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Saturday, September 22, 2018


The Communications and PR Committee held an ‘image management’ workshop at INTERTANKO’s London office this week. The aim of the workshop was to debate whether the tanker sector of the shipping industry could begin take the first steps to gain the momentum of improving its image and, if so, what were the most important strategic constituents.

The workshop addressed identifying the image of the tanker industry; identification of common objectives and issues; strategies for common action and how we can we achieve a coordinated industry effort and implement a progressive image building programme.

The meeting raised the question whether the ‘image’ problem was that the tanker sector had a negative image or no image. It was suggested that the current image of the tanker sector is mostly negative and disaster driven. Therefore the next notch up the ‘image scale’ would be ‘neutral’ in which the tanker sector would effectively vanish from the public recognition. The ultimate objective would be one further notch up the ‘image scale’ to an image of general approval. 

However the Committee questioned whether this was a realistic proposition.  Progressive image building would require a proactive programme of information about the sector and a progressive (and expensive) promotion programme to defined target groups. The Committee recognised that image building is, in part, a marketing exercise which is one of the hardest ways to obtain consistent return on investment. 

The Committee supported the view that it is difficult for any individual or industry body to improve the overall image of the tanker industry which is formed from cumulative impacts or perceptions and interpretations of the performance of the different stakeholders.

The Committee noted that the tanker sector is largely defensive and uncoordinated when responding to an incident. The lack of a unified approach to communicate industry responses was a major concern. The Committee supported the requirement for the tanker sector to react more quickly and positively in the event of an incident. In particular, the Committee questioned what the role of INTERTANKO should be if an INTERTANKO member or non-member were involved in an incident. 

The Committee recognised that the competitive nature of tanker operation involves the ability of individual tanker companies to promote themselves to their customers by means of demonstrable competence.  Since an industry is characterised by the competence of its participants, there is a requirement for INTERTANKO’s members to be able to demonstrate to the general public, legislators and stakeholders that the tanker industry is in control of its risk issues. 

The Committee suggested that one of the first short term steps in an image building programme could be to assemble relevant hardware and performance facts and statistics in a central database with a common format, and to have this available for members’ use.

The Committee emphasised that there is the need to develop a more unified and systematic industry approach in order to achieve a progressive industry image building programme.  International, regional and national cooperation would lead to targets, set by the industry, being satisfactorily achieved on a global basis.  Without a united front the industry is unlikely to succeed in promoting the desired image.

The conclusions of the workshop will be used to draft a ‘Position Paper on the Image of the Tanker Sector of the Shipping Industry’.  It is hoped that this Position Paper will facilitate the process for a broader dialogue which when concluded could then become a ‘Industry Position Paper on the Image of the Tanker Sector’.

Contact: Sally Woulfe