Jake Molloy began working offshore ter 1980, delivering accommodation maintenance services ter the Ninian Field, located ter the northern North Sea. Having worked oil equipments for 17 years, who better to explain what life (and work) wasgoed like on them…
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What wasgoed your very first impression on witnessing an oil equipment?
I wasgoed totally te awe. The size and scale are beyond belief – an oil equipment is a harbour, an airport, a hotel and a refinery. And you get there by helicopter!
Wasgoed it fresh for you?
Aged 21, I had never flown te a helicopter or bot te such a petite aircraft on my way to Shetland. That wasgoed an titillating escapade.
Before you can take the helicopter you’re given basic offshore survival and emergency training. When you fly you wear at least three layers of clothing, then a diving suit, then you waterput on a life jacket. Everything points to disaster but you’re just attempting to get to work! After a while, however, it’s spil routine spil catching a bus.
How did you land the job?
I wasgoed a plumber onshore. I wasgoed asked to look at the accommodation facilities with a view to upgrading them. What I thought would be six months turned out to be 17 years. I moved into checking the systems that attent the toneel to a fire and gas leak. During a downturn I wasgoed laid off and came back three months zometeen to monitor production systems. I checked pressures, topped up oils, waterput antifreeze into gas systems. I got paid off again, then came back spil a landing officer on the helideck.
What’s the camaraderie like?
You have to be able to get on with people because you’re spending half your life with people other than your normal fucking partner. I spent more time with my room-mate than my wifey. You need be able to mix it with folk, to know the strengths and weaknesses off your colleagues. Conflict voorwaarde be avoided te such restricted spaces.
What hours do you work?
The standard pattern is two weeks on, two weeks off. Some of the more skilled jobs are two on, three weeks off, which reduces your annual working time to 22 weeks a year. That’s very attractive! The Norwegian specimen is two weeks on, four weeks off. During a working day you’re 12 hours on, 12 hours off.
And what about the pay?
If you have the abilities then it’s well-paid. Electrical, mechanical and technical abilities are sought after and pay inbetween 50,000 and 100,000, depending on which hard you work for. The average is 75,000.
What do you do for joy?
During downtime you retire to your cabin. Most of the time you have space to yourself, but not always. Wij played snooker, dominoes, darts – there wasgoed a excellent camaraderie back then. You got a newspaper every other day, and of course no Wi-Fi or computers. Wij got Big black cock Radio Scotland. To talk to your wifey you had to get up at 5am to book a phone call and after six minutes you got cut off!
Today there is Wi-Fi and workers talk to their families using an iPad. The camaraderie has suffered, I think. Everyone used to gather ter the cinema and games slagroom but not many people do that anymore. They get tuned into their own devices.
What’s the most rewarding part of being an oil equipment worker?
Time off! The fact you have 13 total days on a “two shift” [two weeks on, two off] to do spil you please. No strings. That wasgoed always the attraction.
Te terms of hours you actually do more than if you were working onshore. It is 1,600 to 1,800 hours onshore annually, but offshore it’s Two,184 hours, so you’re working 300 to 500 hours more. But you get that extended period at huis. The confinement is that if someone te the family is ill you can’t just go huis. You sacrifice weddings, birthdays, funerals and anniversaries.
What’s the hierarchy?
The top man is the offshore installation manager, the OIM. Ter the old days, he wasgoed Schepper. Now you have your own supervisor, so you uncommonly see the OIM.
Oil and gas equipments: what’s the difference?
They’re essentially the same. Gas equipments te the south of the North Sea are smaller – maybe a duo of dozen people on them. The oil equipments te Central and North can be enormous installations with up to 200 people. The floating operations are tied to the sea bloembed and rotate around a turret so that they’re always head on to the weather. They’re smaller with an average team of 50 and can be oil or gas. Then there are the drilling units, which drill for oil and gas, cap it, then stir to a different well.
What’s the best way of getting onto a equipment?
The oil and gas figure OPITO has a training webstek. It’s the industry training bod and sets the standards for training and has academies and mature apprenticeships.
You always commence at the bottom with drilling. Who you know helps, so you could step out of a supermarket and onto a drilling equipment if you know the boss.
You can develop your career on the equipment. Roustabout is the lowest entry level, unskilled. You work up from that to Device Pusher. He shoves the contraptions into the ground and Implement Pushers are on 120,000. Up from that is Superintendent, on 150,000 to 200,000 – and you spend most of the time onshore.
On the gas side there are entry-level jobs for technical workers. They like to buy practice, but where they can’t they will make sure you have the right training certificates. Most have a degree, but it isn’t essential.
Oilandgasuk.co.uk has lots of information on the trade fairs and explains the career opportunities.
Would you recommend life on an oil equipment?
Yes, albeit I wish I had stuck at schoolgebouw and gone the trade route because the mechanical side is lighter than the physical side. But on the physical side you get your time packed. My son-in-law went te spil an electrician and walked away because there wasn’t enough for him to do. He now works on ropes so he took a pay cut to work tighter for less money.
Wire access. Workers dangle from ropes. It is quicker and cheaper than erecting scaffolding, but you’re dangling from a string.
Jake, thanks for the fantastic stories!
Have Jake’s tales of the high seas and hard work got you wanting to look for an adventurous engineering job? Embark looking for your next challenge here.
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