What’s it like working on an oil rig? Part 1
Posted: 15/11/2011 5:00:00 AM
Mining Oil and Gas Jobs
Filed under: Oil-and-gas
Want to know what it’s really like working on an oil rig? So did we. So we’ve asked Andy – who’s been working on a rig off Australia’s north coast for five years. He tells us what it’s like, how he got into it, why he does it and how he copes with spending so much time at sea. Some of his answers might surprise you.
In 2007, a book called “Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse
” was released. Written by Paul Carter, it contains hilarious tales as diverse as getting shot at, hijacked, being held hostage, almost dying of dysentery and losing “a lot of money backing a scorpion against a mouse in a fight to the death”.
It seems a fairly uncommon view of life on the rigs although Andy – an Aussie who’s worked on the rigs north of Australia for five years – reckons it contains “a bit of an overview”.
The truth about living on an oil rig
We decided to ask him what it is really like living on an oil rig.
First we asked him how he got into it – and why.
“I have a trade certificate as an aircraft maintenance engineer and my initial plan going into the resources industry seems to be fairly common,” he said.
“I wanted to initially work offshore for 2 years and save some cash then get out, but as my life changed to suit the lifestyle of living offshore my reliance on earning good money has gone up and every time I have considered leaving a promotion has usually appeared enticing me to stay longer. To summarise, I am almost completing the fifth year of a two-year plan with my goal amount of time being (you probably guessed) another two years.”
Why work on an oil rig?
Andy looked to a career in the rigs after a relationship break-up – he just wanted to get away for a bit. However most people, he said, appear to get a job working offshore through the “FBI” – friends, brothers, in-laws.
“When initially joining my primary focus was fairly simple and not very honourable or romantic – money, lots of money,” Andy said. “I wanted $100,000 a year to save up and buy my own place.
“But like so many things the concepts have changed and I have started to appreciate some of the other things associated with working away – my rotation working offshore is simply awesome.
“I have three weeks on and three weeks off, which means I get six months off every year (most offshore rotations are equal time or better – lots of rigs do 3/3, others do 4/ 4 weeks, boats are often 5/5 weeks and then there is a thing called the Norwegian cycle, used on FPSOs (floating production storage offloading) which is three on, three off, three on, six off).
So if you like hard work, have a pre-existing trades qualification, want to earn big money and take lots of holidays, working on the rigs sounds like some kind of utopia. But, what about all the shooting and hijacking and being held hostage mentioned in the book, you ask? Well things might not really get that bad, but there are certainly some disadvantages you should consider before seeking a job on the rigs. We’ll discuss issues – and how he copes with them – in tomorrow’s blog.
Advice from someone who knows
In the meantime, Andy has some pretty blunt advice for those looking for work on an oil rig.
“Job knowledge is paramount – if you are a numpty you will not last,”
he said. (Which goes to show our recent blog post
about having previous experience was great advice).
“There is great money to be made but the risks and costs are high,”
Read Part 2
of this story to find out some of the drawbacks to working on a rig.
For more on Australia’s oil and gas industry and the kinds of jobs available, check our Oil and Gas page
in our Careers and Industry Guide.