Shipping in the media for all the right reasons as national news coverage focuses on industry’s efforts to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.
Last night’s Lloyds List awards saw the great and the good of shipping arrive at the National Maritime Museum in London to honour those who have made substantial contributions to the industry in 2015.
Amongst the awards bestowed was the “Amver Assisted Rescue at Sea Award” going to the crew of the Peruvian Reefer, responsible for the rescue of 210 refugees in the Mediterranean earlier this year.
The maritime trade press has long recognised the challenges faced by seafarers and the positive contributions of the industry to wider society, yet the almost universal reaction from maritime professionals when talking about the media, is the that ships only ever appear in the mainstream press when something goes wrong.
It appears that some companies are making a concerted effort to change the perception of an industry, that has over the years been criticised by many when looked at in the harsh light of a collision or pollution incident, by actively engaging the media.
Campbell Shipping, Tsakos Trading and Shipping and Skuld all contributed to a recent Reuters report on the role of shipping in refugee rescues in the Mediterranean, aiming at highlighting the lengths shipping companies are regularly going to, in order to live up to their obligation of protect life at sea.
It has been almost a year since the Captain of the CS Caprice desperately persuaded the drifting refugees to come aboard the 30,465 DWT bulk carrier before an impending storm set in.
The story, meticulously covered by Reuter’s reporter Jonathon Saul, describes in depth for the first time the serious challenges the Campbell Shipping vessel had to face to ensure the safety of more than 500 refugees plucked from the sea; from urging the stricken refugees to come on board in the first place and using up all the ships stores to feed them, to breaching the owners safety certificates by taking on board more passengers than legally agreed.
The financial burden of such activity can also prove costly.
The CS Caprice arrived into Qatar a whole seven days later than scheduled. Such delays can lead to port and charter penalties, while the subsequent loss of business to a shipowner can be anything from $10,000 to $80,000 a day, which may or may not be covered through insurance.
For an industry often painted in the mainstream media as one that puts profit before safety, such losses highlight how no amount of money comes before an operator’s duty to prioritise the safety of life at sea.
Over the last couple of years, the industry has quietly gone about plucking thousands of men, women and children from the Mediterranean, in an epidemic that shows no signs of abating. The ICS estimates that since January 2014 more than 1,000 commercial vessels have rescued more than 65,000 people, many of who would have perished without their assistance.
The logistical difficulties and operational hazards encountered by the ship’s crew and owners or managers of these vessels often go unreported. With the frequent occurrence of such rescues and little information surrounding the voyages, such harsh practicalities as even cleaning up after 500 refugees are often lost.
Speaking out about such incidents helps to humanise the industry and develop understanding around the importance of merchant vessels, not just as a vital link in world trade, but also as a watchful eye over our oceans.