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Saturday, November 17, 2018

INTERTANKO Athens lecture looks behind the scenes of a major casualty

The third in the series of ‘COONEY Lectures’ on the needs and effects of incident management and media response plans was hosted by Tsakos Shipping and Trading in Athens this week. With over seventy members attending, Captain Peter Cooney once again shared his experiences and talked about how the ‘Sea Empress’ incident was handled, and the pressures that he and his colleagues had to face.

Captain Cooney stressed the importance of being “ahead of the curve” with a viable contingency plan, rather than reactive. No incident or crisis management can be completely successful if quality operation and procedures have not been put in place when the incident happens. He emphasised that the key to successful crisis management lies in honesty and transparency, accessibility and visibility – early on. “At what stage does a minor accident become a major incident?” he asked.

Someone with authority and credibility needs to stand up and be counted, he continued. In addition, one person needs to be responsible for the media, rather than leaving it to overtired, overstressed executives. That way he or she can set the media agenda and then take control of it. Ultimately the owner’s obligation is to protect his business and protect his company’s reputation. He has to prove, when the crisis is over, that everything has been dealt with and that lessons have been learned.

The industry does not enjoy a very good position with the media due to a number of high profile casualties which have not been handled well in public relations terms. The ‘image’ of the industry is the platform from which the industry can withstand negative criticism and an adverse legislative environment. There is a need for the industry to be able to demonstrate competence and trustworthiness as the underlying means of improving the image of the industry. As an industry is characterised by the competence of its participants, there is a requirement to be able to demonstrate to the general public, legislators and stakeholders that the industry has firm control of its risk issues.

Concluding Captain Cooney issued one word of warning, “Media spin may help us in the battle but the war is about the vessel condition”. We must never forget the imperative to have a well found vessel, trained crew and quality management system on-shore and on-board. “If something goes wrong it is vital to have a good position to defend” he said.

Click here to view a copy of Captain Cooney’s presentation ‘ Sea Empress: Lessons Learned’.

Contact: Sally Woulfe