Offshore workforce fell by thousands in first month of lockdown


THE number of workers on oil rigs decreased after the UK went into lockdown in March, figures published by the Oil and Gas Industry Association (OGUK) show.

Average weekly personnel on board offshore oil and gas installations decreased from around 11,000 on March 8 to just over 7,000 one month later – with drilling and engineering construction trades hardest hit.

OGUK’s workforce insight report 2020 noted the uptake of the Coronavirus job retention scheme by companies, particularly in the supply chain. The association said many firms were preparing themselves to endure the triple whammy of low oil and gas prices and the operational impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It added that while official figures on offshore employment would not be available until next year, tentative signs are ‘worrying’ and underline a need for governments, industry and regulators to work together to protect the jobs and skills that will be needed to meet UK energy needs now.

Report author and OGUK workforce engagement and skills manager, Dr Alix Thom, commented, “Our figures confirm the initial operational impact of the lockdown back in March this year, with the number of workers offshore decreasing considerably in the space of a month as companies reduced to minimum manning in a bid to control the spread.

“Numbers have risen steadily since then as industry has adopted a robust swiss cheese barrier model, with a range of preventative measures in place both prior to mobilisation and whilst offshore, which has helped secure more jobs and increase operations in the immediate term.

“Despite this, we continue to see some very worrying signs for employment in the sector, with the uptake of furlough and continued suppression of global energy demand impacting our industry like many others in the wider economy.

“As our report shows, the recruitment and retention of diverse and talented people will be essential as we work to support UK energy needs both now, and in a lower carbon context. A North sea transition deal, supported by the UK and Scottish governments, can act as a catalyst for this future, and in so doing will provide certainty on the sustainability for the sector in difficult times.”