The shift to online trainingSeptember 16, 2020
Jim Truesdell, president-director of Samson Tiara, talks to The Energy Year about how the company is shifting its training courses online and whether Indonesia’s energy industry is likely to see major changes following the pandemic. Samson Tiara provides safety training courses to various industries.
How have you been navigating this crisis with your operations in Indonesia?
We haven’t closed down at all; we just changed some of our protocols. Our office has been closed but our school has been operational, although we haven’t had many students. We make sure everyone stays 1.5-2 metres apart and we have plenty of hand wash stations. We have some extra personnel that do nothing but sanitise and clean.
We run a bus every day round trip from Jakarta to Cilegon. We sanitise the bus twice a day before the students get onboard and everyone’s temperature is checked. We follow all protocols required by the government.
What impact has the crisis had on your business?
The number of students in the past few months has been about 10% of normal. It looks like things are starting to pick up. One thing we’ve worked on during this time is moving to digital. One of our most popular courses is basic offshore safety and emergency training. That’s a three-day course, where students spend three days in Cilegon. Now we have all the theory for that course online, and once students pass that they can take the bus to the school for a single day and come back that evening with their certificate.
Working with one of our partners, we have brought OIM [offshore installation manager] certifications online. We have an online simulator. By working through video conferencing, the instructor can watch the student react to the simulators and certify them. We have the major emergency management and control room operator certifications online now.
I’m trying to set things up so that most if not all of my people will work from home. We will have some work stations so if you need to come into the office, you can. For example, accounting would need to come in three to four days per month. Planning certificates, etc. need to be done in the office. People will come in if they need to and otherwise work from home. We will have meeting rooms for use as needed and everything else will be turned into classrooms or virtual classrooms.
We are working on other courses to do as much as possible online before the student goes to the school. That will shorten the time spent at the school considerably.
Has the ease of doing business been improving in Indonesia?
I will say that in the past year to three years there has been a lot of effort to cut down red tape. They are making progress in ensuring that things run more smoothly with less red tape. I would think that there will be a major improvement. The bureaucracy is now used to working from home so digitising things will be easier for them.
I think we will come out of this stronger than we went into it. We had a vision of doing digital training prior to Covid-19. We’ve been discussing the online shift as the way forward, looking at it for over a year. This situation has pushed the certification bodies to recognise that and let the new process happen. We were ready for this.
Does RelyOn Nutec, which owns a minority share in Samson Tiara, plan a further expansion in Southeast Asia?
RelyOn Nutec has training centres in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. They are in the area and have been for some time. They do want to move into the Indonesian market and add a lot more than what we have now. One of their big markets is maritime. That’s another market that has been severely damaged and it will be interesting to see how fast it comes back.
We have been working diligently to get certifications to teach STCW courses. We were supposed to have that before Covid-19 happened. I’m hoping to have it by the end of the year.
How resilient is the Indonesian energy industry in the face of this crisis?
Historically, in my time, when prices have gone down, activity in the Indonesian market has gone up because the operational costs are also low.
In the past, the way they handled the PSCs was that when you bid on a block, you didn’t give that money to the government. The amount was what you pledged to spend to search for hydrocarbons on that block. If you didn’t find hydrocarbons, you lost the money, and if you did find them, you got your money back and more. So when oil prices went down and investors had already pledged money, low costs meant they could get a lot more bang for their buck.
This time, the market doesn’t seem to be rising. I think there have been some problems with the handling of the PSCs. Many have been given to state-owned enterprises, which has created a rift between them and some of the oil companies. Now, getting the oil companies to come back and invest seems to be a problem. Hopefully, that will be worked out.
Rig rates are now a fraction of what they were five or six years ago. The price of a rig was phenomenal. It’s not a good time to be a contractor now.
What will be the impact of the crisis on the business fabric of the sector?
I’m not sure it will have much of an impact. We were having a hard time prior to Covid-19. I don’t think there will be any major changes. Indonesia is not interested in the price of oil. They are interested in the volume they can reach because 15 years ago Indonesia was a member of OPEC and was a net exporter. When they lost that status, it hurt. Now that they are spending so much money importing, it hurts even worse.
The government has pushed the regulatory agencies and Pertamina very hard, with dire consequences if production is not doubled by 2030. In my opinion, we won’t see any change to this goal.