Passionate About… Efficiency

23 December 2008 (Last Updated December 23rd, 2008 18:30)

Hugh Williams is, chief executive of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA). He continues his look at subjects that raise passions among offshore specialists.

Passionate About… Efficiency

In 2008 we have looked at a wide variety of areas about which I, members of the IMCA secretariat and our member companies feel passionately. But there’s one particularly apt topic for the end of the year, not least because it is the stuff of which New Year’s resolutions should be made – and must be kept.

It is efficiency.

"The last thing our sector of the industry needs is surprises."

Over and over again the Passionate about... series has stressed the importance of safety, as there is nothing more crucial to our member companies. We are faced with the global credit crunch and an oil price that could be likened to a roller coaster ride, but whatever happens to the barrel price – and I would be a brave (or foolish) man to make predictions – safety remains of paramount importance.

So do our aims of increased predictability, stability and continuity in the industry.

I would like to delve deeper and stress the effectiveness of aiming for greater efficiency, which, in turn, leads inevitably to higher safety levels and to those sought after goals of predictability, stability and continuity. For a moment, I ask you to think how you can increase efficiency on an individual and corporate basis.

Efficiency plays a critical role

Helping our member companies to be more efficient assists them in delivering a greater number of better products or services to their clients. Being efficient also enables our members to save money and, in these uncertain times, this means vital savings to their clients, the oil companies. It therefore plays a critical role in keeping projects and the industry viable.

As readers of this year’s series of articles will know, there is one area of pressing concern for the $20bn-a-year offshore marine contracting industry – expansion. Sophisticated vessels are vital for the safe and efficient support of underwater and surface construction.

In a relatively short time there will be many new marine construction vessels, offshore support vessels, floating drilling rigs, and a new generation of dredgers and seismic vessels in service around the world.

It is true that some may be put on hold due to the combination of the credit crunch and lower oil price, but the offshore fleet is about to become physically larger (in terms of numbers and size) and more sophisticated. It is within this scenario where skills and safety levels need to match the sophistication of the new-look fleet.

To operate the new fleet, the industry will recruit a wide range of new people and they should have clear objectives.

  • "Zero injuries" is fundamental to the success of the offshore industry. All recruits must be capable of absorbing the available knowledge and taking on board industry safety objectives. Training (and well-trained people are efficient people) must continue across the board to keep them safe.
  • "Zero incidents" is the goal for new vessels. The published IMCA documents, including those on new vessel/equipment specifications, trials and auditing, will be invaluable for the vessels and the staff as they are well founded on the lessons learned – greater efficiency here also reaps dividends.
  • "Zero unnecessary risk" is so crucial that it is imperative that the industry formulates plans to ensure the enlarged offshore fleet can operate optimally, safely and efficiently.

IMCA plays a significant part in ensuring efficiency by providing guidance and good practice materials. We publish 200 guidance notes on key areas for the marine, diving, remotely operated vehicle and offshore survey sectors of the industry. We also share information and encourage members to share their experiences.

The guidelines relate to personnel, procedures and equipment. Their goal is efficiency with the desired outcome being no surprises for those who follow the guidance or for their clients.

"Skills and safety levels need to match the sophistication of the new-look fleet."

Our commercial publications – the IMCA Contracting Principles, Risk Guideline and several standard contracts – are aimed at balancing risk and cost, removing inefficiency and improving predictability. The last thing our sector of the industry needs is surprises.

Member companies need predictability, stability and continuity with time enough to complete tasks safely and efficiently. They also need trained and competent people to spare, as well as sensible and planned utilisation of vessels.

A big reinvestment programme by vessel owners is underway. The viability of the new vessels depends on several years of market stability and continuity.

IMCA’s guidance aims to remove wasted expense in projects. For example changing requirements between projects, clients and regions remains a wasteful practice whereas global alignment would be much more efficient.

In a volatile and fast-moving industry, a life of no surprises is difficult to guarantee but almost everything we do on behalf of our members is aimed at diligent planning. Let’s leave surprises for birthday presents and other festive occasions!

Combining the three zero objectives defines efficient operations and I hope it gives you food for thought about how operations can be more efficient – not only on New Year’s Day when resolutions start, but 365 days a year. There is no doubt in my mind that ensuring greater efficiency ensures that ours is an ever safer industry.

That in itself makes the industry significantly more cost effective, a vital achievement for all parties.