BLOG: Four Things You Need to Know About Living Offshore

BLOG: Four Things You Need to Know About Living Offshore
Here are a few pieces of advice for newcomers to life offshore.

Have you landed that first summer internship offshore? Are you getting ready to start that first hitch as a roustabout? Whatever your role may be, getting used to life offshore on a drilling rig or production platform will be an adjustment. I recently asked a couple of offshore pros for tips on how to ease the transition. Below are their insights.

Don’t Leave Shore without A Support Network

If you’ve decided to work offshore, you’re hopefully doing so with the full support of your spouse and/or other loved ones. You’ve also hopefully discussed with those closest to you a game plan for dealing with emergencies should they arise while you’re away.

“It’s imperative that not only you are comfortable with working away, but also your loved ones will be able to cope in your absence,” Australian wellsite geologist and Amanda Barlow told me.

“If you have personal relationship pressures at home, you need to reconsider your career choice,” added Barlow, also a published author who has written books designed to inform industry newcomers and their family and friends about the realities of working offshore.

Acknowledging that workers typically can maintain contact with spouses, children and others from offshore facilities via phone and the Internet, Barlow said a support network at home is critical to overcome your distance-related limitations.

“Even if you do have stable relationships, it’s still important to plan ahead in case of dramas at home in your absence so other family and friends can pull together if they need to act on your behalf,” Barlow said. “Always ensure your employer has contact details of your emergency contact at home and that your family has details of your employer should they need to get sensitive information to you. If you are a supervisor then you will probably have access to a phone at all times of the day and night that your loved ones can ring you on, but if you work on the deck or directly involved in the drilling operations then people at home cannot directly contact you.”

Be Ready to Pay Your Dues

Working offshore can be physically demanding, and your time on the clock most certainly will not be 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. – particularly if you’re a newcomer. Instead, prepare to be on duty at least 12 hours straight each day you’re on the rig or platform.

Offshore Noise

Offshore oil and gas facilities are noisy, and permanent hearing loss can result from excessive exposure to noise.

According to Bob Bruce, Principal with Houston-based CSTI acoustics, an 85-decibel A-weighted (dBA) criterion is common for hearing conservation. (The website explains what dBA is.)

“Most production decks will be 80 to 90dBA, with levels as high as 100dBA near major equipment such as compressors,” Bruce said. “Levels above 100dBA are common near platform supply vessels, flares and fire water pumps.”

Bruce noted that interior noise criteria range from 40 to 50dBA for cabins and sickbays to 50 to 55dBA for offices and the mess hall to 60 to 75dBA for laundry, electrical rooms, muster areas and warehouses.

“If the noise level is over 80 to 85dBA, use hearing protection,” added Bruce. “If over 95dBA, use double hearing protection.”

“The work schedule is unrelenting,” said Barlow, adding that many at the bottom rung of the offshore hierarchy find the long hours a major adjustment. “As a bottom-feeder you will almost be guaranteed of having to work your ass off to gain respect and prove your worth, so expect long, tiring days out on the deck and further ‘off-tour’ time participating in training and safety meetings. While you will be told you will be working 12-hour shifts, in reality it is more like a guaranteed 13-hour shift with pre-tour meetings and handover time spent with your back-to-back co-worker.”

Respect Personal Space And Personal Time

Space is at a premium on an offshore facility, and there’s a good chance that you will be sharing sleeping quarters with co-workers. Following a few simple shared room etiquette rules will pay dividends in terms of camaraderie, said Barlow.

“It makes for a much happier relationship if you respect each other’s personal space,” she said. “Always leave your room tidy and take everything with you that you will need throughout your shift so you don’t have to return to your room and disturb the off-tour personnel. Being quiet while inside the accommodation block is imperative as sleep is a much sought-after commodity offshore.”

To be sure, suppliers of offshore accommodations do try to make the time off-tour as peaceful as possible. For instance, Daniel Melcher, Americas business development manager with ELA Container Offshore, told me that his company’s living quarters feature door windows with magnet curtains that provide a “total darkness environment for sleep.”

“It also has a noise cancellation rating of 45 decibels (dB), providing a quiet environment inside that allows for uninterrupted sleep,” Melcher said of his company’s modular accommodation units. (This chart from Purdue University provides some idea of what 45 dB equates to.)

Don’t Hog The Bandwidth

Nowadays, offshore workers commonly enjoy access to the Internet via wireless networks. That does not mean, however, that you’ll be able to download that Hollywood blockbuster or the latest bestseller with ease offshore. If you do want to watch movies or read on your mobile device in your downtime, save yourself – and your co-workers – some frustration by loading the content at home before your hitch begins, advised Barlow.

