Despite careful planning, projects can be offset or delayed due to changes in the business environment or even global occurrences. In this article, we discuss how a GD project ordering a replacement rig has overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and reached the delivery stage.

Gulf Drilling placed an order for a replacement rig in January 2020. The order was from a Chinese manufacturer, just weeks before the start of the Chinese New Year holidays. The fabrication work was to commence soon after the New Year holidays in China, in the first week of February. During that time, there were ‘clusters of pneumonia cases’ reported in China. By the last week of February, the Chinese government ordered the closure of all the factories due to the ‘strange virus’ outbreak. It was perceived as a localized situation was expected to get over in weeks.

GD maintained continuous discussions with the manufacturer to closely observe the developments. GD also kept the client informed about the developments and changes in schedule. Communication was key, as the problems faced by China was not well understood at that time.

After three weeks of extended New Year holiday, the manufacturer resumed work in its factory with limited staff. However other sub-suppliers’ factories were closed. GD started adopting online meetings, though those later became an integral part of the business.

Ensuring the manufacturer complies with client requirements in each stage of the manufacturing process was a major challenge. To meet this requirement, GD finalized an internal project team and had sent employment letters to the members. However, there were travel restrictions and sending a team to China became impossible. With several inquiries, GD found a qualified team that was already in China. The team was tasked with carrying out inspections during the progress of work to ensure that the rig meets client requirements in each stage. 

Another challenge was sending equipment from Oman to China to be integrated into the new rig. Shipping times and availability of vessels to China had changed drastically. GD managed to find a vessel but due to crew shortage, discharging cargo en-route introduced uncertainty.

In the meanwhile, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Travel restrictions were imposed by many countries including Oman. Oil prices collapsed and the business environment changed. Client communication became critical to know the perspective of this new rig.

Proper project management is key in any project. However, managing it remotely added extra layers of difficulties. Weekly progress reports and online meetings were utilized to the full extent to ensure that the project could go back on track.

With all parties working in unison, the rig manufacturing and inspection were completed successfully. The rig is on its way to reaching Oman in the first week of October for deployment under contract.