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Energy companies likely to face skills shortage

Oil and gas companies that have slashed jobs since the oil price crash could well find it difficult to recruit staff with the right skill sets when exploration and production (E&P) spending picks up again.

The manning challenge could well affect both rig operators and oil and gas service companies, delegates at the manning session of the Seatrade Offshore Marine Workboats Middle East event in Abu Dhabi were told yesterday. Personnel who had left the industry might not return when the sector picks up, and those that are potentially available may not have the necessary skill sets for an increasingly digitalised offshore energy sector.

Lars Schandorff, HR manager, leadership development, at Seadrill Global Services warned against a “last-minute approach” to hiring personnel and said that companies need to have a strategy for recruiting large numbers of people in a short time, as may well be necessary.

There could be a seven-or eight-year gap between laying people off and a new wave of recruitment, he said, and technology over that time would have inevitably moved on. Even if people who had changed course in life wanted to return to the sector, they might not be up-to-date with the latest equipment, Schandorff said.

Session moderator, Michael Elwert, Elektrans group chief executive, said that energy firms and service companies had become completely “cost-arrogant” when oil prices were high, and a “war for talent” was likely when companies endeavour to attract and retain the best people in future. Greater ship autonomy, he said, was inevitable, and older people who had left the OSV sector, for example, might not be suitable.

John Lloyd, ceo of the Nautical Institute, agreed that more autonomy is inevitable but declared that “the benefit will be in the journey”. He could not foresee the autonomous operation of complex ocean-going vessels, and the complications of handling them at the beginning and end of voyages. But William Tobin, Underwriting Syndicate Manager, Offshore, for the Shipowners P&I Club, reminded the audience that human error is still the main reason for claims.  

Reverend Paul Burt, Gulf and South Asian Director for the Mission to Seafarers, said that his work had revealed the essential nature of trust between ship managers and their employees. In cases he had seen where trust had broken down, he said, the company itself was in the process of breaking down.

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