There is a wide variety of areas about which I, members of the IMCA secretariat and our member companies feel strongly. But there’s a particularly apt topic for this economic climate, and that is efficiency.

I repeatedly stress the importance of safety, as there is nothing more crucial to the IMCA’s member companies. We are faced with the global credit crunch and an oil price that could be likened to a rollercoaster 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.

I ask you to think for a moment about how you can increase efficiency on an individual and corporate basis.

Efficiency plays a critical role

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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.

Efficiency therefore plays a critical role in keeping projects and the industry viable.

As many readers 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.

“A new range of offshore vehicles and vessels requires improved skill and safety levels.”

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 that 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 a goal 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 to keep staff safe across the board.

Zero incidents is the aim for new vessels

The published IMCA documents, including those on new vessel and equipment specifications, trials and auditing, will be invaluable for the vessels and the staff as they are founded on the lessons learned – greater efficiency here also reaps dividends.

Zero unnecessary risk is so crucial that it is imperative 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.

The Risk Guideline identifies the financial consequences of a risk becoming a reality, helps the contracting parties to achieve their appropriate risk balance, tries to avoid parties accepting risks they don’t understand and deals with unknown risks.

It aims to:

  • improve dialogue;
  • improve risk apportionment and understanding in contracts and projects;
  • improve efficiency and project delivery
  • improve operator/contractor relations
  • save money
  • avoid litigation
  • increase opportunities
  • facilitate the development of alternative solutions
  • sustain the industry.

IMCA believes it will serve the long-term interests of all participants in the oil and gas industry and promote dialogue between the parties about risk in pursuit of the above objectives. This, in turn, will improve relations, increase efficiency and reduce overall costs.

“IMCA aims to support companies to increase efficiency and cut waste/unnecessary expense.”

The document is not intended to represent an exhaustive analysis of all risks which are covered by contracts in the oil and gas industry. The subject is huge and there exists already a vast knowledge base about risk and risk management in the public arena, published by academics and the industry with input from operators and contractors.

In addition, each operator and contractor probably has its own department responsible for this subject and its own strategy, perhaps in a formalised document and approach. The IMCA’s document is not intended to replace this regime; rather, it is intended to supplement it.

Each contract, project and client/contractor relationship is unique.

Stability and continuity

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.

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

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 birthdays 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 – 365 days a year. There is no doubt in my mind that focusing on 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.

IMCA info

The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) is the international trade association representing offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies. It counts over 490 companies among its members in more than 50 countries worldwide.

Its main objectives concern promoting members’ common interests and a commitment to:

  • Strive for the highest possible standards with a balance of risk and cost, in: health and safety; technology, quality and efficiency; environmental awareness and protection
  • Achieve and sustain self-regulation in the industry
  • Ease the free movement of equipment and personnel globally
  • Achieve equitable contracting regimes
  • Provide the framework for training, certification, competence and recruitment to support and sustain the industry globally
  • Resolve industry issues
  • Promote co-operation across the industry.