Claire Fleming, Associate Director, AKE International

As an industry, oil and gas has defied the odds – forced in recent years to rally and evolve to meet new and lean market conditions imposed by the downturn; and to respond with greater agility to wider economic, environmental, ethical and societal drivers.

Although in the short term the oil and gas industry will remain at the mercy of political posturing and of its own barrel price, it has consistently proven to have long term resilience and a stubborn ability to adapt.

The reality we face across industry sectors is that this is a crisis to be responded to by being proactive and empathetic.

For a workforce perhaps more aware than others of the intrinsic link between business continuity and health, safety and wellbeing, the human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic has already shown that it will be measurable in more than one way across supply chains.

In percentage terms the death toll is sneaking up; the reality of its impact is becoming increasingly clear.  The squandering of the head-start and knowledge base afforded by the efforts of China, South Korea and Singapore, the contagion rate and current lack of testing and effective vaccine, combined with persistent and ongoing misinformation have enhanced collective anxieties beyond the immediate physical health impact. Job security and the wider sustainability of businesses are real issues with individual mental, physical and practical consequences – and wider societal, economic and security effects.

Oil and gas is a global industry, operational in diverse, remote and logistically challenging locations, the challenges facing the sector as it responds to the pandemic are multiple.

As with any crisis, it can be managed. There is still time to build resilience and to mitigate risk. Planning, communication and informed decision making are central to this.

Organisations are at different levels of preparedness and response – variables globally are plentiful, adding layers of complexity to response planning. For example, phases of state-level virus management vary between jurisdictions and are being implemented at different times with different degrees of success. This includes border closures, which limit evacuation options, for example.

As witnessed in recent weeks, COVID-19 has shown us the best and worst of human nature. Threats of criminality and security risks do not abate in times of crisis. In fact, vulnerabilities can be exploited – a particular consideration for the oil and gas industry given its geopolitical spread and perceived wealth.

To continue defying the odds, maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of its personnel and the sustainability and continuity of business, the industry must continue to adapt with agility.