Subsea UK Guest Editor: Are you changing because you have to or want to?

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Subsea Expo got off to a flying start with a busy exhibition and a packed-out auditorium for the conference plenary session.

The message throughout this session was loud and clear. The industry needs bold, courageous leadership and engagement to transform itself to deal with the lower oil price.

Our panel of industry-leaders from MOL, OGA, Aker Solutions, Centrica and Bibby Offshore demonstrated the type of collaboration we need in the industry. Each presentation was aligned, each presenter understood the other and had worked together in partnership to deliver a valuable session with no duplication. True collaboration in our industry is a process whereby companies come together in common understanding and trust to work with the right partners to deliver greater value.

The driver that will truly bring about the transformational change that will lead to this collaboration is the mind-set that $30 oil is here to stay. We cannot keep hoping that the price, and therefore investment and activity, will pick up in a year or so. We have to change the way in which we do things to ensure that we are profitable and sustainable at $30 oil. Some on the panel argued that this price seems so low because we have had inflated prices of $100 plus for so long and we allowed our costs to spiral out of control, largely between 2008 and 2014.

Collaboration will drive standardisation and simplification which are key to getting the cost base down. The bespoke and over-engineering has to stop and by doing so, we could quickly deliver around 40% cost savings.

With a big dose of courage and vision from the leaders in our industry, we can turn things around. We have the know-how, expertise and experience to deliver what is required but it all comes down to will. Industry leaders need to have the will to make fundamental organisational and behavioural changes. The only way of melting the so-called permafrost which exists in our industry is for leaders to tackle it head on and engage everyone in facilitating change that results in a change in mind-set, behaviour and attitude.

People change because they have to or because they want to. In the new norm of $30 oil, I would argue that both drivers for change exist. We know we have to and, if we want to survive and thrive, then we should want to change.

These messages were carried through into the exhibition hall where exhibitors were having serious conversations about how they can change the way in which they deliver services to drive value and efficiency. There is no denying that we are facing one of the toughest times ever in our history but the message is that we have what we need to get through this, we just have to think differently and act much, much more quickly.

A very encouraging first day at Subsea Expo was well and truly rounded off this evening at the Subsea UK Awards gala dinner when around 600 members of the subsea community up and down the country gathered to celebrate and reward those companies and individuals who are making our subsea sector truly great.