Working offshore is different from working in an office onshore - obviously. The long working day (12 hours), the harsh weather conditions, especially in the North Sea, the remoteness, and the reliance on helicopter travel do not suit everyone. Others find it a challenging but refreshing environment, quite different from the nine-to-five routine and the rush-hour commute.
What To Expect
A lot depends on the installation. Whether it is a drilling rig, a production platform, or an FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel) they all differ. Some are large, some huge, others small. As a result, the facilities they offer all vary. However, a typical North Sea production platform will boast a core crew of 50-100 men and women. Living quarters are compact but comfortable, usually en-suite, with 2 or more to a cabin. Food is good and plentiful, although do not expect a beer with your meals - alcohol is strictly prohibited offshore.
Offshore crew usually work on a production platform for a period of two weeks before having a rest period onshore for two weeks - 2 weeks on 2 weeks off, though 2 weeks on and 3 weeks off is becoming increasingly common. Those in drilling and exploration can spend longer offshore. Offshore crew work 12 hours a day, including rest and meal breaks, and have 12 hours off. Off-shift, workers can choose to work out in the gym, watch a video or DVD or satellite TV, play snooker, play PC games, read or just hang out with their colleagues.
It does have downsides. Living with work colleagues, means that an offshore worker has to be able to co-operate in a group. You have to get on with your cabin mates. Work disagreements need to be patched up quickly. Being away from home can also be a problem. Missing out on the kids' birthdays may be the least of your concerns; unfortunately prolonged absence form home can be a catalyst for divorce and family break up.
Safety is always the top concern offshore. Admittedly, there have been accidents, some of them major - Piper Alpha for example. However, things have improved dramatically, and the culture offshore has changed. The industry is proud of its safety record over the last few years, and workers are encouraged to report any health, safety or environmental problems.
Before being allowed to go offshore, even if only for a day's survey, all employees must complete an offshore survival course and undergo a medical. Additionally, most operators insist that visitors complete an onshore induction program and permit to work training before travelling offshore.
Visit our pages on Offshore Survival Courses
, and Offshore Medicals
for more information on what to expect.
In addition to survival and medicals, there are a few other restrictions;
- The minimum age for working offshore in the UK sector is 18.
- You are not allowed to travel offshore under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. This is strictly enforced at the heliport departure desk. It is not unknown for people to be denied travel offshore because their breath smells of alcohol. Additionally, some operators have provision for carrying out random drugs tests on potential travellers.
- There is a limit to how long you can spend offshore in any one trip. Most operators have a 21 day limit on this. After 21 days you must be onshore for 7 days before travelling offshore again. This is controlled by means of a Vantage Card
, or MAPS card.