Guido Van Der Zwet
General Manager Americas
iPS Powerful People
View from the Top

A New Place for Local Crews in a Locked Down World

By Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 03/18/2021 - 09:56

Q: How would you describe the role that your company played at the beginning of the pandemic?

A: We have over a thousand people working for us at a global level, so the first order of the day was to adapt to the travel restrictions implemented worldwide. Within Mexico, we have had to adapt to the individual rules being implemented by each state. While we could switch all of our employees to home office modalities, which we did, the people who we really had to worry about were the candidates in our database who were getting ready for offshore work. We had to build protocols that could apply to them and to our clients that would be recruiting them. This included quarantine and testing logistics, which meant negotiating deals with hotels that could provide a full quarantine service – this meant the person had all their needs met but could not leave the room under any circumstance. We also had to negotiate agreements with our clients to determine how best to fill the gaps between work hours and quarantine time. The legal framework that determined pay periods was changing throughout the pandemic as well, and that obviously had to be taken into account. We moved quite fast to get all of these matters in order, and we were able to have effective protocols in place for our Mexico activities. In other countries, we were faced with different challenges, rules and regulations. For example, operations in Saudi Arabia and Europe have been challenged by different lockdown measures. We also talked with our insurers to make sure that everybody was covered in terms of necessary health coverage and treatments.

Q: How did you help operators overcome the logistical issues created by the pandemic?

A: Our global database of clients represented a huge support for operators who needed to fill vacancies in the midst of a pandemic. For instance, some workers could not travel as planned to desired worksites and others could not leave certain countries or were stuck in place inside vessels, while authorities figured things out. The database can be narrowed down to locally available personnel, which allows operators to get around the travel restrictions. Crewing and business as a whole was greatly changed by COVID-19. As lockdowns were extended, more and more local workers began to benefit. In Mexico, even before the pandemic, around 90 percent of the crews we were providing for our clients were Mexican, so it was not difficult for us to adapt to this. In other countries, it was a challenge because international crews were much more common and travel restrictions were much more severe. Saudi Arabia is a good example of this. As a result, more significant changes needed to happen in the structure of our operation and crewing efforts. Both the pandemic and the oil price crisis of 2020 have made operators rethink their international personnel sourcing. We have provided them with the options they need to make these changes work.     

Q: To what extent have the events of 2020 changed the shape and size of your candidate database?

A: It has definitely continued to grow throughout 2020 and 2021, despite the cancellations or postponements of some projects. In Mexico, our crewing of drilling activities has increased considerably. Our focus used to be mainly on offshore vessels but now we have a couple hundred people working on platforms and drilling vessels. This has been quite positive for us. In addition to crewing, we also do permanent staffing of administrative positions, and that line of business or category has seen a big increase in our database. This is in part because many people who held important positions were let go throughout the year. We have been helping as many people as we can in that sense. We have provided references and created valuable networks and we expect to continue to do so throughout 2021.

Q: How does the labor oversupply created by pandemic layoffs change the balance of power between employers and employees?

A: We have seen these patterns emerge before in our 30 years of operation. Shifts in salaries, and also salary expectations, have followed these kinds of situations. The opposite also happens, meaning periods of high labor demand and low supply. The changes in demand for oil will also become a factor that affects this balance. Global oil demand in 2019 was a little above 100MMb/d. The final number for 2020 is expected to be around 70MMb/d. Before we know it, these levels could reach 90MMb/d. Oil majors are already announcing divestments in exploration as a result, even if oil demand recovers. The lack of investment in exploration will have consequences for skilled, trained or specialized labor demand in the industry for many years to come. Then again, this will lead to scarcity of oil, which will drive the prices up again and we will start the cycle all over.


iPS Powerful People offers employment for multinational personnel worldwide. It supplies personnel to the international maritime and dredging industry. Over the years, iPS has expanded its expertise into other sectors, including energy.                  

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Senior Journalist & Industry Analyst