From your first offshore trip, your life will change substantially. Your wages will take a boost (about the same as a middle management salary onshore and much more than most onshore Rope Access technicians), you will also be living in your place of work, sometimes many miles from shore with no land in sight.
Some parts of this industry have above average staff turnover, this is partly due to individuals being unable to adjust to the lifestyle. I'm not trying to create the wrong impression here, and I'd hate you to think that offshore working is not as difficult as some think it must be, conditions have improved substantially over the years (especially with regard to safety) and are continuing to do so. It must be said though, there are compromises to be made and therefore working offshore isn't everyone's cup of tea.
On arrival at the rig or platform (there are many types: jack up, semi submersible, fixed platform, FPSO, tankers etc) you will be issued with a T card or tag that has your name and room allocation on it. You'll then be given a platform safety induction, normally a video or lecture by a platform staff member. This normally follows with a guided tour of the whole installation - mainly pointing out escape routes, lifeboat stations, muster points first aid stations etc. Various alarms and their meanings will be explained to you along the way.
As in any profession, a positive attitude will make your offshore life much more enjoyable and may increase your chances of promotion or retention of a good position. It's important to keep focused on why it is that you are working out there, try to concentrate on the positive points of the job you are doing. Most have very different and varied reasons for doing this type of work.
Normal shift patterns cater for a twelve-hour shift system, typically with a break in the morning, lunchtime and afternoon. 'Tea shacks' are at various places throughout the rig and at designated times filled rolls or cakes etc. are provided. Some allows smoking, others don't (there are only one or two designated areas in which you can smoke). For lunch you will remove your off work gear (PPE) and go into the galley. In most international situations, the food is usually very good quality with a wide selection at every mealtime. It's common for the catering companies on some rigs and platforms organise theme nights with Indian / Italian / Chinese etc. food making up the majority of choices on the menu. International platforms naturally cater for their 'local' cuisine so expect some totally brand new culinary experiences!
Quiz / bingo / racing nights may be a weekly event, often held early evenings and may include a small prize. Some Christmas raffles have been known to contain some pretty decent prizes (some are complete rubbish but you get a good laugh!).
Offshore installations run for twenty four seven, depending on your job you may have to do night shift (most Rope Access radiography jobs for example are permanent nights). With some jobs you may have to do a combination of days and nights, depending on task at hand. There's no outboard (over the sea) work allowed during hours of darkness.
Most companies have their own shift patterns - 7am-7pm 12pm-12am etc. Sometimes, if shifts are involved, you could start your trip on day shift and then move to night shift on your final days before going home. For example if you do two weeks on-two weeks off, you may do a week of days and a week of nights. Most Rope Access jobs are carried out during the day though so there should be minimum upset to your routine.
Facilities vary from place to place. Depending on the company who own the rig (operating company) Off shift facilities vary from rig to rig. expect everything from make shift gyms in engine rooms, to decks of cards and porn as rig leisure pursuits.
Most modern rigs/platforms have cinemas, satellite TV in your rooms, selection of videos and DVD's, computer games, computer clubs (with net access), gym and sauna equipment quality will vary but in general are very good.
Your trip may have went rough, you may be tired by the end of it (even a little grumpy) but the feeling you get when you get on the helicopter home can't be beat. For the right people, working offshore is a great way to earn a living, combined with Rope Access you have a world class job that pays decent rates and allows international travel.
Article by Tom Rigg - Rigg Access Ltd. For more hints, tips and advice on how to get one of the worlds most rewarding jobs, find out more at: www.rigg-access.com