Helping those in distress at sea is one of the proudest traditions of the maritime industry and is backed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but conducting a rescue can thrust a vessel into the intense media spotlight and this can be especially true when refugees are involved.
One of our clients recently conducted a rescue in the Mediterranean that resulted in over 250 million posts on social media and created such intense international interest that the world’s media camped out in the vessel’s next scheduled port waiting for her arrival.
Unfortunately, while rescue attempts should be applauded as gestures of humanity (even those which are not wholly successful), the media coverage can be negative as journalists look for a scandal or someone to blame. The line of questioning can turn from positive to accusatory – Why wasn’t the vessel carrying more rescue equipment? Were the crew properly trained? Did the vessel actually make the situation worse?
Regardless of the answer, simply asking the questions can damage a company’s reputation.
Some of our clients choose to speak very publically about such rescues and their crew’s valiant conduct in the hopes of drawing attention to the crisis, while others choose to remain out of the spotlight believing that focusing on specific rescues distracts from the larger scale of the tragedy. Regardless of the approach chosen, we ensure that in all cases our clients avoid blame for factors way beyond their control and do not become the victims of vicious speculation. We aim to provide immediate accurate information to journalists covering the story and as appropriate to those directly involved (e.g. family members).
When companies don’t provide information about the facts of a situation it leaves a void in the coverage which journalists will fill with other sources who may have nothing more than speculation to offer. Speculation can be very dangerous as it has no basis in reality. When speculation does appear, we act swiftly to replace the speculation with factual information.