Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Seagull Has Landed!

Done!  Finished! Complete! Knackered!!

Arrived home last night and am one tired bunny indeed.  I have no particular axe to grind regarding safety and am totally behind the completely necessary grounding of Super Puma Helicopters, so I'd just like to outline the likely future journeys that await all offshore personnel should boat transfers become the norm. 

Firstly though I feel it necessary to thank the crew of the boat we travelled on.  The Maersk Lifter is actually used in the main for 'Anchor-Handling' (no, me neither)...but on this occasion they were so moved by the plight of the average idiot lumbering around the platform that they kindly offered to take some of us in to the beach.  
So kudos in the extreme to you guys and thanks beyond description!!

Now, we got word of the offer of a lift around 10 in the morning on Tuesday.  We had the usual mis-information and rumour mixed with a healthy dose of plain downright lies but the overall impression was that it would actually go ahead at some point.  I believe the common offshore expression is
'We'll know more after the meeting'
I cannot tell you how often I've had to listen to that.  Indeed, there are some people I've seen offshore who must spend their entire time on the rig in meetings.  This can't be true, they must spend SOME time writing and receiving e-mails.

The time dragged on...and on...and further on but then we got the call...we had to go to the Heli-lounge to get our video brief on the Frog transfer.  We got to see the thing in action (albeit on video) and learned precisely nothing new, the whole thing could've been boiled down to 'hold on and keep your hands and feet inside the thing'!  This was around lunchtime and we were promised that an announcement would be made some time soon (soon is of course a rather 'elastic' term in the offshore environment).  All we knew at this point was that the boat was in the field (another very loose term) and would be servicing another platform first before it gets to us.

Several episodes of 'Deadliest Catch' later we were getting worried but then the Tannoy blurted into life.  We were told that half past seven was the time we had been preparing for all day.
This is where the reality of boat transferring kicks in, the boat had been busy getting guys off two other installations and had thus far got 30 odd men onboard.  This had taken some 6 hours!

We had 14 men to transfer and all of us had trudged up to the Heli-lounge with our bags and survival suits, we naturally felt that this would all be complete in minutes (oh how wrong we were!).  The Frog had been used on the previous rigs and so had obviously been checked over each time.  This did not preclude our rig checking it before use, this took approximately half an hour.  The first three got the nod to suit up and did so dutifully.  Some 30 minutes or so later they were called out to get transferred.

I was in the third block of three and was taken out about 45 minutes after the first three had left.  The transfer itself seemed to go quickly and all in all was so uneventful that it felt like a bit of a letdown.  The overriding impression I got was exactly how high up the rig I'd just been on was!
The final two lots got onboard roughly an hour later (being split into two lots of two so that no-one had to ride the Frog on their own) and the container with our baggage was loaded some half hour later.
Shown here is the area where the Frog was landed.

We got a rather rudimentary induction as to the facilities on the boat, after all we were only going to be there for 12 hours or so.  This was done by possibly the most Danish looking man I've ever seen.  I say Danish, he could have been Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish, what I mean to say is he looked Scandinavian!  One inquisitive soul offered the question, 'Do you have Wifi here?' to which we got the reply, 'We do but not for you guys!'  I suppose the offer of a lift home seemed enough to these guys.  He also briefed us on the likely itinerary of our trip.  A 12 hour sail followed by anything up to a 5 hour wait to get the right tide for offloading their precious cargo (us).

I got a decent room (my 5th of the trip blog fans!) with some lovely clean bedding and a friendly room mate who rather disconcertingly offered me a pair of brand new ear plugs.  I neatly declined as I tend to fall asleep first when sharing a room (people who snore always do fall asleep first).  I made my way down to the TV lounge and watched Liverpool's latest attempt to make lower league clubs look good.  And that took me up to half ten, which is plenty past my usual offshore bedtime...and so to bed (diary fans).

