Does the ship have your company name on the side? Is your company name a part of the vessel name? Are the people on board wearing boiler suits with your branding?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, then please don’t be surprised when people assume it’s your vessel.
We sometimes work with companies who believe that if they don’t own the vessel, even if they have it on long-term charter, then they’re not responsible for any media interest in that vessel and public anger can’t hurt them.
People do not understand (and usually they don’t care) about the complex business world of shipping. Explaining to an angry resident of an area impacted by an oil spill that it’s not your fault because the ship is owned by one company, managed by another, crewed by a third, chartered by a fourth and so on, is a terrible strategy.
If your name is on the ship, it’s your ship. Take responsibility for it!
This does not mean that you need to admit legal liability, but you do need to be prepared to communicate effectively – and step up to the plate.
Following a disaster of any kind, people want clear leadership and a sense that something is going to be done. In some jurisdictions, this leadership may come from the coastguard or other government authority. This can be good, but should also worry you as the government may be very quick to try and spend your P&I Club’s money with little care for efficiency.
If you want to maintain control and reduce panic (and you should) then you need to make sure there is someone with your interests in mind providing a sense of leadership and a strong response – in most cases if your branding is on the ship, then your company should fill the role.
Now, if you don’t want to take this advice. If you think having your name on the vessel shouldn’t require you to take any action, then at the very least, please ensure that any company you charter from is prepared to manage the media. I mean actually meaningfully prepared. This is not a tick-box-exercise. Anyone can say they’re ready to deal with the media. Actually being ready to do so is a very different thing.
At the end of the day, unless you (or, as a last resort, someone else) is ready to take clear, strong leadership when a vessel ends up in the media spotlight, then don’t put your name anywhere near it…easier said than done in most cases.
COO & Crisis Response Manager
T: +44 (0)20 3326 8467