There are close to 1500 offshore oil rigs around the world, each with its own crew that work and live on these platforms miles from the shoreline. The harsh sea condition and being isolated may not be an ideal working condition, but its the career path chosen by many. Why? Offshore jobs pay very well, especially for engineers with specialist skillsets. Entry-level positions can range from $47,000 to $80,000 per year. Technical and Managerial positions can be double. So, before you accept that well-paying job, what are you getting into?
The working day
Since offshore facilities are out at sea, it is not possible or practical to commute daily to work. Instead, employees fly out in helicopters. Safety training is vital for working onboard an oil rig, so complete sea survival training is given even before boarding the flight.
Days are usually 12 hours long, plus hand-over time and meetings. While on the rig, employees work every day, 7 days a week. While shift patterns may vary, they are generally split from 00:00 to 12:00 and 12:00 to 00:00, or 06:00 to 18:00 and 18:00 to 06:00. Depending on your role, you may find yourself working solidly, every day, for weeks at a time.
Many shift patterns require 2-3 weeks on the rig and 2-3 weeks onshore, but this pattern can be longer.
Some rigs offer private rooms, but most 2 to 4 people per room, with shared bathrooms between cabins. It can be challenging when 4 people share one small cabin, especially when getting up and ready for the same shifts.
Although showers are shared, most rooms have a washbasin and a television.
One perk of living aboard a rig is the dedicated laundry and kitchen staff, ensuring you have clean clothes and food prepared around the clock, usually with a self-service style canteen. Fresh food comes in via ship frequently, so there is always access to fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables.
Staying in touch
In the past, living onboard left you isolated from loved ones, with access only to a single six-minute phone call once a week. Thankfully, this has changed, and most oil rigs have internet. It is not always fast enough to download huge files or live stream H.D. videos, but workers can browse the internet, check emails, and have video chats with family.
The crew onboard is always tight-knit and will incorporate new workers into older teams, making them feel right at home. Expect plenty of banter and well-intentioned pranks.
Working onboard an oil rig is a hazardous occupation. While the pay is generous, the risks are genuine, with threats from heavy machinery, chemicals, falls from height, and much more. As such, ample training is mandated. PPE is provided, including hard hats, steel-toed boots, safety glasses, hearing protection, and impact gloves, and must be worn.
There is no alcohol or drugs allowed, as both would impair workers' ability to be safe during an emergency. Smoking is restricted to authorized locations only.
Is it for you?
One of the first steps to consider is relocating to one of the oil hotspots, such as Scotland, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Texas, or the Middle East. Doing so puts you in a prime location to secure interviews with any of the oil giants and attend job fairs.
If all this sounds great to you and you are physically fit, mentally prepared, and keen to learn a new industry, a career in oil extraction or drilling can be very rewarding financially and through the camaraderie onboard. Attend the company-sponsored seminars to introduce yourself to potential employers and get to know what you can offer each other.