The offshore oil and gas workforce in the UK has fallen by more than a third since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

According to official figures released today (27 October) by industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), the number of workers on oil and gas installations at sea decreased by about 4,000 since Britain first entered into a nationwide lockdown to help contain the spread of the virus.

OGUK said the average weekly personnel on board decreased from about 11,000 on the 8 March to just over 7,000 one month later, with drilling and engineering construction trades the “hardest hit”.


Uptake of the “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” recorded

The industry body’s Workforce Insight report 2020 also confirmed there has been an “uptake” of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by companies, particularly in the supply chain, as many “positioned themselves to endure the triple whammy of low oil and gas prices and the operational impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.

Dr Alix Thom, report author and OGUK workforce engagement and skills manager, said: “Our figures confirm the initial operational impact of the lockdown back in March this year, with the number of workers offshore decreasing considerably in the space of a month as companies reduced to minimum manning in a bid to control the spread.

“Numbers have risen steadily since then as industry has adopted a robust Swiss cheese barrier model, with a range of preventative measures in place both prior to mobilisation and while offshore, which has helped secure more jobs and increase operations in the immediate term.

“Despite this, we continue to see some very worrying signs for employment in the sector, with the uptake of furlough and continued suppression of global energy demand impacting our industry like many others in the wider economy.

“As our report shows, the recruitment and retention of diverse and talented people will be essential as we work to support UK energy needs both now, and in a lower carbon context.”


Government-backed “North Sea Transition Deal” needed to aid UK oil and gas workforce

OGUK noted that the official figures on both on and offshore employment would not be available until next year.

But it said the tentative signs are “worrying” and underline the need for governments, industry and regulators to work together to protect the jobs and skills that will be needed to meet the UK’s energy needs now and as the country “moves to a lower carbon future”.

Dr Thom believes a “North Sea Transition Deal”, supported by the UK and Scottish governments, can “act as a catalyst for this future”, and in so doing will “provide certainty on the sustainability for the sector in difficult times”.