THE numbers working offshore in the North Sea fell by 4,000 in the month after the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March but have increased steadily since then a report has found.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK said the average number of personnel on board rigs and the like fell from around 11,000 on March 8 to just over 7,000 one month later, with the drilling and engineering construction trades hardest hit.

The findings highlight the challenges posed by measures that were intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Oil & Gas UK said firms reduced to minimum manning in a bid to control the spread.

It added: “Numbers have risen steadily since then ... with a range of preventative measures in place both prior to mobilisation and whilst offshore, which has helped secure more jobs and increase operations.”

However Oil & Gas UK said the operational challenges facing the sector as a result of the coronavirus have been compounded by the fall in commodity prices triggered by the virus.It has estimated that 30,000 jobs could be lost as non-essential work is deferred or cancelled.

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“We continue to see some very worrying signs for employment in the sector, with the uptake of furlough and continued suppression of global energy demand impacting our industry,”said workforce engagement and skills manager Alix Thom.