All this took place during one of the most becalmed periods I've ever seen in the North Sea and this continued for the entirety of the trip back to harbour. So much so that I slept in till half past seven.
Breakfast was 'interesting' with a solitary L-shaped island unit with no obvious signs of cutlery.  A variety of items that definitely 'looked' correct were in place but nothing actually tasted the way it should have done.  I have friends who would have fainted after their first mouthful of beans 'That's not Heinz!' may have escaped their lips as they slowly sank to the floor.
Nothing tasted right, the bacon smelt beautiful, looked rather odd and tasted weird.  Not 'off' as such, just odd.  No, only the egg truly satisfied and even that was a little too different to go unnoticed.
The whole thing seemed like eating a first cooked breakfast after undergoing major tongue surgery - if such a thing even exists.
After brekkie and a couple of coffees I ventured out on deck and caught a first sight of land.  We seemed like we had made excellent progress.  Then we had to wait for the pilot to take us into harbour.
Around 10am the boat with the pilot arrived and after a rather hazardous looking leap from boat to boat he went to the bridge to help land the vessel.  At this point word had spread throughout the boat and the decks were becoming ever more crowded.  Fortunately the boat had plenty of outside space and there was always a vantage point.  This is when we got the call...'Dolphins off the Port side!!'
I assure you now that those small spots in the wake of that boat are Dolphins.  These were just very shy Dolphins who seemed to know when I was pointing my camera (phone) at them.  Mere seconds after I'd taken this picture they were jumping out of the water and virtually laughing and pointing at me (a special feat when you've only got flippers to point with).
But still, it passed a few minutes!
I noticed some boats who were waiting alongside us as the pilot started us into harbour and felt as though we'd jumped the queue somewhat.  I even felt guilty (very briefly).
At this point in the journey the boat has to slow to a virtual crawl and the last few hundred yards took over an hour to traverse.

We got into harbour and pulled up at around eleven o'clock.  This is when the real fun started.  I did not know that before we would be allowed off the boat, the crew would be putting on a little show for us.  It seemed to be a tribute to Laurel & Hardy. You know the one where they couldn't tie a piece of netting under a gangway? No, me neither.  Maybe they were put off by having an audience...
Performance anxiety is apparently a big thing in Denmark...
We had all taken the opportunity to get all our bags and suits from our rooms and so were getting more than a little impatient with this little show.  I'd been stood waiting for the word to get off the boat and watching these guys operate all I could think of was the Chucklevision theme tune...Especially worrying as we'd been staring at our 'Executive Taxi' for nearly half an hour...
The driver was very understanding and was happy to let guys off at the railway station instead of insisting we all went with him back to Scotia with our suits.  I took the opportunity to get off at the airport terminal as I had to drop off paperwork at the office.

The journey had lasted until after midday on Wednesday, a total travel time of around 16 hours for us, on top of which you could add about 5 or 6 hours for those who got on from the earlier installations.  This is a little extreme and will probably not be the way of the future for all offshore travel.

I eventually arrived home at around 7pm and almost collapsed in a wife predicted that I would end up falling asleep downstairs watching the telly to which I snorted with derision (I'd show her, I thought)...As I woke up at 5am sat on the sofa I felt more than a little annoyed but I couldn't just go upstairs and get into bed, after all, I had half a can of beer still to drink...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Edna The Inebriate Operator...

I swear there are tramps on the streets of London that don't get moved on as much as we do sometimes!
I am now preparing for the 4th bed of my trip which will hopefully be my last.  We have had our 'Frog' transfer brief and are looking forward to getting in a glorified harness to be dangled over the side of the rig.  What could possibly go wrong?

When people call for the removal of so many helicopters from service in the North Sea, this is the reality we will all have to face up to.  The long, tortuous and almost entirely unnecessary process of the boat transfer.  Quite apart from the actual transfer process itself is the fact that the journey back to the beach will then take anything up to 12 hours (weather dependent).

Bear in mind that as I write this we are yet to recover the flight recorder from the recently downed chopper and so are almost completely in the dark regarding what in fact went wrong with that flight.  A period of reflection is definitely needed and it is right that this type of craft should be grounded until at least preliminary investigations can supply something amounting to an answer.

I am in a rather invidious position out here, I want to get home and naturally I want to do that as quickly as possible but safety must come first, we cannot allow further incidents and any loss of life is totally unacceptable.

It is like watching footage of you being drunk from the night before, you just have to sit there and let the events unfold before your eyes, almost like being a eunuch at an orgy.  In fact it is almost exactly like that when you consider we'll be travelling in on an Anchor handling boat and as such will be expected to just sit there and not touch anything!!

Oh well!  Back to the TV and waiting for the Tannoy...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Monday, 26 August 2013

This looks like a job for Lily Savage!!

