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COVID-19: How do you prepare for the unpredictable?

by Erik Roesen Larsen, VP, Head of HSSE

Over the last two months I have seen my colleagues around the world achieve some incredible things, defying the odds to keep Maersk Drilling’s fleet working. As Vice President and Head of HSSE for Maersk Drilling, I have been at the heart of the crisis. Here, I share my thoughts on how to adapt to meet these unprecedented challenges.

COVID-19: How do you prepare for the unpredictable?

Back in the beginning of February I went to a conference in Texas with around 100 decision makers from the oil and gas industry in attendanceI know it may seem odd now, but nobody really talked about COVID-19. Simply put, it was not on the radar yet. 

I did speak briefly with a supplier about it. We discussed what we knew about the transmission and mortality rates in China. I left with a strong sense of ‘we must learn more’. It felt like nobody had joined the dots together to look at impact and exposure. 

Just a few weeks later, the home countries of those attendees were in national lockdowns – including Denmarkhome of Maersk Drilling HQ. 

During those weeks, things changed rapidly for us and many others. Our customers had a lot of questions, and it became clear that we had to apply a crisis management mindset.  

The level of empowerment and trust that we have in Maersk Drilling meant that I could walk into the office of Nikolaj Svane, Chief Strategy & People Officer, with a cup of coffee in my hand and say, “We need to call for a task force, and we need to do it now.” Ten minutes later, that task force was in place. 

That week we worked fast and hard to establish a proactive, not reactive, approach.  

The work that the task force did proved critical to Maersk Drilling getting ready for the looming situation. What’s more, we realised that we had a system in place that was prepared for a crisis, not COVID-19 specifically, but crisis. When we needed to ‘push the button’, we could do so immediately, helping us respond quickly to a crisis that could not have be predicted. 

By the week of 9 March, the situation escalated globally. Overnight, it was as if the world just shut down. The 48 hours of 14 and 15 March were some of the most intense I have ever experiencedEverybody, from the task force to our rigs, worked endless hours to keep our operations running.  

As always, our focus was getting our people and supplies to and from the rigs safely and efficiently.  

One of our company values is Constant Care – take care of today and actively prepare for tomorrow. In this crisis, we have focused on three priorities when it comes to constant care: keep our people safe, keep our business running, and protect the value we create for our customers. 

The safety of our people has always been top priority. As we continue to navigate through unchartered territory, we are rising to the challenges of keeping everyone safe, as one team. Everyone in Maersk Drilling has pulled together in remarkable waysI am so impressed with so many people in this organisation. And even though we are a big company, it really feels like we are a family. 

From Poland to West Africa, our crew members and crew coordinators have found innovative ways of working with the travel restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Poland for example, as commercial flights closed down we hired a bus to transport people to Germany and beyond.  

And similarly, when the situation escalated in Angola and Ghana, our amazing crew coordinators somehow managed to not only complete crew change overs using private chartered flights, but at the same time make seats available for stranded European citizens. This was no easy feat, but it showed what enterprises and governments can achieve when we work together during unprecedented times. 

These are perfect examples of the Maersk Drilling spirit. We find solutions to challenges and we keep spirits up while doing it. And it is moments like this that will help us cope with the uncertainty of the future. The ongoing work here at Maersk Drilling is and has been, an exemplary team effort. 

The creativity displayed by our people in Poland and West Africa is a beacon, showing us how we can operate effectively within the national and international constraints, including social distancingwhilst also keeping our staff and client business moving. 

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