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Leader profile: Allen Leatt, IMCA

Wed 16 Jan 2019 by Edwin Lampert

Leader profile: Allen Leatt, IMCA

A highly qualified engineer and trained commercial diver, it is perhaps of no surprise that International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) chief executive Allen Leatt is someone who immerses himself in the issues while maintaining good peripheral vision.

He’s also accustomed to making decisions with reduced visibility and in three dimensions. The training has served him – and the industry – well in the three years he has been at IMCA’s helm.

Since 2015, Mr Leatt has refocused the organisation and concentrated on taking out costs and raising service levels to the membership. Review of the board line-up, delivery model and balance sheet denotes good progress.

Historically, IMCA, as a trade association serving the oil and gas markets – somewhat paradoxically – has not been that close to the oil companies. “We have now turned that around,” said Mr Leatt. “We have a cadre of highly experienced oilfield executives from the marine construction world who are actively involved in promoting IMCA directly to oil company executives. The objective is not financial, but engagement, to help us improve the performance of the industry alongside all our members, as we have 50-plus oil company members.”

Following a strategic review in early 2017, the organisation identified three areas for further development and established pilot committees to concentrate on: the digital oilfield; environmental sustainability; and standardisation.

“The digital oilfield of the future looks to be far from clear,” said Mr Leatt. “I think we are all excited about the possibilities of advanced automation and system communication, but the subject is likely to be much wider and driven by data gathering and data analytics - which is where the story gets fuzzy. Where offshore contractors fit into that digital value chain is still to be determined, but for sure we will be there - such as with a single source for data interpretation on a project.”

IMCA has also made a concerted move into the renewables market “which is evolving and maturing to the point where the larger oilfield contractors can bring plenty of expertise and technology to the table.”

While port hook ups, battery systems, hybrid systems for DP spinning reserve and LNG fuel are starting to be introduced, and are to be encouraged, Mr Leatt’s firm belief is that a major step change needs incentive. “Where there is a clear economic incentive, the change will be much more rapid and successful. We see this being successful in the auto industry but not yet in the shipping world.”

More immediately the organisation is heavily involved with IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) on their greenhouse gas emissions strategy. Next year sees the start of the data recording stage (fuel used in m3, distance travelled in nm, and time underway in hours). “We have been active in the MEPC and have drawn to the committee’s attention the special situation of DP vessels, which will make the development of a meaningful “transport work proxy” very challenging,” explained Mr Leatt.

For 2020, Mr Leatt believes OSVs will be much less affected technically by the sulphur cap of 0.5% because, by-and-large, they run on marine diesel oil and are therefore well within the limit. However, the impact of the regulations might be seen in other ways, such as supply-chain choke points.

For 2030, the IMO target is to reduce transport work CO2 emissions by 40% compared with 2008; it aims for a 70% reduction by 2050. “Over the next decade we will see the transition to lower emission power systems,” said Mr Leatt. “The 2030 target is ambitious, because the offshore industry has gone through a complete fleet renewal in the last decade, but the 2050 number is much more achievable, given the maturity of alternative technologies that we will see and the inevitable fleet renewal by that time. Targets are essential but so are incentives, if you use incentives, positive or negative, you get things done. So economic incentives will likely be needed to accelerate action.”  

For 2050, the IMO target is for total CO2 emissions to be reduced by 50% compared with 2008; this has to be seen as “very achievable.”

Mr Leatt is generally less inclined towards corporate speak and company mantras. However, much like a diver responding to new depths he believes it’s important that the organisation can recalibrate. The best way, he suggests, is by responding to key questions: “Is this where I am good? Is this where I excel over others? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, it’s time to surface and think again.”

Mr Leatt is a member of the advisory panel for the Offshore Support Journal Awards, which are now open for voting. To cast your ballot, click here. The awards are presented on the evening of 6 February at the Offshore Support Journal Conference & Exhibition in London 6-7 February 2019.

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