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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

POINT OF VIEW - The moment of truth

After all the endless hours of intense discussion over the last fifteen years on the image of the tanker industry; after all the carefully formulated plans to use the strengths and achievements of the tanker business to communicate a positive angle; after all the lobbying and educating of the decision makers; how ironic that the biggest opportunity to improve the image of the tanker industry could arguably be at the moment of the next tanker disaster.

Most of the time, the press, the public and the decision makers are simply not too fussed about the tanker industry, rarely acknowledging that without tankers to ship energy products round the world, civilisation would grind to a halt – or in the words of IMO Secretary General Efthimios Mitropoulos, half the world would freeze while the other half would starve. Unfortunately, despite the tangible advances made in tanker safety, there will be another tanker accident with all the consequent tragic pollution.

As the tragedy unfolds, so, for a rare moment, the world will be focused on the tanker industry, listening intently to every word it has to say. A large part of that interest will be centred on one person. That person will be spokesman of the tanker operator involved. A large part of the responsibility for the building up, or the destruction, of the tanker industry’s image will rest squarely on that one person’s shoulders. Oil and tanker industry associations, salvage and clean-up specialists, insurers and politicians will all have their say. But the vast majority of observers (and judges) will be hanging above all on every word of the tanker owner’s representative. Thus, as well as representing his company, that spokesman will also effectively be representing the tanker industry.

That level of responsibility merits some preparation and planning. The likelihood of there being a serious tanker incident in the next six months is remote; that it could happen to any one particular owner is even more remote. But it will happen to someone sooner or later.  The question is will he/she be ready?