The invasion of Ukraine on 24 February and the ongoing conflict in the country is dominating global media attention. The situation has numerous impacts on the maritime sector and once again shipping finds itself on the front lines of a global story.
While the violence in Ukraine is not a “shipping story,” since the invasion Navigate Response has handled a significantly higher than normal number of media enquiries for our clients. Mainstream media mentions of the maritime industry have increased by 65%.
As the conflict continues, journalists will be looking for new angles, unique perspectives and to understand the international impacts. Many companies (and potentially individual vessels) are likely to receive media enquiries.
Contact is especially likely for companies with a connection to the region (e.g. ships in, recently in or scheduled to be in Ukraine or Russia, Russian or Ukrainian seafarers serving on board, contracts with entities that are (potentially) sanctioned). As trade with Russia (even where permitted by international sanctions) becomes increasingly controversial, any company with a port call in Russia should prepare for media enquiries.
Companies that have people in the region should communicate with great care – if at all. The safety of your people in a war zone must be the top priority and any communications that draw attention to a specific vessel or company could create problems. If you have people in the region we advise that your company’s public communication be kept to a minimum.
However, if your people are not in harm’s way, we encourage you to engage with journalists who are looking for information about the situation’s impacts on the shipping sector. We all benefit when journalists, and through them the public, better understand the shipping industry and our vital role in an internationalised world. Building relationships with journalists now can pay huge dividends in the future.
While we encourage communications, companies should always communicate in a structured and coordinated way to avoid multiple voices speaking with conflicting messages.
- Remind all staff to refrain from commenting on behalf of the company (including on social media) unless they are an appointed spokesperson. They should respond to any enquiry by saying: I am not a spokesperson for my company, but if I can have your contact details, I’ll ask a spokesperson to contact you. Any message should be promptly passed to the spokesperson.
- If you are your company’s spokesperson and you wish to respond to enquiries, keep it factual – e.g. Our vessels normally make XX port calls in Ukraine each year. We are prioritising the safety of our crews and our vessels will not enter Ukrainian waters until their safety can be assured.
- If your company wishes to publicly take a position beyond the facts (e.g. a political statement), we would be pleased to speak with you to help evaluate the risks of speaking out and, if you choose to proceed, to help ensure that your communication achieves the intended impact.
The nature and scale of this conflict is such that coverage is unlikely to focus on a single company unless that organisation has direct significant involvement (e.g. vessel attacked or company directly sanctioned). However, we will all benefit if those companies that can safely communicate do so when approached by interested journalists.