Many of the minor spills that we respond to receive little or no attention in the media, despite being reported to all the appropriate authorities. However, in some cases, even small spills can become major international stories when not managed correctly.
When a client reports a spill of oil from one of its vessels we immediately prepare a holding statement (not released) and begin media monitoring both within mainstream and social media platforms. Our media monitoring ensures that if the story starts to generate interest, even on an obscure blog, we can respond quickly and ensure that the story is covered accurately and perceived in the full and appropriate context.
We also draw on the knowledge of our global network and our experience dealing with shipping incidents around the world to evaluate how the incident is likely to be perceived and covered.
Larger local issues and political debates have a significant impact on how a small spill will be perceived. For example, we dealt with one case involving the spill of hundreds of litres of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in an area comfortable and familiar with shipping which received absolutely no media interest. By contrast, just a week later in an area where the proposed expansion of port traffic is a contentious issue we responded to a spill of HFO that the local Coast Guard estimated resulted in fewer than 10 litres entering the water. Local environmental groups became involved and attempted to turn the incident into a major national story.
Minor or major, every incident has the potential to become a significant story.