We finished our job out here on Friday and de-rigged and packed away within a couple of hours.  
I was overseeing the backload of our gear and advising the boys (possibly against their wishes) that they needed to be careful everything was packed properly.  We have apparently had a few instances recently of kit becoming unstable and potentially dangerous during transit so there is a current focus on this area.

During this period it occurred to me that backloading of equipment is a lot like being a female really need to make sure everything is in the proper place BEFORE you strap it down!!

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Super Pumas or S92's...can't we find a 'Third Way'?

Now, there's been a lot said, written and thought these past few days and I definitely do not want to add fuel to any arguments, both the worthwhile kind OR the Facebook-based ones (which seem to consist mainly of over-reaction, vitriol and sheer ignorance).

Instead I'd just like to add my own personal perspective into the mix, as I've said previous to this post, I am currently 'stranded' on a drilling 'Jack-Up' rig attached to a 'Normally Unmanned installation' (NUI) and we heard of the incident late on Friday evening.  We have been watching the rather sketchy updates coming in from the various news sources with a great deal of both remorse and irritated impatience.  We all feel so sorry for the loss of life and the impact on those concerned must be horrendous.  Also we are all interested in the outcome of the forthcoming investigations.

This brings a double burden that it is impossible to get away from.  For while we need to know the reason behind the incident we also want to know exactly how this will impact on us personally in the near future.  Every time I find some new piece of the puzzle I can't help myself thinking, 'How will this affect me?' and then every time I find myself thinking that thought I am immediately struck by how selfish it sounds!

There is nothing I can add to the outpouring of sorrow for those who perished while simply trying to get home from their job.

I had also recently posted regarding the apparent 'safety' of the recently-returned-to-service 225 class of Super Puma aircraft (return-of-the-frack.html) which now seems both redundant and rather gullible!
But that is exactly the problem we have right now.  We simply do not know the reason behind this crash and lazy speculation (the kind the internet is best placed to give) will help no-one, least of all anyone who knew those involved.

I 'shared' a very interesting status on Facebook early on Saturday morning (
and it conveyed a similar feeling among a large part of the offshore worker community, me included.  I found it very useful in getting across the feelings I had in my own mind and would like to thank Mr. Wray Thomson for his articulation.
However, there is one small difference I'd like to get across now (with apologies to Mr. Thomson!)

'We live and work in conditions that are a few steel bars away from a jail cell', he starts.  While reasonably accurate I'd equate it more to Re-hab than prison.  There are no bars on the windows (in fact a lot of the accommodation blocks I visit don't even have windows)...(seriously, I once went 10 days without seeing natural daylight), we don't have access to any drink or drugs (unless you're 'IN' with the Medic) and there's no way we're getting out or going anywhere anytime soon!
So, if it is like re-hab, then we are very much like Lindsay Lohan.  We come to these places (far too often than is strictly good for us), serve our time and then get let out, back into the real world.  Where we drink, take drugs and generally debauch ourselves as much as possible!  Knowing full well that it's only a matter of time before we end up back in here!

Also there seems to be an asuumption amongst offshore personnel that we have a straight choice on our hands of Super Puma or S92.  This seems rather simplistic (and all too easy!) as anyone who's travelled on both will tell you that the S92 is a far superior machine.  The issue we have with this dilemma is that the S92 doesn't have the range or luggage capacity of the Super Puma and is also far more expensive, not that expense has ever been an issue when looking at the safety of the industry's workers (OH NO!!).

All these machines have a natural working life, much like your car at home and eventually there will have to be a point where we go another way.  The S92 HAS had problems before and is by no means a panacea or 'magic bullet'.

No, instead, I feel we need to take stock and let the guys investigate (preferably with no interference from any 'interested' parties) to find the root cause and resolve this issue once and for all.
This is of course going to take some time and have massive consequences for the industry. This is fine by me as I'm stuck out here with no work to do except to make sure I book my days in and get the client to sign my timesheet...



