For anyone living in the Channel Islands, or indeed anyone with more than passing interest in the affairs of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, the launch of Condor Ferries' new £50m. vessel Liberation won't have escaped notice.
Condor's history has not been plain sailing (pun intended) with too many people quick to criticise them for timetabling issues and poor performance.
However, they should be congratulated for the way they have engaged the islands' communities in recent weeks. Firstly, they made a long-term commitment to providing a maritime transport link to the UK and France, running a competition to name the ferry and another for children to design the new mascot. Then they gave thousands of people a sneak peak with organised tours, raising money for two local charities.
But for all that, two things happened in two days which saw them back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Despite extensive sea trials, staff receiving the highest level of training and many hours spent practising the loading on and off for vehicles and passengers, the inaugural sailing on Friday was delayed.
Passengers reported issues with vehicles being loaded and social media was abuzz with reports of vehicles having to be off-loaded and reloaded, rumours that some were left behind and one parked so closely to the end of the ferry that the car ramp was touching it when it closed.
Then, on Saturday, as Liberation made her third scheduled arrival into Guernsey, amid some pretty horrible weather, the 102-m ferry struck the quay in Guernsey while trying to berth, immediately putting her out of service. This was also the first day of the Easter holidays when thick fog was also causing lengthy delays and cancellations at the airports. Not to mention the fact that one of the media's news editors was waiting on the quay and happened to capture it all on film that was quickly and widely shared online.
Condor's history means that it is familiar with dealing with ferries being out of action and it has a tried and tested plan of action, but it does highlight how you should always plan for the unexpected - especially if you're in the middle of a high profile project attracting plenty of attention.
Of course, there can be endless 'what ifs' but they can often be categorised into broad groups - human error, product or service failure or act of God. You can't plan in detail for every eventuality, and as the weekend showed, there will be situations which are completely out of a company's control. But the basics should be there, no matter whether it's a specific project or business as usual. Companies and organisations need to be prepared for a situation before it becomes a crisis.
Ensure there are procedures in place, that have been thought out in the cold light of day and that are accessible to the key members of the team. Procedures need to cover every aspect from dealing with the situation, communicating to key stakeholders (staff, customers, suppliers, neighbours, regulators, officials and the media etc.), resolving the situation and then repairing the damage (physical, emotional or reputational).
Having the procedures isn't enough. They need to be tested so that adrenalin doesn't cause them to fall apart and they need to be constantly reviewed to make sure they are fit for purpose.
Standing amid the chaos and saying 'but that wasn't supposed to happen' is not an excuse for being ill-prepared.