Some have likened it to being in the Navy or being on a container ship, well I don’t know about the Navy part, but it’s certainly very similar to being on a ship seeing Jackup rig, Semi-Submersibles and Drillships are all sea going vessels. My experiences so far have been on the Jackup type of drilling rigs, which operate in relatively shallow water, commonly no deeper than 200m as they need to lower their enormous legs and ‘stand’ (jack-up) on the sea floor. The Ensco 102, which many of my pictures are from, was built in 2002 making in a middle aged rig, yet it’s still in good condition.
The living quarters (or accommodation block), just like the work areas outside, are keep immaculately clean, tidy and organised. There are 5 floors; our room is on the 1st floor. Many rooms have sea views, we don’t, and some face inwards towards the rigs leg. In addition, there are TV rooms for smokers and non-smokers, offices, a boardroom, gym, sauna, computer and reading rooms.
Each room has two bunk style beds in it; fortunately we have our own ensuite as most share a bathroom between two rooms. You normally share the room with your co-worker who works the opposite 12hr shift to you, so essentially you have the room to yourself as one of you is always out at work when the other one has 12 hours off. The helicopter dry suit, Rig survival suit, life vest and firefighting equipment are all stored in each room. The rooms are very comfortable and come complete with desk, TV, storage locker and increasingly common these days Wifi.
When you’re in bed it’s comparable to being on a long-haul flight, where there’s a constant low dull hum of the working rig, the air conditioning, wind and also the occasional vibration of either the gale strength winds/waves against the super structure or the movement of the 40 tonne top drive block as it traverses up and down the derrick. There’s no mistaking the sound and feel of the cantilever being skidded in the middle of the night though…it’s like an earthquake.
There are no bins in the rooms, which is a deliberate tactic so that you segregated and recycle your waste with only food scraps being discharged overboard to the grateful seagulls. Everything else is backloaded which I quickly got used to as every time I’m back onshore I’m horrified by the lack of recycling and concern for the environment; the irony of being an offshore worker drilling for oil and gas doesn’t escape me. The Stewards (who work as housekeepers onboard) take care of most other things for you; it’s really like having your mom about! They clean your room and bathroom every day, change the sheets, bring you new towels, wash, fold and deliver your washing, leaving it tied to the rail outside your room, later that same day.
Food and Mess Hall
The galley looks best at Christmas time, not super festive, but they do try. Meals last for 2hrs from 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am. You can sit anywhere and with anyone, there’s no real ‘us and them’, but sure it can be awkward at times sitting with folks you see all the time but never get to know. I personally think that the food I’ve had offshore is pretty good, although many do like to complain, but then I ‘cook’ for myself so just appreciate not having to do it for myself…
Every morning can start with a full cooked breakfast for those who want it, I thought this was great on my first trip, but it’s not sustainable if you’ve got a mainly sedentary job. Thankfully they offer a healthier option too, loads of cereals, fruits and yogurt. Lunch and dinner is usually pretty solid. Roast meats, lasagna, pizza, pan fried fish, curries, stroganoff and pretty much anything you’d find in the UK are commonly on the menu; always with chips and gravy on the side! I try to steer towards the cold/salad bar to add some colour and vitamins. I do struggle every day to eat responsibly, it’s basically an all day buffet and think of any reason to convince myself I need or deserve another this or that; especially with a fully stocked desert fridge!