. Amazing progressive solutions can arise thereof- The Suez Canal blockage has a lot to learn from and a lot to think about in terms of problem solving...

This week on the Young Executives Club, the participants were given the basic information about the Suez Canal being blocked by a large container ship EverGiven and the resulting consequences. Later, we brainstormed to ask a variety of questions to gather knowledge and came up with diverse solutions before we found how the problem was solved in real life.

Ships have been passing through the Suez Canal since the 1869 when it was opened for ships to pass through. Earlier, ships sailing from Europe had to go around Africa to reach Asia. The Suez Canal was built to serve as a short cut between Britain and India reducing the distance by 9000kms. Subsequently the width was widened to enable large ships to pass through. The EverGiven got lodged accidentally in the embankment along the Suez Canal and in the process it stood across the canal leaving very little space for other ships to pass through. Several ships were stranded leading to massive economic impact across the world.

How did this happen?

Interestingly, the first question that many of the young minds asked was, "How did this happen?" The reasoning was that if the cause could be found, the solution might just lie there. At the moment, it is only the crew's account that at the time, there were strong winds on account of a dust storm that reduced visibility leading to the catastrophe. Investigations are under way. This suggests that there was something unusual.

Probing the cause to find solutions

Having run out of ideas, one member went back to the cause and pointed out that there must be technology to navigate through dust storms and poor visibility. When cars can have sensors that beep when a car is likely to hit something, wouldn't ships have something similar to act as proximity alert? Another pointed out that since winds caused the problem, using wind power to dislodge the ship by creating 'fake' winds could be another solution.

Probing the cause led the group to raise pressing questions such as- Going by the map, the Suez Canal appears to be a straight route without any turns on the way. Why did the ship steer away from the straight route was something that they found very puzzling.

Trying to find the obvious solution if any that could escape one's attention easily.

Considering that the ship got lodged in the embankment, the young executives suggested removing the mud to dislodge the ship. When shown photographs of the diggers trying to do exactly that and how they looked miniature in comparison to the EverGiven the young minds began to think of other possible solutions-

  • how about reducing the weight off

the ship by taking away some containers?

  • Is there equipment around to pick and place the containers?

  • Is there place for the containers?

  • Can helicopters help in the process?

  • How about reducing the level of water?

  • How about reducing friction by applying oil on the part that had got lodged? This raised opposition and opposing members pointed out that oil would not float in water and could have serious environmental implications.

  • How about widening the canal and preventing such an event from ever happening? But that led to questions about feasibility. Participants made connections to stories from their lives that involved road widening projects that led to displacement of homes. Others pointed out political implications as several countries could be involved.

  • Why use large ships such as this one? Why not use smaller ships? Opposing points of view pointed out that it would be more expensive to use small ships and how large ships could help with deliveries even en route.

Answers to this mystery probably will be revealed in due course of time. Until then, this is a great subject of conversation with Gen Z. Given a chance to express themselves freely, these young executives show immense promise for the future.



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