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This article was originally published in The Maritime Executive on 30th March 2015. To view the original follow this link.
Offshore shipping has been a candidates market in recent years. Simply, there have not been enough skilled people to commercially and technically manage and crew the expanding offshore fleet and fill the jobs on offer.
However, across the energy sector, people are now losing their jobs as companies adapt to the new business environment by reducing staff costs and numbers, or go out of business entirely.
The cause: lower oil prices mean both international and national oil companies are scaling back investment in exploration as well as reviewing and cutting costs in general. Offshore vessel owners are facing challenging times with many segments appearing over supplied given market conditions. Lay ups are increasing and charter rates are being pushed down as market conditions deteriorate.
While there have been headline grabbing stories of major job cuts, oil field service companies and drilling contractors seem to have mostly weathered the storm so far, with a few exceptions. It is still possible for many offshore support vessel owners to make an operating profit, and companies are still hiring for essential positions, although opportunities are less numerous than in recent years.
The worry for many individuals is that the immediate future is uncertain. Employment is a lagging indicator of market health, and the effects of the oil price drop still have a long way to play out if $50-60 oil is here to stay.
If you are concerned about future prospects with your employer and the security of your job, then it makes sense to take pre-emptive action to help to mitigate your own personal risks and to prepare a contingency plan.
• Prepare a list of the people you would call first if you did lose your job. They could be potential employers or they could be people who would connect you with potential employers. Think about who would be the most valuable eight or 10 people to your future job search, and make sure you have a warm relationship with them. You want them to have you in mind, and you want them to be inclined to help you.
• Think about how you can make yourself more valuable to your present employer and to other employers in the market. What can you improve in the business? Are there new areas that you can gain exposure to, or in-demand skills that you can gain?
• Work to raise your profile in the market and build relationships with clients and customers. Offshore shipping is a small world and unofficial references are often taken before a job offer is made. The more people who know who you are, and say good things about you, the better.
If the worst does happen and you lose your job, what then? Firstly, there is no real stigma to redundancy any more in the eyes of most sensible people. It is not a reflection on the individual involved. People realize that the market is bad and that when the market is bad even good people lose their jobs. If you have a contingency plan and take effective action, then with a little bit of luck, redundancy will be a temporary inconvenience and not a career defining tragedy.
What does look bad, and employers do question, is a prolonged period of unemployment. If you lose one job then it is vital to get back in the game quickly. Every individual situation is different so you need to judge how flexible you should be in regards to the roles you look for. But flexibility is often needed, and it may be that you consider a change of location, a reduced financial package, a temporary contract, or even a change of sector.
Market conditions will improve eventually, and as firms cut back now they are sowing the seeds for future skills shortages and their next candidate short market. Those who stay in the game are the ones who will gain when the market recovers.
It is easier to get a job when you already have a job, so if you fear the worst for your current employer, then it does make sense to have your eyes open to options in the market.
Challenging times present opportunities and there will be those who gain from any market turmoil. Offshore support vessels are highly complex multi-million dollar assets, and if one company is wound up someone else will take over the asset, and they will need skilled people to commercially and technically manage it for them.
Wherever the oil price goes from here, good and experienced offshore shipping people will still be in demand.