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    IMCA publishes skills survey results

    News // November 29, 2005

    The marine contracting industry is not in a recruitment crisis, although there are some worrying trends in the diving sector, according to a skills survey undertaken by the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).

    The survey was designed to answer the suggestion currently being put forward by some within the offshore marine and underwater engineering industry that, as the industry advances, the number of skilled people being relied upon to undertake key roles is not keeping pace with the changing face of the industry.

    “The last few years have been challenging for IMCA (International Marine Contractors Association) members, in a tough contracting climate, with increased emphasis on safety, not to mention the changing pattern of work that financial and technological advances have brought about,” explained IMCA’s Chief Executive, Hugh Williams. “If we are serious about continuing to develop our industry, we need to plan for the future and assess the global requirements of IMCA members to ensure that we have sufficient personnel resources to meet demand in the years ahead."

    “With this in mind, we commissioned a skills audit to identify the actual position from a cross-section of contractors representing IMCA membership. The questionnaire process started in late 2003.  However, to be able to write a representative report, responses to the questionnaire were still being processed in May 2005. Our ‘snapshot’ of the market therefore covers about 18 months, and in that period changes in activity levels were already occurring. Now, the industry is extremely busy worldwide and many members are seeing skills shortages that were not predicted by the questionnaire respondents in their 2- and 5-year forecasts."

    This rapid and unpredicted change comes about through the combined effects of:
    • High oil price
    • High demand for oil (growth in economies such as China)
    • Middle East politics
    • Hurricanes such as Ivan and Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico

    “Some of these effects are not new, but the sudden increase in offshore activity to the current levels was not well forecast by anyone, and the market cannot respond rapidly to provide human and equipment capacity overnight,” said Williams.

    Key conclusions

    The difficulties in recruiting diving personnel, coupled with problems of staff retention appeared to suggest that companies are chasing a shrinking pool of trained staff. 

    However, the recent workload does indicate severe strain on personnel availability in most disciplines – the respondents agreed that there would be an expansion in the workload (and workforce) in all disciplines, but not to the extent that has happened.

    “There were some interesting general results,” explains Hugh Williams. “We learned that most companies (and here we are primarily talking of employers based or operating mainly within Europe) use graduate/apprenticeship staff engagement and training schemes and multi-skilling to help their employment regimes. The boom/bust cycle has caused problems for the industry as a whole, but especially for the diving and ROV industry.  Staff retention is a problem for the diving sector and for some onshore job disciplines. Age too is an issue – retirement is considered to be a particular problem in some marine disciplines.”

    IMCA’s Training, Certification & Personnel Competence (TCPC) Core Committee is already working hard on addressing the findings of the survey, including review and expansion of IMCA’s careers promotion material, and encouraging input on this and other aspects of the report from members.

    Further information on all aspects of the trade association’s work is available from IMCA at 5 Lower Belgrave Street, London SW1W 0NR.  Tel: +44 (0)20 7824 5520; Fax: +44 (0)20 7824 5521; Email: and at

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