Sunday, February 10, 2008

An insider's view

Reports of a bomb alert on an offshore platform in the North Sea has given rise to this brief insider's view. It's accurate enough but doesn't really sum up the life on an offshore platform. Of course, I haven't been offshore for a number of years, so things have undoubtedly changed, but the concept of working long hours in cramped conditions hasn't changed that much since the first time I went offshore in 1971. Well, that's not true. Back then the rigs and platforms were a lot less attractive to the worker. However, they were safe, mainly because common sense rather than health and safety still ruled the day. I feel less safe today knowing that politicians have decided to legislate on my safety!

The most interesting observation is the number of women who now work offshore. In the early 1970s there were no woman at all on any offshore drilling rig or production platform. The industry wasn't sexist as such, there simply weren't the facilities to accommodate both sexes on the early rigs and platforms. And there was a perception, possibly now proved wrong, that having both sexes in close confines would only lead to trouble.

My closest brush with the "28 on 28 off" crowd is on crew change flights between Pointe Noire and Paris. The color of the language always turns a few shades of blue when there's a drilling crew in line to pass through Congo security! Whether from Scotland, Texas or Tyneside (three accents I recognized a couple of weeks ago) the language and the humor is the same.

Speaking of which, I am currently downloading Armageddon, the incredibly corny Bruce Willis, Ben Afleck sci-fi movie that everyone in the oil business should watch on a regular basis. After all, you never know when we might be called upon to rocket off into space to drill into an asteroid! Mind you, when you read about a "deep core drilling team" here is one experienced oil industry hand who has to say "what the f**k are they talking about, I've never heard of such a thing!"