Article written by Watchkeeper, BIMCO
Connectivity is a wonderful advance, but can, in the wrong circumstances, be a curse! Some years ago a large cruise vessel had a blackout in the English Channel. It was more of an embarrassment than a serious danger as tugs were standing by in the event that the engineers did not manage to solve the problem. But the ship was in mobile telephone range of the UK coast and within minutes, prompted by passengers sharing their impressions with their friends and family at home, the press was on the case, and telephone calls from newshounds were even being fielded on the bridge, where the Master of the ship and his team had other more important things to think about at that moment.
This was before the age of social media, which has multiplied this issue of connectivity considerably. We have arrived at the age of the “citizen journalist”, with every passenger in a cruise ship equipped with cameras and recording devices and, moreover, able to transmit this information to others. More recent incidents with cruise ships have demonstrated this alarming ability and while attempting to control passengers’ transmissions via social media will clearly be futile, it is important that crew members, who may be in possession of the facts of an incident, are not tempted, or indeed provoked to indulge in this sort of communication.
So perhaps nobody should be surprised that the Standard P&I Club, in its latest newsletter, is warning about the hazards of social media thrusting itself into any crisis. Mark Clark, who is the author of this particular item, points out that it is far easier now, than in any earlier era for the media to approach employees, perhaps through their Facebook or Twitter feed, and that a lot of harm could be done if the wrong information about an incident happens to leak out in this fashion.