Due to the many challenges of drilling offshore, all seaborne rigs are similar to ships in their operating standards and procedures. Caution in everything, even during non-work hours, is paramount. For instance, steep steps connecting the different levels of offshore platforms often get slippery from humidity, ocean spray or rain, as do catwalks and other surfaces. It’s important to hold onto railings and move about at a safe pace.
However, there are not many non-working hours on an offshore rig. All drilling rigs operate continuously. In offshore operations, workers often work 7 to 14 days in a row, 12 hours a day, and then have 7 to 14 days off. For offshore rigs located far from the coast, drilling crew members live on ships anchored nearby or in facilities on the platform itself. Workers on offshore rigs are always evacuated in the event of severe storms.
Notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): “Many oilfield workers are away from home for weeks or months at a time. Exploration field personnel and drilling workers frequently move from place to place as work at a particular field is completed. In contrast, well operation and maintenance workers and natural gas processing workers usually remain in the same location for extended periods.”
Compensating for the long workdays are excellent, bountiful meals, prepared by well-trained chefs. Not surprisingly, the seafood from a given region is a primary offering in buffet-style dining area, but offshore rigs also provide a wide range of more standard regional fare, such as eggs, bread, salads, meats, potatoes and casseroles. One thing’s for sure: You won’t go hungry on an offshore rig.
Nor will monetary compensation likely be disappointing, with even entry-level crew hands, such as “roustabouts” and “roughnecks” earning considerably more than their counterparts in other mining industries, at least in the U.S., and for overseas projects with U.S. operators or U.S.-based drilling contractors. Benefits are also top-notch. (Many European companies offer comparable rates; however, projects in some countries are operated by national oil companies, which often have a preference for hiring people from the host country first and pay scales may vary considerably from the U.S.-European norms.)
Excellent pay and benefits are a primary reason that so many people are attracted to the offshore drilling industry. Nevertheless, bear in mind that getting hired on an offshore rig is very competitive, and a number of employment services recommend that workers interested in offshore rig jobs obtain experience with at least one onshore drilling project, first.