Why Crew Rotations are Critical for the Oil, Gas and Energy Industries During the Pandemic?

By  //  January 5, 2021

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Since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many industries all around the globe have faced disruption and difficulties keeping their processes smooth. In the midst of it all, businesses had to adjust their working procedures to ensure employee safety and the maintenance of operations as much as possible.

Oil, Gas and Energy industries are certainly not an exception. Not only did the prices drop, but ensuring their employees’ safety while keeping their business running created many challenges. Air charter flights have been playing a vital role during the pandemic by providing a safe solution for crew rotations.

What are the struggles that the oil, gas and energy industries are facing?

A lot of the industry’s operations are large-scale and in hard to reach destinations, making the pandemic situation even harder to handle and bringing a lot of uncertainty. In the short term, companies have to find ways to keep their workers safe, while in the long term they are facing the challenge of ensuring sustainable development and meeting the demand.

Offshore platforms are complicated structures which require a variety of specialists to be on-site constantly. For each construction to be fully operational, businesses usually employ both locals and foreign workers to keep up with the demand for manpower. However, if lockdowns and travel restrictions get tougher, offshore businesses will face a worker shortage due to the loss of specialists from abroad.

Due to the nature of oil and gas drilling operations, the crew rotations are depended on airborne and marine transportation. It is difficult enough to be weather depended for travel to the offshore platforms, and adding possible travel restrictions and quarantine rules creates even more problems. The failure to provide safe worker travel could lead to damaging consequences, not only for the aforementioned businesses and their employees but for the global economy as well.

During the first wave of the pandemic, oil producers leaders like “Petrobras”, Mexico’s “PEMEX”, and UK’s “OGUK” reported a rise in coronavirus cases. Due to bad weather conditions and judicial restrictions, crews’ evacuations were postponed for days. Consequently, it led to the temporary shutdown of offshore rigs. If crew rotations have not been arranged and carried out on time, employees with COVID-19 might not have received appropriate care and testing.

Aviation’s role in the oil, gas and energy industries during the pandemic

When the COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions started, commercial airlines stopped their services and grounded entire fleets, on a global scale never seen before. It took a few months for these companies to start running again and get back on its feet. The oil, gas and energy companies that were using scheduled airlines to transport their employees faced a difficult time, as flights kept getting cancelled. Resulting in workers often having to stay longer on rigs than usual.

In the meantime, there was an increase in private air charters due to flexibility, safety reasons and the lack of scheduled airlines flying near to those areas. This is where air charter specialists are playing a crucial role in crew rotations during the pandemic. Air charter companies have a team of experts who are available to the customer from the moment they book the flight until they reach their destination.

If travel restrictions are lifted or changed, they can react immediately and operate last minute flights in a much more flexible way than scheduled airliners could. They can also provide the client with corporate shuttles and swift turnarounds that are crucial during these times.

Despite the convenience and efficiency during emergencies, it is also safer for the employees to travel on a private aircraft charter. The passenger, or the organisation chartering the flight, can choose how many people and who they want to fly with. They’ll be no other external passengers on the plane apart from the pilot and aircraft crews, plus security checks are often quicker and easier. This limits the possible person-to-person interactions which is a problem when faced with a scheduled flight.

Coronavirus has been resurging, therefore, the oil and gas industry need to be prepared for smooth and safe operations in the coming months. Since crew members are regularly sleeping in shared quarters, it makes it difficult to keep social distancing rules, making crew rotations even more important to ensure employees’ safety.

Oil, gas and energy companies need to find effective ways to ensure crews’ safety and sufficient rotations to avoid the events from repeating itself. The businesses should seek help from private air charters, who can offer flexible, tailored group flights because it is a viable solution to ensure that offshore companies’ operations continue to run smoothly.

How marine salvage and offshore oil and gas companies are utilising aircraft charters for crew rotations

Over the past 50 years, air charter companies have provided solutions for some of the world’s most niche logistics requirements. The aircraft charter industry has become a vital component in the transportation of workers, equipment, and infrastructure. As industrial production and scope have increased over the years, so too has the reliance on specialised transport solutions.

Chartering an aircraft offers distinct benefits over alternative means of transportation – from tailored route plans and immediate uplift capability to customised schedules and itineraries – crucial for industries that operate in niche environments.

Marine salvage and offshore oil and gas are two industries that benefit greatly from group aircraft charter applications.

Offshore oil and gas

Offshore oil and gas plays an essential role in Europe’s energy production – estimated to contribute close to 97% of all new European oil production by 2025. Offshore fields hold significant resources, and breakeven prices for offshore projects have reduced significantly – thanks to standardisation and simplification in rig production. However, one key challenge remains – crew rotations.

Crews onboard offshore oil and gas rigs in Europe typically work for around 14-21 days before returning home for shore rest. The rotation of workers on each rig needs to be expertly managed to ensure efficiency and overall profitability. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that offshore rigs are difficult to reach.

The best group air charter companies such as Chapman Freeborn can add significant value to the crew rotation process. From arranging small passenger aircraft to transport workers from major airports to local hubs, to helicopter charters directly to the offshore rig. Aircraft charter brokers often provide ongoing flight schedules for offshore production companies – adding a layer of simplicity and reliability to an otherwise complicated scenario. For any unexpected requirements, aircraft charters can be utilised with minimal notice – often with an aircraft available in a matter of minutes.

Chapman Freeborn has supported energy companies across Europe for decades, with experience in the North Sea, Eastern Mediterranean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The North Sea remains the most significant source of offshore oil and gas in Europe and the world’s most active offshore drilling region.

Marine salvage

While the requirement for crew rotation support differs from the offshore oil and gas industry, marine salvage companies often rely on group air charter flights for worker transportation.

The marine salvage industry deals with unpredictability more so than almost any other. Marine salvage is the process of recovering a vessel following a shipwreck, grounding, capsize, or other maritime casualty. This can happen anywhere in the world, and marine salvage companies are expected to react swiftly and surely when such an event occurs.

Often, marine salvage projects require specialist teams to be transported from various countries to support the salvage efforts. Group aircraft charters are frequently relied upon to provide transport solutions for these professionals – taking teams to the relevant port ready to board the salvage vessel, or directly to the vessel via helicopter.

With many vessels carrying highly-pollutant materials such as crude oil, it’s vital that marine salvage companies have the support they require to enable a rapid and decisive response.