All that glitters is not gold, a well-known saying that I believe is very fitting to the offshore oil and gas industry. I was brought up in an area where a large majority of the guys work offshore. I have heard so many people refer to 'working offshore' in such a blasé manor, like it is the be all and end all, an easy life and easy money. There is such a misconception when it comes to the 'offshore lifestyle', it really isn't all glitz and glamour (but it can have its moments!).
We are all aware that the oil, gas and energy sector is a multi billion dollar industry with some serious cash to be made, and at the same time lose. Don't get me wrong and I will be very honest here, my role offshore pays very well, in fact for my age it pays exceptionally well, but like many things in life with high return comes risks. Most contract workers will agree that life is great when you are offshore, the pound signs start appearing on my bank statement again. When work is plentiful the contract game is a great one to be a part of. Often people outside of the industry only identify the money that people working offshore are earning, but fail to appreciate what they are sacrificing in order to do so.
I work away for usually a minimum of four weeks at a time, anything over six weeks and the cabin fever certainly kicks in. A month may not seem like a long time but I can assure you it is crazy how many moments and events you miss. One of my closest friends missed the birth of his daughter earlier this year, a memory that he will now never have. The vast majority of the guys I work with are married with families so I can only imagine how much tougher it must be on them. They are out there working hard, providing for their families and missing important memories.
I know I miss moments with people I love at home but I have made some of the most amazing memories with fantastic people offshore. I have seen some of the most beautiful site from the back deck of a boat. Not many jobs give you the opportunity to watch a sunrise and a sunset every day with the gorgeous Clio Bay fjords in the backdrop, to paddle board on Lake Washington, to climb up to the helideck at 3am and watch the northern lights dance around the sky, to hike to Paradise Point on the Mount Rainier, to meditate with a group of Buddhist Monks, the list goes on. My job has taken me to some fantastic places and allowed me to experience a variety of different cultures with some great people. The lengthy periods away from home have allowed me to form friendships with guys from all over the world that I will be friends with for life.
Offshore is definitely not all work and no play, but I can assure you when we are on the boat we work very hard. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about the industry is that it is 'easy money'. The days are long, 12 hour shifts 7 days a week for over a month, you are guaranteed to return home absolutely exhausted. My job offshore is labour intensive at times, cutting and logging cores in the 37 degree heat of Africa is most certainly a challenge. There are deadlines and a vast amount of money involved with a site investigation so the pressure is definitely on. I am very passionate about my chosen field of work, you have to be because it completely consumes your life. If you love what you do then you will never have to work another day in your life.
My family and friends know that when I return home from a stint offshore I am best left alone for a couple of days. You are completely exhausted which is great because you know you have worked hard and deserve the time off. This is my favourite element of the offshore lifestyle, the long hours and weeks without a day off are definitely worth it for the leave at home. On multiple occasions I have taken local leave after a stint offshore with a few of the guys I have been working with. It is so much fun to take some time out and enjoy where you have been working for the past month before flying home.
People fail to appreciate and at times I am guilty of this, just how dangerous the offshore environment is. You are risking your life every time you step onto the vessel. You are surrounded by hazards within a relatively small space with very little means of escape. It is dangerous work and strict health and safety procedures are in place, but the risk of seriously hurting yourself is never fully eliminated. The work environment is not your only hazard when you are offshore, at times your work location can be just as hazardous. I have had a couple of stints off the west coast of Africa where there is the threat of Kidnapping, Piracy, Malaria and Ebola. There are areas of the world that I would point blank refuse to work in, in my eyes the risk outweighs the hefty pay check.
I have come to terms with the fact that my life has no real structure to it. Project dates are forever changing, extending and being delayed so planning and committing to things back at home is always difficult. I do sometimes envy the guys working on the rigs as their rotations offer an element of structure to their lives. The disadvantage of this though, is that you always return to a static structure in the same destination, the thought of not knowing where in the world I will be working next is pretty exciting. The uncertainty involved with contract work has forced me to think sensibly and definitely mature when it comes to my finances. I certainly didn’t predict this industry downturn. I recently purchased my first home, not the best time to have done so with the current situation, but you have to think positively and without my role offshore the purchase wouldn’t have been possible.
The offshore workforce is an aging workforce; this surely speaks volumes about the lifestyle. So many people I have worked with mention how they wish they had entered into the offshore game from a younger age. The general consensus when I speak to my work colleagues during this period of downtown is that they can’t wait to get back offshore, onshore work is just not for them. Obviously the offshore lifestyle is not for everyone, but there is an extremely high risk that you will love it, it happened to me and to many others.
Like most jobs, offshore work has its pros and its cons, and I’m sure as circumstances in my life change my opinion and suitability to the job may also. At this current moment in time I love my life and I love my job and at times it seems pretty golden!