Incident and Crisis Management refers to steps that ports need to take to prevent crises from occurring, and prepare to deal with a crisis when it occurs and respond.

It is essential to understand what distinguishes a crisis from an incident or disruption event. A crisis will significantly impact port operations; once a crisis unfolds, it becomes too late to prepare for it. From a port perspective, a crisis may be defined as an event impacting a wide range of port activities, which undermines or removes its customers’ expectations. Most customers will be visibly affected by delays and even cargo loss. An incident relates to an event impacting a limited range of port activities and, if properly managed, may not be noticed by customers or only be noticed by a few of them.

Crisis management provides a framework for risk management, business continuity and crisis response. A crisis could significantly impact port operation, and unlike incidents which are generally seen as disruptive events with a higher frequency but lower severity, a crisis can have a more severe impact on a port. Because business continuity is concerned with the maintenance of business functions and services in the face of such foreseeable disruptions, it generally focuses on incidents. The objective of a ports' business continuity is to ensure that incidents do not spiral out of control. Some events can be so severe and have dire consequences that business continuity measures are overwhelmed and immediately give rise to a crisis.

For ports, crisis preparation entails several actions, including:

  • The identification of what may potentially cause problems for port operations.
  • The establishment of business continuity arrangements.
  • The development of crisis management capabilities by setting priorities, defining roles and responsibilities, and drafting a plan.
  • The validation of arrangements through testing.

Developing a port crisis management capability will require the port to, among others: (i) establish an appropriate leadership in terms of setting the overall direction for the crisis management; and (ii) communicating and motivating people to achieve the overall objectives. It is advisable to appoint an executive sponsor for overall oversight and directional support. This person should be a member of the port’s senior management team, with the appropriate training, particularly in crisis communication as he or she is likely to be the port spokesperson. Roles and responsibilities in the crisis management team should be clearly defined, and a brief and flexible crisis plan should be created, and should reflect the inherent unpredictability of events.

Some golden rules for a successful crisis response, include the following:

  • Facilitate early notification (culture and processes).
  • Activate the team without delay.
  • Follow the plan.
  • Exert team and meeting discipline.
  • Set the strategic goal.
  • Determine the main effort.
  • Ensure clarity of roles and responsibilities.
  • Engage in scenario planning.
  • Make timely decisions.
  • Align with the port’s values.

Additional information about incident and crisis management is available HERE.