We wake every morning with the same question reverbarating around our heads,
'When am I getting off this place?'
Well, the answer for me is 'No time soon!'.  With what happened on Friday and the subsequent grounding of all Super Pumas until further notice, the operator of the rig I am on took the decision to abandon choppers for the safer and far more complicated process of 'Frog' style boat transfers.
I can't wait!
No, seriously.  Well maybe not.  I have carried out training on these devices but that was a few years ago, in a yard, attached to a crane, in Dubai.  This will possibly be a little worse!
 We had a safety meeting yesterday where they gave us the good news and this morning we had even better news.  The boat has been passed as OK to use and will be sailing from dock today or tonight, so will get here tomorrow morning (it being a 12 Hour sail).  This boat has to service the entire field.  This field currently has one accommodation barge and two drilling rigs more than it usually would meaning we have over 300 more personnel to arrange transfers for than would normally be the case (Bloody Shutdown Season!!).
These 'Frogs' can transfer 3 people at a time.  I'll leave that to sink in...
Also, our platform spoke to another in the field this morning and he said,
'Yeah, we've got the 'Frog' and we'll be sorting our guys.  Think you'll need to speak to the office to make your own arrangements!'
He may well have just said 'I'm all right Jack, pull the ladder up!'  or he could have Skyped us so that we could see him sticking two fingers up at us while he spoke!

So no, I will not be home anytime soon
PS - this is all weather dependant of course, so we could be sat waiting for a rather long time...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bad times in the North Sea

I had something frivolous and frothy planned for this morning but given the circumstance... Chopper Crash... I don't feel that that would be appropriate.

Obviously I wouldn't want to wade in with stupid ill-advised and even more ill-informed opinions as happens all too often with an event like this.  One only has to look back on the reaction to Lee Rigby's murder to see people do not think right when given the bare outline of a vastly emotive story.  Just go onto Farcebook and see what I mean!  This morning alone I have seen calls for the banning of chopper flights to offshore installations, the use of planes for getting workers to and from platforms and the immediate cessation of all offshore working!
All excellent suggestions in la-la land but short of boat transfers for everyone adding days to trips, impossible to construct roll-out runways attached to platforms or power cuts for 22 hours a day I don't see any of them as the answer.

Instead I'd like to convey the impact such an event has on the offshore community and the general pall that has descended on us all.

We heard the news at around 19.50 last night and there was the usual scramble to get the news channels on, Sky had one of their all-to numerous ad breaks on the go so we chose to watch the BBC News channel and it came up as the first item.  Obviously this was a just breaking news story so the details weren't entirely clear.  But everyone who was within range stopped to check it out.  The same questions are asked when something like this happens and they are being repeated all-too-often for my liking.

'What type of chopper was it?'
'Where was it going to/from?' And perhaps worst of all...
'I wonder if there was anyone I know on board?'

The news has been drip feeding its way through as it usually does but all the while the knot in your stomach never seems to untie fully.  There is a strange atmosphere which accompanies news such as this, it tends to suck the joy out a place like being winded in a public play park, you don't really want to show how hurt you are but you have to get time to recover.
While there are still laughs echoing from various areas, they don't quite sound right, as if they've been recorded onto an MP3 player and played back to you (and we all know how crap the sound quality of MP3's is).

I have been offshore for each of the last three incidents now and the reaction is always the same, the nearest thing I can compare it to is hearing of the death of a family member whom you just can't place.  You know something is wrong but the only thing you can do is continue as best you can.
Incidents will happen, Aberdeen is the busiest Heliport in the world with flights all day nearly every day of the year.  The best thing is to live your life and enjoy the hell out of your time off!!!


Friday, 23 August 2013

Lloyd Cole never sang about this! But Mike Patton did!!

Did I step on an old gypsy lady's foot or something on the way out to this job?
That is the only rational (rational?!) explanation for the catalogue of disasters that has befallen this job.

I had already resigned myself to a 'lost weekend'.  After all, I should never have scheduled a weekend of activity with friends AND family - I've only myself to blame really!  But I was given an 'out' yesterday afternoon when the test we had been waiting for became available earlier than expected.
'Are you alright to work late?' enquired a concerned OIM.
'No problems!' I lied.
I had no intention of telling him about the previous two and a half days I'd just spent watching the Discovery Channel while waiting on the repair.  His thanks were as effusive as I'd expected and I felt relatively no guilt.  But the Gods of work are a fickle bunch and they had a delicious revenge lying in wait for me...