“While most rigs will now provide Wi-Fi facilities, they are ALWAYS inadequate to deal with larger data requirements,” Barlow said. “It’s important to prepare for this before leaving home to make sure you have downloaded any apps, eBooks, etc. that you might need as these may not be able to be downloaded offshore.”

In addition, Barlow pointed out that sending or receiving large photo, video or data files can be difficult as well.

“Make sure all recipients are able to compress file sizes as much as possible before attempting to send,” she said. “It’s extremely frustrating waiting for a video of a loved one to download before going to bed and missing out on an hour of much-needed sleep in the process!”

(The above list is not exhaustive. What other advice can you give those who are about to work – and live – offshore for the first time?)


Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.

Kgrrigs  |  April 05, 2019
This is very useful, thanks for posting.
Robyn K  |  October 28, 2018
Just enquiring about emergency leave. Is it true that there is a fee to pay if the worker on a off shore needs to be released from his duties in an emergency. And what is the process please.
John  |  October 22, 2018
What happens when a welding divers equipment breaks? He is on contract. Does he have to buy new equipment or lease it, or will the company help? How do things like this work? Asking for my “friend”
David C. Berry  |  May 17, 2018
Been in this business over 30 years, and have loved almost every minute (stuck in a diving bell with no hot water was not my favorite moment, and Ian Beaton and my record long dive in the North Sea -- 17.5 hours- was quite tiring!). Great article, some good insights, and much needed.Missing is the admonition to LEAVE THE BATHROOM CLEAN. This is especially true if two four-man cabins share a common bathroom. Also, when arising. try only to shower and shave, save the XXXX for a quieter period if possible.
Kevin Martyn  |  May 13, 2018
I read an article recently where an "Oil and Gas" worker said that if you want to work within oil and gas be prepared to be unemployed at least every five years. I agree with this statement 100%!
Tcharlx  |  May 09, 2018
Nice article and wonderful comments. I really wish to work in the rigs someday. I would welcome any opportunity. Thanks y ' all.
Nick  |  May 08, 2018
Try to be upbeat, no-one out here is having the time of their life but the more positive you are, the better time you will have and others will follow. This leads to good morale and makes the rig a much better place to work and live.
Jun  |  May 08, 2018
Don't forget to bring an earplug. When your roommate snore too much. lol
Jim  |  May 08, 2018
Yea I hear Jack here below with his comments well said. I've been in the same O&G business now for 35 years and have gone through 2 big oil busts one in the mid 80's and the other one recently back in 2014 or 2015 times frames. Plus some other 4 smaller ones where had merger's and jobs reduced. Still I've met some great people in the industry the best part fairly descent pay and like what I do
Ken  |  May 08, 2018
Before you go into any oilpatch anywhere, read; Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs: (She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse) by Paul Carter :)
Michael Bridges  |  May 08, 2018
Respecting Personal Space And Personal Time is Extremely important. Individuals will undoubtedly endure work shifts that will seem to never end. But when they do, the last thing many of them will want is 100 questions about what's wrong with them.. The sooner new-comers learn to recognize this, the better off they will be.
Dennis Cutcher  |  May 08, 2018
Yes, good advice. Also, The quarters will always be cold, -20 below zero Get up at 0530, eat a quick breakfast, and be ready for the 0600 safety meeting...don't be late. Some places want you to put your boots by the door. Know you weight and bags,
DARREL MILLER  |  May 08, 2018
1. Pack ahead for different weather possibilities. 2. Be flexible with your diet. Don't over indulge. 3. You're paid well. Expect to earn it. 4. Save your money. Later you might change your mind so don't incur debt you can't otherwise manage.
Jack  |  May 07, 2018
Well, nobody know how things will follow but I will give new comers insight into my experience which is shared by many of my friends. I have 18 years of offshore experience and 13 of which are from drilling on top dp deepwater units. For longer time I have been sitting at home applying and browsing jobs daily. I know captains with + 20 years of experience, others with loads of years of experience and nobody has got a job. At least from marine point of view this is not an option for newcomer. The good times are over. Apart from stressful job you will work really 13 hours, work with different locals, travel by choppers risking your life coming in and off and staying on the rig. Now I can say how stupid I was to become ship officer and captain and how stupid it was to chose drilling. And my parents told me to become medic. Well I pay for not listening to them now ;-)

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