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EDITORIAL: Not very good behaviour by BNOCL


EDITORIAL: Not very good behaviour by BNOCL

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THE TARDINESS WITH which the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL) informed the public and, more importantly, its neighbours about an oil leak at its Woodbourne oil field late last week was totally unacceptable.

It suggested a level of ill-preparedness for such eventualities, especially from a crisis communication standpoint.

The worst enemy of a business is to have anything but the facts out and very early. This was certainly the case last week and the rumours and misinformation must have made the full rounds. Residents in the surrounding districts heard something had happened, but were never apprised of the facts in a timely manner. This was no way to build trust and confidence, nor did it show the BNOCL as a good corporate neighbour.

Threats to the environment are of significant concern, and where there is the possibility of harm to people’s health, the situation must be treated differently. While engineering solutions and executive management plans are important, it is the soft skills of communication with all publics that must take precedence.

This incident suggests that there is a need to audit all oil and gas supply lines and all the related relevant equipment. The objective must be to verify the status of all the equipment and ensure safety rules, adherence to environmental protection measures and the existence of a crisis communication plan.

This becomes necessary in light of what happened just under a year ago when the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) was unable to provide a consistent supply of gas at the height of the winter tourism season. That episode created chaos for many customers – commercial and domestic.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart got involved and outlined a number of measures to rectify the situation. The public has never been informed by the NPC whether all those plans were successfully implemented. The public is only left to wonder and hope that there will be a guaranteed supply of natural gas during the upcoming winter tourism season.

The non-communication of the outcomes highlights the laissez-faire attitude exhibited towards the public by too many state-controlled businesses, which behave as though they are accountable only to the political class and its subordinates. We agree that it is impossible to prepare for and manage a crisis at the same time, added to which a crisis communication plan cannot be done in real time. This is why corporate entities must act with alacrity whenever a crisis arises – otherwise they will write their names in infamy.

Hopefully, both the BNOCL and the NPC appreciate the importance of transparency and accountability in their operations. They should consider a famous Warren Buffett quote: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”