Offshore Shipping Online

A publication for the offshore shipping industry published by Clarkson Research

  • Offshore Intelligence Monthly
  • Menu

    Serious skills shortage set to affect the industry

    News // January 4, 2007

    Industrial growth is warmly welcomed worldwide. It ensures the future of countries, market sectors, companies and employees.  Unfortunately however, it brings its own set of problems. Problems that the marine construction and offshore engineering sector is now being forced to face. A serious skills shortage is hitting the market. 

    “The industry is extremely busy and expected to remain so for a number of years,” explained Hugh Williams, Chief Executive of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA). “Many companies are experiencing significant challenges in recruiting sufficient trained and skilled personnel for their projects all over the world. This is placing significant pressure on their desired growth and ability to deliver services.”

    IMCA, as the international trade association representing over 350 offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies, in well over 40 countries, is eager to help its members address this skills shortage. 

    “One route is to draw wider attention to the projected numbers of trained personnel required by the expanding marine contracting industry over the next 2-3 years,” said Williams.

    “IMCA members have provided some practical estimates of the possible growth of their businesses.  For example, orders for new build construction vessels, drilling rigs, saturation diving spreads and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). From these estimates we can extrapolate some of the marine contracting industry’s recruitment needs over the next 2-3 years. The sorts of figures thrown up by the industry make interesting and compelling reading:

    • The industry will commission at least 50 new offshore construction vessels in the next 2-3 years covering IMCA members’ activities including lifting, pipelay, diving, survey and ROV operations.  About 10 of these will be dive support vessels (DSVs).
    • The drilling industry will commission about 40 more floating drilling rigs (semi-submersible of ship shape) in the next three years.
    • Around a hundred new ROVs will be built, most of them Work Class.
    • About 10 new portable or modular saturation diving systems will come onto the market.
    • The new vessels and drill rigs will require some 2000 additional watch-keepers across the bridge, deck and engine room.
    • The increases in saturation diving will require some 800 additional personnel in saturation diving and related positions.
    • They will require around 1000 additional survey and inspection discipline personnel.
    • The ROV spreads will require some 1200 additional personnel to operate them.

    These numbers do not include the large numbers of additional air diving personnel and the many other deck, catering and ancillary crew, or onshore and engineering support personnel required to operate the vessels.

    “These figures, just looking ahead a couple of years, pose a serious challenge to an industry already finding it difficult to recruit, train and retain skilled personnel,” said Williams, “for example the worldwide diving schools can perhaps train about 100 new saturation divers a year. That there is a ‘skills shortage’ is widely acknowledged. By providing firm, verifiable estimates of anticipated growth, we are highlighting the seriousness and complexity of the challenge faced, not only by IMCA members worldwide, but also by all stakeholders in the offshore oil industry. Indeed, the future health and growth of a number of industries, not just the oil and gas industry, may be directly affected by a shortage of trained personnel in the coming years.”

    IMCA encourages raising the profile of the offshore industry in the employment market, including a focus on cross-training personnel from other industries who may already have many of the skills necessary for offshore work. The Association believes that it is important to establish relationships with schools, colleges and universities to promote science and engineering as interesting courses leading to challenging and worthwhile careers.

    IMCA is a respected voice around the world, promoting good practice, particularly in the areas of quality and efficiency, as well as health, safety, environmental and technical standards. IMCA members are involved in many aspects of offshore marine contracting, including pipe-laying, heavy lifting, diving, ROV operations and offshore surveying – largely carried out from dynamically positioned (DP) vessels, as well as other marine operations, offshore supply and support of many other kinds.

    Further information on IMCA and its work is available from and from IMCA at 5 Lower Belgrave Street, London SW1W 0NR, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7824 5520; Fax: +44 (0) 20 7824 5521; E-mail:

    More articles from this category

    More news