AMCHAM T&T HSSE Conference & Exhibition 2020
Dr Philip Mshelbila - CEO of Atlantic
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome.
We are now in the tenth month of a global pandemic that is once in a lifetime. The news continues to be sobering – in fact many of us avoid it. But at the same time, all around us there are inspiring stories of people rising above the challenges.
When I think about the brave response of people in this situation, I am reminded of a quotation by the famous psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who pioneered the theory of the Five Stages of Grief. She said, and I paraphrase: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when adversity comes, their real beauty is revealed by their light from within.”
People have been pressing on through the challenges, because as a famous actor once put it: “Life finds a way.” People have been skillfully navigating the complexities of the new world in which we find ourselves. Our children are learning to master online school. We, their parents, are juggling responsibilities as we turn our homes into offices and schools. We all sanitize our surroundings and wash our hands like never before, and none of us go anywhere without our face masks – the world’s newest and most essential fashion (and I may add, safety) accessory. In fact, in Atlantic, we call the face mask a lifesaving personal protective equipment.
In all these things, everywhere we look, we see on display the courage, creativity, and resilience of our common humanity. It is therefore very fitting that AMCHAM T&T has chosen the theme of “Resilience” for this year’s annual Conference on Health, Safety, Security, and the Environment. This year’s staging is the 24th in the series since it was first established, and for the first time ever, this Conference is being held virtually and online, for obvious reasons.
On behalf of all the sponsors, I welcome all attendees from here at home and those from around the region. We thank you for attending and participating. As we all know, this week will connect us to the latest best practices in HSSE. This information is particularly valuable given the present time and throughout this week, there will be an indispensable transfer of knowledge. We will share in the priceless lessons learned from the experiences of others, which we can take back and implement in our own companies. This will help build our collective capability to rise above the challenging local and global business environment.
Atlantic, like many other companies, continues to navigate through the storm, buffeted by the wind and the waves that seem to assault our very existence. The global LNG business has experienced a contraction, as reduced economic activity around the world has had a knock-on effect on demand for natural gas and LNG. Fortunately, there are signs that global demand for energy is beginning to recover, albeit slowly. Prices remain lower than they were, ushering in a new era of even more targeted cost management and energy efficiency across the industry.
Through it all, there can be no compromise on the safety and reliability of our business. The practice of HSSE and its contribution to business viability and success become even more critical during a global pandemic. At Atlantic, resilience in these times has meant that our business has had to evolve. We have had to discover innovative ways to deliver our targets, to manage risks both prior and new and to keep our people safe and productive.
As part of our proactive risk management, Atlantic has been monitoring the pandemic from the moment the first official announcement was made by the World Health Organization back in December 2019. We developed and then activated our COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan, and three key principles have guided us from the onset. We resolved that we would protect the health and safety of our employees, our number one priority. We committed to sustain safe and reliable operations for as long as possible, and we further charged ourselves to provide care and support where feasible to all our stakeholders, especially in our home community of Point Fortin.
These three principles have been foundational to our experiences ever since. In the months following the implementation of the national lock-down, we have been discovering our collective resilience and building upon it.
I am proud and humbled to report on one aspect of this. Throughout this period, Atlantic has experienced no impact to our production. We have been able to keep to our schedule for maintenance of our Trains. We have delivered four maintenance outages within budget, on time and most importantly, we have delivered them safely. In fact, there is a turnaround maintenance outage being conducted right now on the facility, and it is the only one for which we have had to adjust the original scope, because it was massive and would have required too many people on the site to manage sensible social distancing.
My observation is that our resilience in our operations is anchored on two key success factors, which I would like to speak about very briefly.
The first success factor has been our People. Atlantic’s people – like so many around the world – have demonstrated both their resilience and their adaptability. When we had to manage the number of personnel on site and therefore restricted access to only those employees who are critical to business continuity and plant operations, our people adapted. On-site work arrangements were revised to accommodate social distancing, cocooning, small work teams and other measures which have had implications for plant specific tasks, including the work conducted during maintenance outages. Work arrangements have been reconfigured to reinforce the new level of safety mandated by the current environment.
On the other hand, employees who are not plant-based have adjusted seamlessly to remote working arrangements. We have implemented several initiatives to help them become even more resilient, including psychological support, stipends to help them establish home offices, virtual ergonomic assessments and even a virtual gym.
In return, our employees have offered and continue to offer innovative ideas that have helped us to adapt work processes and businesses practices. These new processes have helped us to enhance safety, efficiency, and productivity in the new normal. This brings me to the second success factor that I would like to talk about and that is our Use of Technology.
A big part of our pandemic response has been powered by technology. We were among the first companies to deploy fixed and handheld thermal scanners at all our locations, conducting thermal scanning of all persons entering our facilities.
In 2018, we had declared Technology to be a strategic enabler for our company and part of our strategy to future-proof our business. Some of the state-of-the-art technology initiatives that we embarked upon at that time have now become the platforms that facilitate remote working and other necessary evolutions of our business.
For example, one platform that we implemented now allows for the quick creation of mobile apps. It was very easy for us to develop a special app to support our aim to control the numbers of persons on site. Employees use the app to request access to our plant and other Atlantic locations. The app routes requests to Atlantic leaders for authorization up to a maximum limit, and in real time helps the Company to monitor numbers across all our locations at any given time.
Another example early in the lockdown period was developed in our marine operations. We aimed to minimize the risk of contact with the crews on LNG tankers that visit our facility from all over the world, including from countries that are pandemic ‘hot spots’. A new process was developed to transfer intrinsically safe tablets between ship and shore, without requiring human contact, and adding another layer of protection around our LNG loading operations.
In other areas of the business, entire processes have shifted to online portals, which employees working from home use to collaborate with site-based personnel. We use virtual software to enable trouble shooting of onsite issues from both local and foreign service providers. In our control room, we now facilitate contactless shift handovers virtually, by use of an alternate simulated control room that is adjacent to the main location. This minimizes physical interaction between our shifts and therefore minimizes risk of transmission. Everywhere in our business, processes have been migrating online, increasing cross-functional collaboration and communication, breaking down silos and helping us keep our commitment to not compromise on the safety and reliability of our business.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Atlantic’s people for your resilience and your innovation. Our business could not be where it is today without you. We know there are still challenges ahead of us, but if there is anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it is that we have resilience and that working together we can overcome challenges and still achieve our ambitions.
It is this outlook that I would like to leave in the minds of all participants in this year’s Conference. Greater challenges may indeed lie before us all, but we have even greater resilience.
I want to thank the team at AMCHAM for creating this opportunity for us to be reminded of the strength, courage and creativity that lies inside us all.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
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