We made our preparations and had tea, I even got a permit on board the RG5 with relative ease.  Then we rigged onto the system and had our pre-test safety meeting (toolbox talk).
That's when the gap-toothed old crone's curse kicked in (she must have been gap-toothed, surely?!).
I got the radio call every leak test supervisor dreads,
'Can you come up to the pump unit please?'
Naturally, as this was the last test before home and we had the chance to avoid a 'lost weekend' by getting on Friday's last chopper, things went 'Tits up' (technical term).

Yup, our Nitrogen converter, which had been running far too smoothly thus far on the trip, decided that it was now the time to prove we are merely playthings for a very cruel bunch of Gods.  I wouldn't say it developed a problem as for that to have happened it would have had to start in the first place. 
It never really feels like a proper breakdown if it doesn't start first. Can it even be classed as a 'breakdown' in the truest sense of the word (answers on a postcard please!)?

So, in short, two days of TV watching was followed by five hours of good news, bad news, worse news.  And a 'lost weekend' to rival any other!


Now some of you will have already worked out what constitutes a 'lost weekend' but for the stragglers here's the real definition...

This is something all leak testers and indeed all ad-hoc personnel in the offshore industry will have encountered from time to time.  It is when your scope of work is completed just too late to be able to get home on the Friday chopper meaning you can't get off until Monday at the earliest.  It is a constant source of wonder for me that on almost every job I go on, at some point this will happen.

Seriously, this has happened to me on three out of my last four trips.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a free weekend of watching football or whatever rubbish happens to be on the telly (except Sky News, God! I hate Sky News) but I'd just rather be doing it in my own home...

Ah well, what time does the bond open?

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

'OI Transit! My shoes are made from cats!!'

People often ask me, 'What is it like working offshore?'  And both times I've answered as truthfully as I can,
But I don't stop there,
'You'll never truly grasp the attitude of the average offshore worker until you can unwind after a gruelling shift with a bottle (just the one mind) of Beck's Blue (non-alcoholic of course) beer  without the slightest hint of irony.'
It really is an act of pointless futility, much akin to a tramp shouting at traffic or a kitten pawing limply at footage of a ball of wool on a TV screen.
More on this tomorrow...


I have said a lot of mean things about the RG5 but I really must commend them on the punctuality and efficiency of their laundry service.  There are some rigs where you hand your laundry bag in and you must say farewell to it as you would a son or daughter heading off to simply don't know how long it will be until you see them once more.
However, I went to the Gym yesterday (get me!) and afterwards put my stinky, sweaty gear in the bag and the bag in the bin/bucket/receptacle around 4PM.  I went to sit in the TV lounge to watch whatever was on Discovery (naturally) and then went to dinner around 5.
When I came back up the stairs I walked past my room to get back to the TV room to watch more Discovery channel (Deadliest Catch of course) and noticed my bag was hanging on the handrail outside my room!

I quite reasonably felt they had rejected such smelly gear out of hand so I unwrapped it from the rail and inspected the contents, only to find freshly laundered gear that smelt only marginally of effort (for that is exactly how much I put in at the Gym).

In short, WELL DONE RG5!!

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Return of the Job That Wouldn't Die!!!

Well that went well!!

Am being facetious of course.  We have tested the hell out of this place but it still manages to bite back.  Flowline test passed last night but instead of being told to de-rig and get lost, we are now waiting for the first failed joint to be re-made so we can test it.  Unfortunately this does not look like being before Friday and what's more they are sending our night shift across to the Elgin for the pigging runs over there.  So we know that it's gonna be us poor dayshift bods that carry out the test (always better when you can slopey shoulder something onto nights) and we'll have to do all the de-rigging and packing away (joy!).

Oh well, the main reason I'm not happy with this is that I'm going to miss my eldest son getting his GCSE results tomorrow.  He's not in line for a stellar performance but it would at least be nice to be there for moral support and to say well done for the results he does get.

This will be just the latest in a long line of familial disappointments that me and my clan have had to put up with both recently and for as long as I've had this sort of job (12 years now)...
I've missed birthdays, special dinners, Christmases, new years, etc along with numerous smaller celebrations like a decent night out with the boys.

In years gone by these never really laid all that heavy on me but as I get increasingly more elderly and less youthful I feel every missed opportunity more and more. 

In short: thanks a lot Franklin Ya Bassa!!!

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Return of the Frack

Well, day 11 onboard the Rowan Gorilla V/Franklin Wellheads Platform and testing is racing forward!

