Dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic is being locked down into our long-term memories as we rise to the disruption affecting our lives and businesses, and difficult decisions can be called for as we navigate the challenges.
Personally, I am truly encouraged by the collaborative partnerships that have strengthened across our clients, partners and colleagues to drive through these challenges and adapting to what is becoming the new norm of remote working. There’s no question that the spread of the Coronavirus has made us all prioritise safety and the protection of life, more so than we already did. It’s also forcing a rethink of existing procedures and the way the marine and offshore industry can safely and securely support global supply chains.
For some, the COVID-19 fallout has been felt for several months, while others are just a few weeks in, but friends and colleagues across the world are working from home, juggling their professional duties with personal responsibilities. At LR, our cloud-based systems are serving us well as is the drive and tenacity of the many committed individuals who work in the business - from our plan approval colleagues, who are being kept very busy, to the Ship Emergency Response Service (SERS) team who continue to respond to ship emergencies whilst operating from their homes.
The ever-evolving global situation is putting us all to the test, further challenged by the continued oil price volatility in the offshore market. Inevitably, vessels scheduled for routine or unscheduled drydocking, or repairs, have been affected and there will be instances where a force majeure event may need to be considered. Much of the work that we have undertaken in recent weeks has required us to respond in difficult quarantine scenarios, managing multiple stakeholders, including Flags and Port Authorities to keep our clients, their people, ships and cargoes safe and sailing.
In March, the total number of surveys completed on ships in service around the world was 2,400, only very slightly down on historical averages of 2,500 per month – testament to the efforts of all our shipowner/manager clients and field surveyors for their collaborative team work and determination to keep the critical supply chains open so the food, medical, energy and household supplies that are needed to fight this pandemic are readily available to society.
We are also rising to the accelerated demand for remote surveys and last month we saw a massive increase in our remote engagement with our clients, rising from our trend of 5-10 % of complex surveys done remotely - which has been our norm for a number of years – to more than 25%.
We first published class guidance on remote surveys back in late 2018 and working with you on surveys without attendance in appropriate circumstances has been a focus for several years. To strengthen our support in this area, we have now put in place a global team of remote survey champions – a group of dedicated subject matter experts fully focused on developing our remote surveying capability – ensuring that you continue to work with the people you know and trust.
Recent weeks have been challenging for all of us in maritime, but despite the disruption, there have been some positives. Most notable is the news that seafarers are now considered critical workers - a welcome development for us as we’ve always considered our marine and offshore surveyors in the same light.
Furthermore, we can take confidence in China’s relatively rapid COVID-19 recovery with LR teams in the country returning to the office. Many of the lessons we learnt when first responding to the situation in Wuhan have proved invaluable in shaping our global COVID-19 response and understanding how we can better support each other. And we all know that pulling together will mean the world is in a better place to beat this virus.
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