| Written by David Gordon

FPSOs are one of the main drivers in exploration and investments in the offshore industry. The competition for scarce resources and assets goes further than funds and licences: the workforce on an FPSO is a critical element of operation success.
Offshore labour market and FPSO

No video selected

Select a video type in the sidebar.

The Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) sector, a pivotal component of the global Oil & Gas industry, stands at a critical juncture. As we navigate through the complexities of energy demands, environmental considerations, and technological advancements, the labour market within this sector emerges as a critical factor influencing its future trajectory. This article delves into the multifaceted landscape of the FPSO labour market, shedding light on its current state, challenges, and the evolving dynamics that shape it. Our exploration encompasses various elements including market forecasts, workforce demographics, essential skills, industry competition, and the overarching influence of economic and environmental factors. By comprehending these aspects, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the FPSO labour market and its pivotal role in steering the future of offshore Oil & Gas operations.

FPSO Market Overview and Future Prospects

The future shines bright for the FPSO market, buoyed by optimistic forecasts and substantial investments earmarked for the Oil & Gas sector. According to Wood Mackenzie's Global Upstream Outlook for 2022, a notable 9% increase in investments is anticipated in the coming year, with projections exceeding $400 billion. This surge in investment underscores a renewed confidence in the sector's potential and its critical role in meeting global energy demands.

The ongoing global push for decarbonization is a significant driver of this optimistic outlook. As the world moves towards more sustainable energy sources, the FPSO industry is adapting by integrating electrification into its operations. This shift aligns with environmental goals and opens new avenues for innovation and efficiency in deepwater projects. Consequently, electrification and low-carbon deepwater ventures have increasingly become focal points in greenfield investment decisions, marking a transformative phase in the industry's evolution.

However, this bright future has its challenges. The FPSO market, like many others, is navigating through turbulent times of global supply chain disruptions and escalating commodity prices. These factors collectively pressure corporate profits, leading to a cautious approach towards investment decisions. Moreover, the sector faces the issue of a less experienced workforce, a phenomenon termed the 'Great Crew Change', which raises concerns regarding offshore safety and operational efficiency (learn more here: Great Crew Change and its impact on offshore safety).

Despite these challenges, the strategic importance of FPSOs in offshore Oil & Gas exploration and production remains undisputed. Their inherent flexibility and capability to move assets in response to market demands make them invaluable, especially in a landscape where oil prices continue to exhibit volatility. As we look towards regions rich in hydrocarbon resources, such as Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, Namibia, and South Africa, FPSOs are poised to play a crucial role in harnessing these resources efficiently and sustainably. The next few years will likely witness a renewed focus on deepwater exploration and production, further cementing the FPSO's position as a linchpin in the offshore industry.


Demographics of the FPSO Workforce

The Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) sector, integral to the offshore Oil & Gas industry, exhibits a unique workforce demographic that is both diverse and dynamic. This offshore labour diversity reflects the global nature of FPSO operations, drawing professionals from various regions, cultures, and backgrounds. However, this workforce's demographic landscape is undergoing significant shifts, primarily influenced by the phenomenon known as the 'Great Crew Change'.

The Great Crew Change refers to the generational shift within the industry as experienced personnel reach retirement age and a newer, less experienced workforce steps in. This transition poses notable challenges in terms of knowledge transfer and maintenance of operational standards. The average age of offshore labour is trending younger, bringing in fresh perspectives and highlighting the need for accelerated training and mentorship programs to bridge the experience gap.

Gender diversity in the FPSO workforce is another area of growing focus. Historically, the offshore Oil & Gas sector has been male-dominated, but there is an increasing effort to attract and retain more women in this field. This shift helps address the workforce shortage and contributes to a more inclusive and dynamic working environment.

Furthermore, the demographic composition is also influenced by regional workforce availability and immigration policies, which vary significantly across operational areas. Countries with rich offshore reserves, such as Brazil and those in West Africa, are seeing a rise in local workforce participation, driven by governmental policies and initiatives to boost local employment.


Skills and Training in the FPSO Sector

The evolving nature of offshore labour demands a workforce that is skilled and adaptable to technological advancements and changing industry standards. Core marine engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, and safety management competencies remain fundamental. However, new skill sets are becoming essential with the increasing emphasis on sustainability and digitalization.