We carried out our 774 Barg test on the flowlines today and naturally we found a big-ass leak.  The kind you could fill child's balloons with all day long and still have enough for hours of funny talking.  This is of course not advisable with test gas, as there is indeed Helium in the mix but only a paltry 1% and what's considerably worse it is mixed with 99% Nitrogen.  Never a good thing as one gulp would kill you and two gulps would put you beyond the help of medical science.

I was understandably cautious with this test as I become paranoid with testing over 100 or so Barg.  When you consider that you have around 2 Barg in your car tires you begin to understand my concerns (especially if you've ever been witness to a tire blowout, imagine it multiplied 50 times!).

However, all this is by the by, we can get this test knocked off, we can get our names on the flight list and get outta here!!  So not long before I hear the immortal words,
 'You're not on the first flight.'  
Sometimes they add a 'sorry' but you have to work for one of them.


Incidentally, we had a very entertaining Powerpoint presentation this week gone by from the senior (no less) pilot from Scotia Helicopters.  The point of this was to allay any fears and answer any questions we might have regarding the imminent return of 225's to service ferrying us about in almost total discomfort (have you tried sitting with one buttock on a chair?).

Now I know what you are saying...Powerpoint demonstrations are usually about as entertaining as a sharp shit and an entertaining one is as alien a concept to me as 'leftover wine'.  This one however was made better by the pilot's almost complete disregard for the screen and his choice to just tell us some anecdotes about how cool it is being a chopper pilot.

The main concern of mine was addressed and that was that these pilots are the ones who fly more than us and they are satisfied with all the conclusions of the investigation and are happy to start using these machines once more.  As I understand it the gear shaft fracturing wasn't even the reason for the two ditchings within 6 months of each other.  The problem was to do with the management /logic systems that override the controls....blah...blah...technical....

If you are so minded there are plenty of vids posted on 'Youtube' that explain the whole affair as the companies involved are very eager to show how concerned they are with the safety of the rag-tag bunch of arseholes they have to carry, more power to them!


Also a quick word about 'Fracking'.  I may be employed in the 'energy extraction' business but I am by no means the 'company shill' I make myself out to be and as such I have no particular axe to grind regarding the process.  It does look on the face of it that the case for 'fracking' has been rushed ever so slightly in a modern day 'Dash For Gas'....but on the other hand...
This technique has been around for the proverbial donkeys years and has actually been used for some time with hardly any troubles, the only problem with our industry is that when there are problems, they tend to be obvious and damaging.

So we have a complex debate which, as ever, has been totally ruined and polarised by the media into 'do-gooders' and 'do-badders'.  I am going to stay put right here on the fence (I am a 'do-nothinger')

At the end of the day, once you've spent decades getting your energy by digging it out of the ground it is very hard to change that mindset and good luck to those who are trying...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Job That Wouldn't Die...

Well, it finally happened.  We have been afflicted by the curse of the contractor...the dreaded 'ROOM CHANGE' DUN DUN DUUNNN!!

  But not just any old room change, oh no!  This one is a wee bit special.  It is so far removed from the relative seclusion and comfort of our previous cabin that it deserves cataloguing.
  There is no official vendor office space on board here (or rather there is but it is so much smaller than the normal offices that once one vendor goes in there it is already overcrowded) so I had previously set up laptop and printer in my cabin.  Unfortunately in this new room there is a grand total of 1 (count it!), one, whole plug socket.  1 socket for a whole cabin!  Come on! 

Where on earth am I going to plug in my hair straighteners?!

   So for the remainder of the trip (multi-plug pilfering aside) if I want to work on my computer, I, or my roommate, can't watch TV.  Now before you whinge about using the battery power, may I remind you that my laptop is a steam-powered, near vintage, company issue laptop and as such can last almost 20 minutes from fully charged.  Seriously, it is the sort of computer one might see in a Manga/Studio Ghibli, steampunk film version of 'The Matrix'.  
  Similarly should I need to print anything out, I will be sweating like Ryan Giggs at a family barbecue while watching the little battery icon on the bottom toolbar of my Desktop.  And of course charging activities for phones and alike can only take place when the room occupants are sleeping.

Our old room was one floor lower and stuck away in a far corner of the rig, as such it was rather cosy and most importantly, quiet.  Our new room is next to the Rec Room, next to it, fully adjacent, right beside, contiguous, adjoining, in short (too late) far too proximate!!  Suffice to say that last night I could tell when those using said Rec Room changed TV channels.  I could even tell you which channel they had changed to.  If someone sat down too heavily in the smoking rec room, his chair would bang on my wall and knock things off my bedside shelf...

