Only At Sea – A Ship Earns Money

The father of containerization Malcom McLean was a transport entrepreneur who revolutionized containerization by significantly reducing the cost of freight transportation. He observed that the cargo was loaded manually by longshoremen which resulted in longer port stays and also a lot of cargo spaces were wasted in this manual loading/discharging operations. Great Ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. McLean came up with an idea of box shaped cargoes which are now known as containers. 

McLean took a bank loan and bought two tankers which he converted to carry containers, on and under deck. On 26th April 1956 one of the converted tanker with fifty eight containers sailed out from Port of Newark to Port of Houston and just after one year of this launch i.e. on April 1957, first container ship, the Gateway City began her regular journey and the rest, as we know is history.

Forbes Magazine called McLean “One of the few men who changed the world.” 25th May 2001, this great man died at age 87. On the morning of his funeral, container ships around the world blew their whistles to honor his departed soul.

This revolution was made possible by McLean only when he asked a basic fundamental question: “When does a ship earns money?” He observed that unless someone challenged the dominant paradigm one was doing little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In his book ‘Good Leaders Ask Great Questions’ John Maxwell said, “If you want to be successful and reach your potential, you need to embrace asking questions as a lifestyle.” Maxwell further quoted Richard Thalheimer, “It’s better to look uninformed than to be uninformed.”

Though this idea of asking question is simple, yet very powerful. However, I have noticed that not everyone can ask questions. What I have observed is that only a person’s curiosity(gap between what we know and what we don’t) leads to a good question. This curiosity is what takes us away from our conventional thinking to an uncharted territory where we learn new ideas and gives us a chance to create something powerful.

A clear example of our curiosity which leads to powerful creation was seen when few years back when I called Port of Rotterdam where I saw all cranes unmanned and fully automated. These robotic carnes were used to discharge containers from our ship which were loaded on vehicles which were also unmanned and fully automated known as AGVs(Automated Guided Vehicles). These AGVs are battery operated which when drained out are changed in a battery swap station, where a robot equips them with a new battery.

Port of Rotterdam – Berthing our container ship with marine pilot Feber.

There is an old German saying that, “We get too soon old and too late smart.” However I believe that our Curiosity and our questions are an answer which will take us to what Google calls “10x Thinking” from a world which we know to a world that what may be possible. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it right, “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”

Published by Harsh Pandey

A shapeless Pigmy searching for his own awakening. Otherwise, I am a master mariner, commanding merchant ships on international voyages.

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