Port and shipping are derivatives of international trade flows which heavily depend on multimodal transport system to cater to the customer requirements. They are by nature unstable industries and hence crisis is inevitable. Port crises could occur due to various physical or business originated causes. The challenge is to identify the crisis and manage it in the first place; often this judgment in the face of an emergency is what could lead a port to success or failure.
1. Port industry Crises: Major causes of crises are:
1.1. External or Environmental reasons: Phenomena’s like Hurricanes, earth quakes, tsunami , floods , terrorist attacks , cyber attacks etc
1.2. Accidents: Collisions, oil spills, structural damages, hazardous cargo handling issues- explosions and gas leakages, man equipment interface issues – crane failure, vehicle accidents within and outside port premises.
1.3. Political & Economy related causes: Trade issues, Chokepoints / blockades and increased tensions in a region cause business loss and market share. Similarly emergence of new economies cause shift in global trade routes which force some sea ports out of business and increased business cause congestion in some other ports.
1.4. Business related issues: inter port & inter terminal competitions, increasing container ship sizes demand for costly investments; merger/takeover/alliances of shipping lines – leave one hub port and select another one.
2. Crisis management: the process of identifying the source and addressing it effectively is a challenge and such a situation is indeed a testing field for managerial and leadership talents within the organization.
2.1. Take measures to prevent the crisis: Consider all possible threatening situations, events or processes and formulate a contingency plan. Introduce a 'signal' detecting mechanism which would ring a warning bell to alert a possible crisis.
2.2. Be ready with a crisis management team to provide a holistic view of the vulnerabilities of the organization and to address the tactical issues of the crisis. The team need to be refreshed periodically to bring in new employees into the system. Also, a public opinion tracking system would be useful to identify concerns outside the port premises.
2.3. Identify and accept the crisis: Due to the “crisis proof” mentality often the crisis signals get ignored. Constituting a consulting team with inside and outside personals would help to get multiple perspectives on warning signals and identify crisis at an early stage itself.
2.4. Ensure honest and quick information flow across the organization and to the concerned stake holders. This will help to build trust and confidence among all.
2.5. Resolve the crisis: take immediate decisions to turn around the intensity and also to prevent expansion to other unaffected sections.
3. Crisis accelerate changes: Give up outdated perceptions and processes, re-asses the needs, listen to employees and other stakeholders, organise proper training/education/mock drills and formulate a simple and uptodate crisis management process which clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of all concerned.A well-managed crisis generally develops a sense of togetherness among the employees which normally last for a longer period.