by Nikolaj Svane, Chief Strategy and People Officer, Maersk Drilling
To unlock the growth potential in emerging markets, collaboration between governments and the private sector is key. This is particularly true in West Africa where countries are still building up their oil and gas industries. An important way of powering future success is through local development initiatives.
I started working for Maersk back in 2006, and my first hands-on experience with local development came five years later in 2011-2014 as Head of HR for Maersk Oil in Qatar. During that period, we introduced a renewed focus on building permanent local capacity by engaging authorities and government stakeholders in open dialogue, using their input to update our strategy for training and succession. The strategy was co-created with local talents who added their insights on the barriers they had faced.
A key observation from my time in Qatar was the importance of identifying few, but impactful levers for action. If you want local capacity building to be more than a nice ambition, you need to set hard targets for talent development and career acceleration, supported by targeted actions.
For example, if you want local talent to progress to take on more responsibility, you need to accept the fact that you will be asking your current leaders to make themselves redundant. You can only make this happen if you’re able to incentivize the old leaders to provide proper apprenticeships to the talents that are supposed to succeed them. Otherwise, you will simply be building a shadow organisation and not committing to true capacity building and succession planning.
Since joining Maersk Drilling as Chief Strategy and People Officer, it has become even clearer to me that developing local capacity is a global responsibility to us as an organisation and a personal ambition to me.
In Maersk Drilling, we only consider an operation a true success if it’s mutually beneficial for both the operator, Maersk Drilling, and the country in which we operate. The challenge is that success is not always defined the same way for all. It’s often a complex combination of operational efficiency, cost optimisation, and developing local capacity, which needs to be balanced to ensure that all parties benefit.
The challenge of creating long-term value in a few months
One of the challenges a drilling contractor faces in the current market environment is the short duration of many contracts. In 2019, Maersk Voyager performed a very successful operation for Kosmos Energy offshore Equatorial Guinea. With a contract duration of less than five months , it however left us with limited room for making traditional long-term local investments. Instead, we invested in five local talents who we sent on a crane operator course with Maersk Training in Dubai to renew their certificates and upskill them for future work, thereby making a long-term investment in their talent.
‘Our Employees’ is a key value to Maersk Drilling, and so is the continuous training and development of our workforce. We are building competent employees step by step, tailored to the individual by making an individual training plan every time a local employee is hired. This plan is designed to develop the candidates’ individual skills and based on each employee’s competencies and previous experiences.
I’m proud to see the results of this training. When Maersk Voyager finished drilling for Kosmos Energy, it had drilled for more than 1,000 days in Ghana and Equatorial Guinea without an LTI, despite needing to change local crews as it moved from one country to another.
In June 2019, Maersk Voyager left Ghana after successfully completing its work there. Three days later, the rig started up operations in Equatorial Guinea – with 46% local crews.
When we enter a new country, our ambition is not only to leave a positive impact on Maersk Drilling’s employees. It’s important that we expand this impact to the local supply chain as well, supporting local enterprises in providing services and goods that can support not only our operations, but the oil and gas industry in general. That’s why I’m proud of our approach to onboarding suppliers and localising our expertise, which ensures both practical and cultural knowledge transfer.
Can we increase collaboration across borders?
A heart-breaking aspect of our industry is that we often have to say goodbye to many talented colleagues when a rig moves on to a new country. After our operation in Equatorial Guinea, we had to lay off an offshore crew of almost 50% locals to start welcoming new Angolan colleagues for Maersk Voyager’s next campaign in Angola.
This is the reality we face in a world of short-term contracts where our rigs move between countries that each set individual requirements for local content. Even though we’re always thrilled to see our colleagues succeed and want to bring them with us for new drilling campaigns, our ability to do so is limited by both local regulations and the pipeline of contracts on offer.
A big step towards more flexibility could be to increase focus on cross-border training and collaboration in regions. In Senegal, INPG has taken the first step towards being a training institute not only for Senegalese locals, but for their neighbours in Mauritania as well.
Extending such collaborations across West Africa would not only strengthen the continuity of offshore operations, it would most likely also increase job security for talented oil and gas workers across the region.
Collaboration that fuels success does not simply start and end with local employees, it’s a mind-set that is part of Maersk Drilling’s DNA. In an industry faced with high complexity and increased competition from other energy sources, we want to improve value for all parties involved by improving coordination and aligning incentives in drilling campaigns. A great example is the alliance we have established with Aker BP in the North Sea, built on a foundation of shared goals and incentives.
I’m convinced that it’s also possible to align incentives and created shared value in other markets and with other kinds of partners. This is a dialogue we hope to be part of, and I believe it’s needed today more than ever.
What can a drilling contractor do to contribute?
From my perspective, Maersk Drilling in this way brings a unique offering to the table. Being born out of the Maersk Group, we are part of a long history of building local competencies worldwide. This includes a strong collaboration with Maersk Training who train offshore workers from all around the world to the highest international standards and possess some of the most sophisticated training centres in the industry.
The latest example of how we can provide value via our relation to Maersk Training is our joint collaboration with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana. With this project, we remain committed to help build the Ghanaian offshore drilling industry by sharing our technical skills, knowledge and experience. We are cooperating with KNUST in a program that will further educate their instructors and enable the university to offer international certificates within offshore drilling. This initiative takes place in close dialogue with the Petroleum Commission and within the framework of the Ghanaian government’s Accelerated Oil and Gas Capacity Building Program (AOGCBP) which we are dedicated to support.
My hope for the future is that we together can contribute to the prosperity of all countries we operate in, and Maersk Drilling looks forward to working with local players, including both suppliers and colleagues, with the goal of powering future success, hand in hand. A big part of this is providing real jobs and real work experience to real people.
Nikolaj Svane, Chief Strategy and People Officer at Maersk Drilling will be joining the panel discussion at the MSGBC Local Content Forum “ Preparing for the Next Chapter: Developing Local Capacity to Cater to the Move Towards Development & Production” Panelists include:
Chief Strategy & People Officer, Maersk Drilling
Director General, INPG
Human Resources Manager – Vinci Energies Senegal
Dr. Boubacar Mbodji
Special Advisor, President’s Office – Senegal
Commercial Trainer, IFP Training