Things were looking up. John C wriggled in his leather office chair. The shipping business press always liked his pronouncements. He was front page on the Lloyd’s List website, top story on the Tradewinds website and spread across three of the four Greek shipping websites. He thought his public relations people had done a good job. Only perhaps his photo made him look a bit jowly?
“Leading shipowner condemns lack of action on piracy.” The headlines were great. His PR girl Sue was a no nonsense blonde who knew the way shipping industry papers worked. “Canopoulos calls for piracy action.” They all had the story of his tanker being hijacked. They had all the right quotes in there. Sue had understood exactly what he wanted to say. Why did shipowners pay tax if the navies couldn’t protect their ships? It was the crews who mattered most. It was unfair on seafarers that nations did nothing to protect them. World trade would suffer if the piracy scourge was not stopped. He would work tirelessly to get his crew out safely. “Whatever it takes, says Canopoulos.” Marvellous.
John C loved it. Working the press was so easy. Not one of the papers mentioned that the ship was registered in Malta, which runs an ask-no-questions flag of convenience and where he paid no tax. Not one pointed out that Malta doesn’t have a navy. None of the papers had troubled to check with the maritime authorities, who could have told them that at the time of the hijack the Prometheus had not registered its voyage with them and had not been using its AIS tracking system. Not one picked up on the cargo and its destination. Not one had anything to say on his track record as a shipowner, or the worse one of his father.
You look rich and you buy companies which the public can understand, like leisure clubs or an airline. That’s all it takes, thought John C. Then they bend over for you. He wriggled again. Bending over made him think about the receptionist. Was it a coincidence that she wore those tiny shorts each time he came to the office? Only one hundred and seventy-nine days to go. With the piracy as an excuse he could put off flying to Greece to talk to his wife. With the insurance money he would not need to talk to her anyway.
He reached for his phone, then hesitated. Natasha? Or should he see how grateful the receptionist would be?