Digital literacy and proficiency in new technologies like data analytics, automation, and remote monitoring are increasingly valued. Integrating digital tools in FPSO operations for enhanced efficiency and safety necessitates a workforce that is comfortable with technology and able to adapt to digital platforms.

Training and continuous professional development are pivotal in ensuring the FPSO workforce remains at the forefront of industry advancements. This includes technical training and focuses on safety, environmental compliance, and emergency response preparedness. Given the high-risk nature of offshore operations, a deep understanding of health, safety, and environmental (HSE) practices is crucial (learn more about HSE offshore).

In response to the Great Crew Change, mentorship programs where experienced workers train newcomers have gained importance. These programs help preserve critical knowledge and ensure that safety and operational standards are maintained.

Lastly, training in green technologies and carbon reduction techniques is becoming increasingly relevant as the industry moves towards a more sustainable future. This shift is not only a response to global environmental concerns but also a strategic move to align with the evolving regulatory landscape and public sentiment towards the energy sector.

In conclusion, the FPSO sector, with its unique workforce demographics and evolving skill requirements, stands at a crossroads. Addressing these demographic shifts and training needs is vital for the continued growth and sustainability of this crucial sector in the global energy landscape.


Industry Competition for Workforce

The FPSO sector faces significant competition in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce. This competition emanates not only from within the various segments of the Oil & Gas industry but also from emerging sectors like offshore wind energy, which are increasingly appealing to a similar talent pool.

One of the significant challenges for the FPSO sector is the perception of the Oil & Gas industry as being environmentally unfriendly or a "dirty" industry. This image issue can deter potential talent, especially among the younger workforce who are more environmentally conscious and looking for careers in industries that contribute positively to global environmental goals.

Furthermore, the offshore wind energy sector, often viewed as a more sustainable and socially responsible industry, is attracting professionals with its growth prospects, innovation-driven roles, and alignment with global decarbonization efforts. The competition is particularly intense for roles that require overlapping skills, such as marine engineering, project management, and environmental compliance.

Another factor contributing to the competitive labour market is the concern about long-term career stability in the FPSO sector. With the global shift towards renewable energy, potential employees are often cautious about committing to a career that might seem at odds with future energy trends. This uncertainty can make it challenging for FPSO operators to attract young talent who are considering their long-term professional pathways.


Workforce as Capital and Future of FPSO Industry

The workforce in the FPSO sector represents more than just a pool of employees; it is the primary capital and the driving force behind the industry's future. In an industry where technological sophistication and safety are paramount, the importance of a skilled, well-trained, and motivated workforce cannot be overstated.

Recognizing this, there is a growing emphasis on recruiting the right talent and investing in their development and well-being. Improving working and living conditions in FPSOs is crucial for attracting and retaining employees. This includes providing competitive remuneration, opportunities for career advancement, and ensuring high health and safety standards.

Given the inherent risks associated with offshore operations, safe working conditions are particularly vital in the FPSO sector. Companies are increasingly focusing on rigorous safety training, emergency response preparedness, and adherence to stringent health, safety, and environment (HSE) protocols (learn more about emergency mustering processes). Adopting advanced safety technologies and practices not only enhances workforce safety but also serves as a key factor in attracting and retaining talent.

Moreover, addressing the work-life balance concerns of employees is essential. The nature of offshore labour often requires long periods away from home, which can be a significant deterrent for many potential employees. Implementing rotational work schedules, providing robust communication facilities for staying in touch with families, and offering psychological support can make life at sea more appealing.



As the demand for FPSO units and crew increases, the experienced workforce gets harder to find. Competing labour markets (e.g. offshore wind energy), the image of being a "dirty" industry and open questions about a life-long career in this sector pull people away from offshore Oil & Gas. Continuous training, better payment and higher working standards will help stop the bleeding. Safe working conditions on board (offshore HSE) play an additional role in the job decision process . The best crew will go there where payment, working and oil rig safety conditions are the best to support their families onshore and after their career. Nobody wants to stay at sea forever, split from his or her loved ones.

The workforce is the main capital but also the future of the FPSO industry. To improve working and living conditions is a must to stay attractive for talented people.

Oil Rig Safety Whitepaper Full Text online

Dive deeper into one of our core topics: Personnel on board

Note: This article was updated on January 25, 2024