With the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine, we can now consider that at some point we will be able to move beyond the pandemic and return to some kind of normal. With that in mind, our focus needs to turn to one of the key challenges that has been exacerbated by the crisis: continuing to operate assets safely in the face of a shrinking workforce.
The collaborative effort, led by Oil and Gas UK, to understand and respond to the crisis enabling essential operations to continue, was swift and effective. Despite this, it was still initially necessary to curtail all non-essential maintenance resulting in the offshore workforce falling from 11,000 to just 7,000. Levels have now recovered to around 9000, but what remains to be seen is how long it will take to return to pre-COVID levels, and this poses several challenges for our well-established industry. Further to this, throughout the UKCS it is estimated up to 30,000 jobs could be lost in the next 12 – 18 months.
This reduction in people and knowledge extends across the board: operations, onshore engineering, training and throughout the supply chain. With limited or no investment, continuing uncertainty and increased focus on energy transition, talent is driven away from the industry and may not return. While the workforce may be in decline, the fact is operators will need to find a way to continue to operate and safely maintain assets through to the end of their economic life.
Knowledge, Experience and Tools
As operators look to streamline their organisations and diversify, it may become harder to retain certain skill sets internally and they will have to look elsewhere to access the right knowledge, experience and tools. It will be essential for operators to recognise the gaps within their organisation and establish a plan to source the necessary skills, experience, services and products to enable business operations to continue safely and efficiently.
Operators and industry bodies alike agree that there is a continued, even essential, role for oil and gas in the energy transition. This being the case, then the industry needs to create an environment that will support a healthy supply chain. If operators are going to look to the supply chain to provide innovative solutions and experience, it will be crucial to clearly state forward workplans and investment decisions. It is difficult in times of such uncertainty to commit to large scale projects, but without this forward view, talent will continue to be driven away from the industry and the supply chain will also diminish. The supply chain that has built up around the UK oil and gas industry has a wealth of expertise, and if supportive and collaborative relationships are established, then it will go a long way to help operators meet their operational and engineering requirements.
Likewise, suppliers need to work to understand where value can be added to operator’s activities, be willing explore innovative models for collaboration and offer responsive solutions. This is familiar territory to Marine Technical Limits (MTL). The company was established to service a niche in the market – delivering specialist FPSO hull structural integrity management, repair and marine engineering support. In doing this, we have developed a range of services and products that can be adapted to support the specific requirements of any asset.
Knowledge and experience are required at all levels to operate effectively, both in offshore operations and onshore engineering. Companies need access to the right resources to be able to train personnel and manage, plan and execute scopes. MTL’s service offering has been developed on the back of offering stability in a specialised area, provided by our team of highly experienced specialist naval architects and marine engineers. This resource pool is shared between our clients, enabling us to deliver cost effective services at all levels, when they are needed. We can provide additional training for teams, support with strategy development and engineering solutions, through to turn-key management and execution of offshore scopes.
So, as we move towards a more normal tomorrow. It’s important to recognise that tomorrow might look a little different however, at MTL we will continue to provide the same exceptional service and deliver assured certainty to all our clients.