The LNG industry has embraced remote technologies and practices to combat the pandemic, writes SIGTTO GM Andrew Clifton
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone and every organisation worldwide in an unprecedented manner. All businesses have been impacted to some extent and the oil and gas industry is certainly no exception.
To its great credit, the LNG shipping industry has maintained continuity of operations throughout and SIGTTO is not aware of a single vessel or terminal which has ceased operations due to Covid-19.
For me, seafarers have been the unsung heroes, keeping the supermarket shelves stocked and the lights burning. As a result of Covid-19 containment measures restricting travel and crew changes, however, most seafarers have been kept onboard well past their scheduled end of contract date.
Depressed oil and gas prices, falling energy demand, storages nearing capacity and the repercussions on future investment are all concerns to the industry; however, LNG has continued to be traded throughout the Covid-19 period.
“Maintenance cannot be suspended indefinitely and as each month passes the situation becomes more critical”
Amid Covid-19 restrictions, the industry has also adopted new ways of doing business. It has embraced remote vetting and inspections, secured extensions to certificate and survey dates from class and flag and undertaken remote dry-dockings where no one from the operator’s office was in attendance. Amongst the biggest challenges are crew changes and the inability of service engineers to travel to vessels and terminals.
Maintenance cannot be suspended indefinitely and as each month passes the situation will becomes more critical. At the time of writing, restrictions on travel were beginning to ease, allowing some of these issues to get resolved.
Much like members of other maritime NGOs based in London, SIGTTO members have been working remotely since mid-March. The technical work is continuing through remote working group meetings. This is something we have never had to do and there has been an adjustment to the internal processes, requiring more pre-work and preparation from the technical staff. Virtual meetings cannot be as long as face-to-face meetings, without losing the audience’s attention and reducing their value.
SIGTTO also remains fully open for business and accessible through our normal phone lines and emails for any technical, membership or other enquiries. The society has not been affected as much as other organisations. The major issue for us is the lack of face-to-face meetings, both for technical working groups and regular members meetings. On an annual basis, we would normally hold 11 or 12 regional forums and panel meetings.
Like many other organisations, the society is using webinars to engage with its members during the Covid-19 period. These are extremely popular, and the technology allows members to interact from their own offices and homes. To address the issue of working across multiple time zones, SIGTTO holds the same webinar early in the morning UK time and repeats it in late afternoon, accommodating our international membership.
The society continues its involvement with the future carriage of non-hydrocarbon gases such as hydrogen and CO2. Last year, the SIGTTO board approved the formation of a new Environmental Subcommittee. This new subcommittee underpins SIGTTO’s strategic plan. One of the first topics this subcommittee is expected to address is the critical issue of methane emissions on LNG carriers, as well as hydrogen and CO2.
Activities such as these ensure that the society remains relevant and continues to be fit for the future, when gas vessels will increasingly carry non-hydrocarbon liquefied gases. This ensures that SIGTTO can best meet the safety and operational needs of its members.
My final thoughts are with those who have lost their lives and their families due to Covid-19. We hope that we can all draw a line under this issue very soon and life returns to normal.