Duty of Care for Offshore Travel
Pieter Rieder, Global Head - Energy and Shipping Sales, The ATPI Group

Cost control and round-the-clock support is top of the list of priorities for offshore businesses when it comes to travel and crew transportation.

The past few months has seen indications that duty of care is growing into a main priority, to some degree, because Travel Management Companies (TMCs) as well as travellers are increasingly aware of threats around the world. In addition, companies in their quest for new markets are sending employees not just to BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India and China] but also to new and emerging markets such as the CIVETS [Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa]. A number of areas within these markets pose growing risks to travellers.

In addition, businesses in offshore industries such as oil, gas and shipping, where travel can involve visiting some of the most inhospitable locations in the world, it is especially true. As well as providing an efficient and cost effective service, specialist travel management teams, who have an in-depth knowledge of these sectors, can be paramount to ensuring that workers are protected when they are travelling overseas or offshore.

Recent research carried out among travel bookers and buyers in the energy sector at the Offshore Europe conference showed that safety and security tops the list of priorities for travel buyers and bookers in 2013 and 2014, alongside cost control. Emergency traveller tracking and specialist support was chosen by 37 per cent of respondents as the most important service when it comes to overseas travel, followed by round the clock service which was selected by 25 per cent of respondents. Three main factors were also highlighted as crucial when it comes to 24/7 support from travel management companies (TMCs) – safety and security of travellers, dealing with changing schedules and plans, and efficiency and expertise related to travel in different time zones.

Most TMCs that deal with clients in the offshore sector work with specialist third party organisations such as International SOS and AKE to provide assistance depending on the nature of the incident – whether it’s a medical issue or a security threat. The TMC acts as an important ‘integrator’ – providing relevant support for clients as part of one manageable duty of care package.

Organisations in energy industries always take duty of care very seriously and other sectors can learn a lot from them. Most companies already have policies in place for the protection of employees when they are at their place of work such as on a remote oil rig in the middle of the Sabah Basin. There is still a way to go when it comes to duty of care cover when employees are travelling to and from the rig itself or another work related destination however. Specialist TMCs can plug this gap and can put emergency processes in place to deal with any eventuality, wherever the traveller is in the world, via data integration and traveller tracking technology. Situations or conditions that aren’t usually dangerous can be life threatening in remote locations, for example if a diabetic runs out of insulin when they are in a remote part of West Africa, it’s more severe than if they were in a European country with easy access to medical facilities.

Medical emergencies can happen anywhere. Duty of care is no longer just a ‘nice to do’ it’s a necessity for businesses in all sectors, from energy to finance. In a successful Duty of Care programme, leading firms study their travel management data every year to seek out patterns, detect and discern where the risk lies, and develop resolutions back into the arrangement.

Road traffic accidents are the most common type of incident when it comes to work-related travel and within Asia these occur most frequently in metropolitan cities. People also get sick on business no matter what industry or country they’re in. This proves how important it is for all industries to sit up and listen when it comes to duty of care – not just businesses where employees travel to far flung destinations across the world like Angola and Algeria – things can happen closer to home too. Duty of care policies can be compared to insurance – one does not actually think about it until something actually happens and then it is really needed.

It’s all about being prepared for situations that are difficult to imagine happening, for example when there’s suspected terrorist incident, the mobile phone networks may shut down so you need to have plans in place for other means of contact or monitoring such as traveller tracking. Tracking is one of the most important factors when it comes to duty of care. Organisations and travel managers need to know exactly where all of their employees are at any one time so that they are able to communicate with them and provide the right kind of support. Moving crews around is a ‘Mission Critical’ activity, whether one is in the energy sector or the shipping sector, whether the crew is for an oil rig, a remote gas installation or a merchant vessel.

There’s a real feeling of concern for the wellbeing of individual employees in the offshore sector – it’s not just ticking a box in terms of duty of care requirements. The topic of traveller safety and security will continue to move higher up the global agenda, particularly for offshore companies, where organisations are exploring in more remote locations to find oil and other resources. Technology has also played a huge part in the progression of duty of care. Joint effort, transparent communication and a holistic approach are also crucial for supplying good duty of care. Many medical companies now regularly provide diagnosis for travellers via video link in their preferred language, wherever they are in the world. It will be fascinating to see what other new technologies are available in another ten years or so and how it will transform the way we deal with duty of care.

Case Study 1:
Incident: A recent rig emergency in the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland, for a global multi-energy provider meant that over 200 members of staff had to be quickly and safely evacuated.

Solution: As soon as the ATP Instone team was made aware of the incident, the Aberdeen onshore team started gathering relevant tools and information for the evacuation process. Two senior members of the emergency team were on-site at the client’s crisis centre at a hotel at Aberdeen Airport, whilst a back-up team were on stand-by to offer additional assistance.

Following the onsite briefing, air and rail tickets were issued for personnel requiring onward travel. Due to the immediate nature of the evacuation there were a number of Norwegian and Romanian personnel in Aberdeen whose passports were believed to have been left behind on the rig. Some of the employees needed temporary travel documents to be issued by their respective consulates to enable them to travel home. The rescue team liaised with the Norwegian consulate and gathered the information required for the issue of temporary documentation and the whole process was completed during the same afternoon. ATP Instone also liaised with the Romanian consulate in Edinburgh, and appointments were made for the Romanian nationals so that the documents could be issued the following morning.

Outcome: The operation came to an end at 18.00 – a full ten hours after initial contact was made – after all team members were transported safely to other destinations. The team was commended by the client for ‘providing an excellent service’ which was ‘greatly appreciated’.

Case Study 2:
Incident: One of the world’s leading oil field service companies faced the evacuation of over 300 staff from Algeria due to an increased security risk in early 2013.

Solution: Within an hour of the initial call our team had established a disaster recovery team and two of our senior employees were deployed to London Gatwick airport where they dealt with incoming charters flights from Algeria and arranged onward travel for workers to their home destinations. A number of employees who were evacuated were foreign nationals with no legal right to ‘land’ in the UK without the correct documentation. The emergency team worked with immigration officials to collate the correct documentation for onward travel, despite the constantly changing situation. Two members of the travel team remained at Gatwick with the client until the last employee boarded his onward flight, over 48 hours after the original emergency call was taken. Clear channels of communication between the client and our team delivered the highest level of service in extremely difficult and ever changing situations.

Outcome: The client commented: “The ATPI team has been beyond excellent. I am very grateful for their input during the whole process. I see their personal standards and commitment to getting the job done, with little or no sleep for 72 hours, as going above and beyond anything we could have expected.