Record breaking IMCA annual seminar held in London

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During the past two days, 520 delegates from 30 countries attended the Annual Seminar of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) in London (19 and 20 November). The event, held in a different country each year, proved to be a record breaker in terms of delegate registration, as well as attracting more exhibitors than ever before (34), and more endorsing organisations (14) from around the world.

“Sadly our President, Massimo Fontolan of Saipem was unwell, so it fell to me to speak in his place on the giant strides that IMCA has made over the past year since the 2013 IMCA Annual Seminar was held in Singapore,” explains IMCA’s Chief Executive, Chris Charman.”Then our packed conference hall enjoyed keynote presentations from three scintillating and knowledgeable speakers – Malcolm Webb, Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK; Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE and Mr Daiji Zhang, Executive Vice President of CDSA (the China Diving & Salvage Contractors Association).

“In typically forthright style, Malcolm Webb addressed the downturn in oil prices; and gave an overview of the exploration and production prospects for the UKCS, looking at what he described as a ‘pretty precipitous decline’; and explaining that ‘the UK has a very serious cost and efficiency challenge’. Looking at a barrel price of $78 he asked the question ‘where is it going to stop?’ answering it himself by saying ‘it’s not a blip to me’.

“Although IMCA is very much an international organisations with 1,045 member organisations in more than 60 countries, roughly half our membership belongs to our Europe & Africa Section and many are naturally involved with expro activities on the UKCS so his topical comments were highly relevant.

“Malcolm highlighted the need for fiscal policy to be changed with all attention focused on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement on 3 December, saying: ‘we’re waiting with bated breath’; and spoke of the overwhelming requirement for a predictable fiscal regime. Was he optimistic? ‘Yes, I am, I think the stakes are too high for us to fail’.

“He went on to speak of the need for the entire industry to work in collaboration, stressing the fact that ‘the one thing no-one will do is sacrifice safety’; and of the fact that ‘we have maintained some of the old behaviours – we need a huge change of behaviour’ and looked at the need for a step change under various headings: people, efficiency, logistics and planning, standardisation and simplification; something with which IMCA would wholeheartedly agree.

“He stressed the great value of Sir Ian Wood’s review of the UKCS, the good news of the appointment of Andy Samuel as the new chief executive of the Oil & Gas Authority the reserves of between 12/13 and 24 billion barrels. And, looking at the global situation he believed there will be a turn back ‘the world needs oil and gas’.

“Yes a highly thought provoking presentation; one providing food for thought for delegates and for us as their association.”

Judith Hackitt of HSE and the Executive Vice President of CDSA

Chris Charman went on to explain:”Judith Hackitt was extremely supportive of the work that IMCA has, and is, doing; and spoke of the need to break down the barriers between sectors such as offshore oil and gas and offshore renewables; something that we at IMCA are well aware of and working on, with members involved in both industries. Like Malcolm Webb, she stressed that there should be no compromise on safety; ‘many of the challenges are similar’ she said.

“She spoke of the fact that regulators are concerned about the drop in oil prices, for in the past this has led to a deterioration in structures and cutbacks on maintenance; and stressed the importance of the safety case. ‘In its simplest form it is a document that lies at the heart of what you do’, she said but explained its importance to everyone involved with a project from stakeholders to the work force.

“Our final keynote speaker Daiji Zhang spoke of the vast sea area around China; and the work of his association, which has recently signed an agreement with IMCA and ACDI, thus helping to stress that although this Annual Seminar was in London, IMCA is a truly global organisation. Speakers over the two days came from 11 countries.

“Indeed, our industry plays a vital role. Its vessels account for 4% of the world’s maritime fleet. Collectively our members employ some 350,000 people and have an annual turnover of around $150bn. They work in all the world’s major offshore areas, delivering large offshore oil and gas and marine renewables projects around the globe that quite literally fuel the global economy.”

Day 2 off to a flying start

“Risk management is a crucial part of what our members are involved in – and we work with them on all aspects of this,” says Chris Charman.”The second day of the IMCA Annual Seminar started with a salutary tale, the ‘Emerald field: risk management case study’ – a truly fascinating 45-minute presentation by Professor Stephen Carver, Lecturer in Project & Programme Management at Cranfield University, a past-master in the art of public speaking, he held the audience in his hand as he told the fascinating story of the Emerald field, proving his maxim of”if you haven’t done it – you shouldn’t be teaching about it’ as his personal knowledge of the offshore industry shone through.”

Other plenary session presentations over the two days included ‘Aegir’s first project’; ‘Revolutionising subsea lifting: an introduction to liquid buoyancy systems’; ‘Risk management for control systems software’; ‘Role and accountability of the designated person ashore’; ‘Ten top deepwater pipelayers for Brazil’; ‘The safe management of small service vessels used in the offshore wind industry’; and ‘Use of dedicated rescue vessels for emergency recovery of lifeboats’.

Parallel sessions and workshops

The technical sessions focused on the initiatives being employed to improve performance across all of IMCA’s four technical divisions – Marine, Diving, Offshore Survey & ROV. And, over the two days workshops were held on DP FMEAs, Diving System FMEAs, Shared sensors: ROV/Offshore Survey; Learning from incidents; Key DP personnel: dilution of skills; DP incident reporting; Subsea lifting and rigging; Live high voltage short circuit testing; Competence assurance – 15 years on; and exploring the deep post Macondo. The workshop chairmen provided feedback to all delegates at the end of both afternoons.

“The workshop programme and its outcomes play an important role in helping to determine the ongoing work programme for IMCA,” explains Chris Charman

Networking key

Networking plays an important role at all IMCA events, and the 2014 Annual Seminar was no exception, delegates, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors enjoyed the welcome reception held the evening before the conference began; the ‘Night at the Museum’ when a reception and dinner were held at the Natural History Museum. And then, following the completion of the Seminar on 20 November, it was time for the ‘Night at the Circus’ Drinks Reception at the Jewel Bar at the heart of Piccadilly Circus.

Looking to the future

The 2015 IMCA Annual Seminar will be held in the Middle East, the 2016 one will be in the USA, the 2017 seminar will move to Singapore, and in 2018 it will return to London.