Comment: How to plan the offshore workforce of the future

Ivar de Josselin de Jong, strategy director, and Mike Liddell, program director Future Workforce, Fugro explore three ways industry leaders can attract and retain top offshore workforce talent to thrive in the years ahead.


We are seeing some big personnel demands developing in the offshore industry. Not only is the industry going through a period of significant digital transformation, but it is growing at a rapid pace. In fact, recent research by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) revealed that almost 70,000 additional jobs are needed for offshore wind between now and 2030 to meet future demand.

Over the next few years, the maritime industry will need to pay close attention to workforce planning and development. Getting this right will be critical to ensure profitable and sustainable operations which, in turn, will enable countries and governments around the world to reach important environmental targets. This includes the agreement made at COP27 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Clearly, this is a fast-growing market, so industry players need to make sure they have the right infrastructure in place to scale.

Employers need to transition experienced workers to offshore roles to meet future demand

It’s no secret that technology is driving a significant shift in the offshore industry. The development of uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) means companies can now manage data acquisition, operations and data delivery from any location in the world – both in general seabed mapping as well as more specialised remotely operated vehicle-based inspections of offshore infrastructure. This means that roles which were traditionally located offshore can now be executed onshore in the remote operations centres (ROCs). This shift from the offshore to the onshore environment brings significant benefits in terms of both safety and sustainable operations.

The same technology and processes that enable USVs to operate completely remotely is also being applied to conventional vessels enabling a transformation of the operational model. Increasingly a significant percentage of the personnel required to run these operations can also work from a ROC.

Overall, technology will help to drive efficiencies that will enable operators and asset owners to reduce running costs, so they will be able to hire even more talent to scale up their business. This should be a top priority for the industry so greater investment can be made in new hires to meet future demand.

Supporting personnel making the transition must be a top priority

The move from offshore to onshore operations represents a positive change and opportunity for the industry. Not only will work be a lot safer, but there will also be increased career opportunities and work/life balance will be dramatically improved. In addition, there will be huge opportunities to develop a far more diverse workforce. However, we cannot overlook the fact that this transition also represents challenges as a result of the huge demand on lifestyle change for current maritime personnel who are used to spending weeks at a time out at sea. Companies targeting expansion need to make sure they support their employees through this change, so they don’t lose experienced talent while the same time trying to expand their workforce.

For the medium to long term, there will continue to be roles offshore for staff on conventional vessels, as it will be some time before USVs are able to fully replace all activities undertaken from these conventional vessels. However, the focus of these roles will change over time. The size of the team will reduce and those remaining will be more focused on hands-on activities such as the repair and maintenance of systems. Monitoring and computer-based roles will primarily happen from ROCs.

Raising awareness of industry employment opportunities will be key

Getting skilled people in the current market conditions is a challenge – although the move from offshore to onshore could be a big deciding factor for many people to join the industry. So, to attract new and diverse talent from a broader pool of workers, employers must raise awareness of these new opportunities onshore.

In addition to this, recent developments in automation, robotisation, machine learning and artificial intelligence have been nothing short of remarkable – and there’s a big opportunity here for people to be involved in shaping and running the way we work in the future. The ongoing development of USV fleets will continue and move to larger and more capable USVs, and maritime robotics will gradually take over more traditional ways of working. Over time, they will be able to work in deeper waters and more challenging environments.

The final word

We all know there’s huge potential for technology to transform the sector and meet global demand for renewable energy – but this can only happen with the right personnel in place. Industry leaders must place people management and future talent at the top of their priority list in order to scale up and make the most of the market opportunity. 

Ivar de Josselin de Jong, strategy director, and Mike Liddell, program director Future Workforce, Fugro