What we’ve learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic so far

by Erik Roesen Larsen, VP, Head of HSSE

As the new realities of working with COVID-19 emerge, I look back at the last few weeks to reflect on what I have learnt so far, and why those learnings will help the offshore industry grow stronger by continuing to adapt to a continually changing global situation.

What we’ve learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic so far

We’ve faced many unexpected challenges at Maersk Drilling in recent years. From the hard-hitting NotPetya cyber-attack in 2017, to the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 that caused massive air travel disruption.

All these situations brought difficulties. We at Maersk Drilling believe it’s possible and necessary to learn from such experiences. They become part of our corporate culture and identity, discussed and remembered in the future. They also test our processes and give us valuable feedback to refine and improve the ways in which we deal with them. Essentially, we learn from them.

With a lot of uncertainty around when, and how, the world will fully ‘reopen’ – some parts of the world are more affected than others and responses differ from country to country – frustrations naturally emerge. I’d like to shed some positivity on the situation by sharing what I’ve learned so far and why I think this will help us as we move forward, despite the lingering uncertainty.

First, I’ve learned something about Maersk Drilling’s processes to keep our people safe: they work.

If you read my previous article, you’ll know that Maersk Drilling has three priorities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: keep our people safe, keep our business running, and protect the value we create for our customers. As an offshore drilling company with crew members located far out at sea across the world, the obvious question is: how do we minimise the spread of this virus on our rigs?

Teams in each region have looked at the situation there and tailored their response. To date, we have not had to evacuate entire crews although we have relocated crew members when necessary. At this point, we have recorded fewer than ten confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our fleet of 22 rigs. Aside from this, our rigs have continued to operate with an impressive safety record and very little, if any, negative impact due to the pandemic.

Second, I’ve learned that our people are impressively innovative and resilient in difficult times. As it has become increasingly difficult to travel our employees have come up with creative ways of getting around.

For example, when Poland shut down, we relied on the experience of our Polish crew for logistics. When the existing shuttle service shut down, they organised a new shuttle service with a local company to take crew members from Poland to Germany. At the time of writing this shuttle service has transported more than 50 crew across the border since March.

Similarly, when the travel restrictions escalated in West Africa, Manning and Crewing acted promptly to explore options not previously pursued, including strong alliances with clients, competitors and local governments to successfully conduct several crew changes.

I’m super impressed with all the effort that’s gone into keeping our operations running. Necessity really is the mother of invention and I’ve learned that there’s plenty of that in Maersk Drilling, which certainly bodes well for the future.

Third, I’ve learned that from an organisational perspective, silos don’t have a place in a crisis. Maersk Drilling has been cross-functional, always.

Fourth, I’ve discovered that the leadership team has a lot of trust in their people, as they’ve been happy to take a step back and let our people do what they do best. The impact of this is huge as we grow larger and more international.

Finally, I’ve learned that social distancing works, but that social interaction is essential. Video conferencing technologies have allowed us to collaborate and stay in touch to get our daily fix of human interaction. Something that is so important during these difficult times.

Our experiences with Covid-19 have shown how important it is to be flexible and keep the balance between work and life a priority because there is a double benefit.

On the one hand, the office remains important, but this experience shows us how resourceful staff can be. A greater proportion of time working from home should help balance work and home lives, taking advantage of the technologies available to us.

On the other hand, more home working gives us the chance to be more responsive and adaptable should anything affect work life again in the future.

As you can see, I’ve personally learned a lot throughout this crisis. And I am confident that we can tackle the next challenges that will be thrown at us.

A situation becomes a crisis when your processes fail. To date Maersk Drilling’s processes and principles have held up well, but we’ll be reviewing and updating them to deal with the next situation that arises.

Challenges such as this test us because they are unprecedented. There is no rule book to deal with such situations. But if we can continue to think in contingencies and look beyond the current situation, we find there is much to learn from and help us grow stronger as employees and together as a business.


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