With the theme, Waves of Change, OTC 08 organisers are seeking to “reflect the industry’s transition as project scopes and parameters are stretched to fulfil ever-increasing demand”.
Indeed, the first paragraph on the opening page of the event’s website goes on to “highlight the need to not only keep pace but to anticipate future developments: as the rate of change accelerates, will our industry ride the Waves of Change?”.
These waves are now pushing companies – large and small – to distant geographical locations, some of which they may have little or no previous experience of operating in. Of course, there are new finds in areas such as Ghana and Uganda, but there remain vast untapped swaths of energy wealth in Iraq and Nigeria, for example, in which the industry has operated for decades.
For many small to medium enterprises on both sides of the Atlantic, to survive and thrive, it is essential to move into such areas of operation.
This need to “keep pace” brings with it an array of questions and potential problems. At a strategic decision-making level, issues of security and political risk arise, and for the board, the issue of the UK’s new corporate manslaughter legislation arises. For HSE and HR departments, issues of corporate responsibility and staff safety, morale and security emerge, while for the employees deployed to such areas, their personal safety and wellbeing are highlighted.
In many respects, these are exciting times and there is the potential for vast commercial reward. These issues do, of course, require to be addressed, but need not necessarily discourage companies from operating in such environments – but can help them “keep pace and anticipate future developments”.
There are numerous ways in which risk can be mitigated.
Intelligence provision – whether at a decision-making level or for those on the ground – provides companies and individuals with the strength of knowledge to understand the geopolitical and security environments in which they operate. When coupled with training relevant to working in hostile environments, this provides a strong base for operating safety in remote and difficult locations.
Experience has shown that the training of staff prior to deployment to potentially dangerous environments can not only equip them with the skills to deal with emergency situations, but provides them with confidence in their own ability. It is also worth bearing in mind, particularly during the current skills shortage, that preparatory training of this kind helps to reduce staff turnover.
Forward planning in terms of crisis management, medical, evacuation and insurance provision are also areas that require to be addressed and often invoke fear. They need not do so and are, indeed, key to safely riding the “Waves of Change”.
The question, therefore, is not “will our industry ride the Waves of Change?”, but will it do so safely?
Claire Fleming is a senior analyst at security specialist AKE