Angry protests erupted against the crew of a ship in a West African port after rumours circulated that the crew had murdered a number of local stowaways discovered hiding on the ship. Although the local authorities did not have the capability to board the ship, which was anchored at a river berth, they were able to withhold the services of a river pilot who was essential for a difficult passage down the river to open sea.
I was instructed to make representations in person to officials in the country’s Ministry of Justice and the local government. Subsequently, as an independent mediator, I was able to identify the local political pressure that these officials were under, which in turn opened the door for a negotiation to provide a face-saving solution for the politicians as well as the safety of the ship’s crew. If the shipowners had attended in person, they would have been lynched by a mob or imprisoned by the authorities.