Effects of the coronavirus quarantines on NDT in North America

I thought that an update with an individual example would be illuminating for my BINDT readers. The segment of the industry associated with oil and gas, while considered an essential industry, is suffering from a lack of demand for the product. There is a glut of oil, oil prices have plummeted and refineries have reduced inspection contractor requirements to a minimum. One large oil company in the West has shut down its refineries completely with the result of reducing the NDT activities to zero. Others have reduced the contractor inspection requirements to a skeleton crew.

NDT contractors have been obliged to make staff adjustments. Some are putting staff on furlough, allowing them to collect unemployment insurance payments. Others are alternating crews. There is still activity in the electric power segment as generating units are shut down for maintenance. NDT contractors have suffered a 75%-80% reduction in activity and resultant income.

The following illustration is an example of how the pandemic caught this contractor crew by surprise:

“Timing could be everything! As I boarded a plane with a work crew of four fellow employees bound for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 11 March, much of the world, as well as Saudi, was implementing a mandatory quarantine, unknown to us at the time. As luck would have it, we landed on Friday 13 and found ourselves facing a 14-day quarantine. Our schedule was to complete a project in Rabigh and then fly to Riyadh to complete a second project.

We are now on our seventh day in quarantine. Today, a Saudi medical team paid a visit to the hotel and told us we are no longer allowed to spend time outside. We are still permitted to walk to the market, but not as a group. With that said, things are definitely tightening up around the world and I would like to remind us all that this is a small price to pay for our loved ones, as well as humanity in general!

After being in the country for 28 days, completing our quarantine while under a curfew from 7.00 pm
to 6.00 am and finishing the first of two scheduled jobs, we were at a point of continuing on with the scheduled job in Riyadh and/or an additional emergency job that had come up in Jubail. This required a 16-hour drive. Saudi had suspended all international and domestic flights and ground transportation only a few days after our arrival. We required two vehicles to move a crew of five with 13 large pieces of personal luggage and equipment cases.

We were able to obtain an emergency flight out after considerable interaction with the US Consulate, barely making the flight and unable to complete the two remaining jobs. The three days of travelling home, along with our many obstacles, were well worth the effort as we looked forward to being home with family in these times of concern.

Oh, and by the way, we received the following message while in quarantine:

Security Alert – US Mission Saudi Arabia – 29 March 2020 Location: Riyadh
Saudi authorities have announced that they have intercepted one or more missiles in the Riyadh area.

Actions to take:
  • If you hear a loud explosion or if sirens are activated, immediately seek cover.
If in a home or a building, go to the lowest level of the structure with the fewest exterior walls, windows and openings; close any doors and sit near an interior wall, away from any windows or openings.
  • If you are outdoors, immediately seek cover in a hardened structure; if that is not possible, lie down and cover your head with your hands.
  • Be aware that even if the incoming missile or drone is intercepted, falling debris represents a significant risk.
  • After the attack, stay away from any debris and monitor major news outlets for official guidance.”

Other issues arising out of the quarantine involve recertification of personnel. Personnel certified under the ASNT Written Practice must now recertify every three years, based on ASME requirements. Furloughed personnel might require an extension to their existing certifications. Personnel with central certifications are awaiting recommendations from the appropriate certification authorities.

Technical committees that meet at spring and fall conferences are working with virtual meetings.

I too am on furlough and am restricted to quarantine. I do have concerns that we may move too quickly to relieve the quarantine and contribute to a worsening of the present conditions!

Please stay safe, follow the recommendations and enjoy the time with loved ones.

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