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Korean engineers

Learning lessons from the Coronavirus lockdown in Asia.

Offices re-open after 10 weeks, as business returns to normal.

Meetings may require more control measures than before, but being back in the office after 10 weeks in lockdown is a welcome relief for the Lloyd’s Register’s Marine and Offshore (M&O) team in North Asia.

China was the first nation to feel the force of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and business is slowly but steadily returning to normal, says Mark Darley, Lloyd’s Register M&O Chief Operating Officer, who is based in Shanghai.

“Nobody likes to go first in a crisis, because you find yourself creating the playbook,” he says, “particularly in a situation like this, when there are so many unknowns and things are changing so rapidly.”

Darley says flexibility is key in responding effectively to coronavirus, such as how and when people can continue to work, and the use of technology to communicate with employees and clients alike.

“There was a lot of out-of-the-box thinking to ensure that we could keep people safe and support our clients in the early days within China. We used WeChat to arrange remote surveys, and tapped into our network to help others with the supply of critical personal protective equipment (PPE),” he explains, stressing that maritime stakeholders in the country freely shared information about what was happening on the ground, as the industry tends to do during times of crisis.

Gathering as much intelligence as possible from all channels was a top priority for Darley and his team. The situation meant he had to make multiple decisions in a very short time.

“We had several meetings a day to keep track of developments, but everything relied on near-term decision making. It was a case of doing what was right in the moment with the information you had to hand. While many of the ‘big’ decisions were made by the government, we had to respond, delegate, and ensure our plans were cascaded while ensuring the safety of our colleagues, clients and their sites.”

A crisis can often bring people closer. There’s no question that’s true for the team in North Asia, now the virus is starting to subside. “Everyone has their ‘coronavirus and how they coped story’”, says Darley, “and many used the time in lockdown to reflect on what was important in their lives. The kindness and empathy among the team is palpable.”

“This has probably been the biggest disruption during our 150 years in China, but I’m immensely proud of how the people of LR have pulled together. As always, maritime will rebound. This shared experience leads me to believe we will rebound more united as an industry.”

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