Generally speaking, people don’t know much about commercial shipping, and what they do know is often wrong.
“Bunkers” – “that’s where the crew sleep, right?” Wrong! But not unreasonable, since crew may sleep in bunks.
“Ships are terrible for the environment, right?” Well, it’s actually more complicated than that – just imagine if all world trade moved by train, the resulting CO2 emissions would be catastrophic, and yet, many environmentalists are the first to support the development of new rail infrastructure while protesting the expansion of any port or shipping facilities.
Faced with the misunderstandings of our industry, it is easy to grumble about the collective ignorance of the general public, and this can be satisfying, but it accomplishes very little.
Alternatively, we can acknowledge the perceptions that people have about shipping and seek to address them head on.
If people think we are environment polluters, let’s accept the challenge to be that much greener and prove them wrong.
This suggestion may seem unfair (“why should I have to work harder just because people don’t understand me?”), but it is important.
To explain my point, instead of thinking of shipping for the moment, let’s think of stereotypes we have about people – we’ll use me as an example.
Tall young men have many stereotypes associated with them, some of them positive and others less so. For example, I know that late at night, on a dark street some people will perceive my very presence as intimidating – they shouldn’t, I know that I wouldn’t hurt a fly, but what I know is irrelevant, I may still be stereotyped as dangerous.
Knowing this, I could indignantly get defensive with anyone who appears threatened by my presence in a dark alley – but that would just make things worse. Or I can note the reality of the situation and confront the stereotype by consciously choosing to be that much less threatening – cross the street if I am walking up behind someone, smile politely if passing close to someone is unavoidable or avoid standing too close to someone at a bus shelter.
Should I have to do this? No, but is it the right thing to do, and is it the best way to slowly overcome the perception that tall young men can be a threat? I think so.
Similarly, shipping must accept that perceptions of our industry are not always positive and that people may feel threatened by our operations. No matter how unreasonable we may believe such views to be, instead of reacting indignantly, we should accept them as a challenge, understand the reasons for their concerns and aim to do even better.
COO & Crisis Response Manager
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