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Originally written for Seatrade Offshore Marine and Workboats Middle East
If there was one word to describe the last five years in our industry, “unstable” would perhaps be an accurate choice. Demand within the global oil and gas markets has declined, and as a result, the prosperity of the offshore marine market has suffered significantly.
However, there are now signs of improvement. Whilst the price of Brent remains volatile, it is at a more constructive level and global demand for energy is on the rise. An increase in E&P spending is also a positive indication for our industry, driven by the increase in demand for oil & gas.
Meeting this rise in demand is obviously critical but should also be treated as an opportunity to optimise processes through the implementation of new and innovative technologies. Examples such as real-time lube oil analysis to develop customer-focused dashboards –presents an opportunity to capitalise on the increasingly critical relationship between offshore marine and technology.
As we approach a critical point in the economic cycle, our industry’s relationship with technology will not only become increasingly important but may also present its biggest hope for recovery.
We are already seeing digitalisation disrupt our market and the companies operating within it. Dedicated dashboards can now provide real-time insight into operation performance, and connectivity has the power to share information about the state of vessels. Identifying cost saving opportunities is a real challenge for companies looking to stay competitive in this unsettled market – and IT is emerging as a key driver when it comes to increasing operational efficiency and reducing overall costs. Digitalisation, access to real-time data and actual data collection is where we see one of the biggest opportunities for our sector.
Aging fleets add an extra layer of complexity from a data collection perspective. If these assets are not already able to collect data, retrofitting the assets can be costly and time-consuming. The investment in retrofitting will be high, but the ROI will come over the extended lifecycle of the asset and the ability to move to a predictive/conditioned-based maintenance model.
If our industry is to capitalise on the potential opportunity driven by technology, we must acknowledge the scope for greater collaboration within the industry, as well as with organisations and ventures outside the industry. I believe the greatest impact can be generated by collaborating with players outside the offshore support industry; specifically, leaders in technology and automation that are developing products to digitise our operations.
However, digitalisation doesn’t just affect operational data - it also impacts the people and strategies needed to address the change required in an organisational culture. Embedding the right culture within an organisation takes time, and is often the reason many digital transformation projects prove challenging, particularly within the OSV sector.
At this point in the economic cycle, it is important for us to remain optimistic about the future of our industry, albeit with an element of caution. Investment in IT and digitalisation need to be regulated in ways that are beneficial for the top line, whilst reducing costs in the long term.
Our industry’s relationship with technology will become increasingly important in the coming years. Increased investment driven by E&P spending will aid the development of technology, which can be used to digitise operations, thereby making them more efficient.
However, with new technology and innovation taking over the OSV industry now, I believe this is the right time to promote optimism in our industry.