Now I know what you are saying at this point, typical, ordinary, common-or-garden whinging.  Well you'd be absolutely right and what's more, I'm going to continue.  Perhaps the worst malfeasance heaped upon us with this latest move is one of my favourite things offshore - the shower.  The shower in our new room is unique in my experience, it truly is one of a kind.  Now, it has the standard 'offshore shower' 2 settings but unlike most regular offshore showers where the settings are 'Ice Cold' or 'Chip Fat', this one goes from 'Molten Lead' to 'Centre Of The Sun'.  When it was at its lowest setting it was peeling the enamel from the shower tray.

Normally a good shower is the perfect way to unwind and try to forget the misery of the preceding day but with this one I may as well offer to work night shift as well.  Not a plan that has much chance of success as it would just mean getting dirtier and being in worse need of a shower.

There are various other niggles and quibbles to do with this room but they are too small to be noteworthy and only serve to add to the general background of near-total misery that pervades every filthy nook and grimy cranny (gotta watch those crannies!).
I put these grievances to the OIM we are working with and got possibly the most depressing titbit of info ever.
'What room are you in now?' He says.
'306' comes my reply.
'Oh, that one, yeah.  We always put vendors in there.'

Another mystery solved...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Pointing well and staying clean...

This particular job continues to elate and frustrate in equal measure.  I have been able to generate enough downtime to watch virtually every ball of the engrossing fourth test in the magnificent surroundings of Chester-le-Street (never let any soft-southern nancy tell you it's not magnificent) but have also been able to keep the Franklin OIM from becoming dismayed at the lack of progress (barely).

  Yesterday however proved to be most annoying, not only were we chided for not having any leak test tape onboard (this was soon calmed by my amazing diplomatic skills, 'Shut it you!' I believe I said) but then at around tea time with Australia cruising to an unlikely victory, I was called out on deck to assist the deck crew in placing out test pump and Nitrogen tanks in our bunded* area.  This took some time as the crane driver was one of those for whom safety very much takes a back seat and besides, those containers look plenty sturdy...also due to the deck layout and position of the boat, two cranes were needed to put our stuff in its rightful place.

  I felt happy with my modest achievements, I had pointed very well and managed to stay clean, until I arrived indoors and fearing for what the score might read in Durham, I chose to watch the World Athletics Championships/Russian Empty Chair Expo 2013.  After some time I ventured up to my cabin to shower and relax and that is when I happened upon the celebrations on Sky Sports 2 (for that is the number no matter how they rebrand things!)  The rest of the evening is something of a blur as I wandered around my very small room saying things along the lines of 'Wh...Wh...Wh...What The F....but they were...but we were...'

Never mind...I am delighted it happened and it would have turned out differently had I been watching it anyway


While we're talking Ashes (well I was anyway) there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about what this win means for England and whether this Aussie team is the worst on record.  All this seems rather petty and mean-spirited, almost as if they are trying to do down what England have actually achieved, in the finest of English traditions.

  The simple case as I see it is this Aussie team is full of very and fairly good players who are simply not used to winning against anybody, let alone England.  They are very much a reflection of the timid teams full of talent that represented the three lions in the nineties.  You could not persuade me that Atherton, Hussain, Stewart, Thorpe, Smith et al were 'bad' batsmen any more than you could presuade me that DeFreitas, Fraser, Gough, Caddick, Malcolm et al were 'bad' bowlers (well, maybe you could persuade me on Malcolm, sorry Dev!).

  Time and again that side went within a whisker (a very fat whisker but a whisker nonetheless) of winning - if not series - tests against the old enemy but couldn't quite get over the line.  What Australia cannot afford to do is to do what the ECB always did and try someone for a test, drop them, try someone else, drop them, try the first guy, have a couple of good innings, have a bad one, drop them again, repeat ad nauseum...

  For Hick, read Khawaja, for Ramprakash, read Smith, the list goes on...but thankfully I don't.
Keep the faith my Aussie friends, your team will come good eventually, just let us have about twenty years!!  After that I'll be too old to care.

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

*Bund - a self-contained area designed to catch any spills, usually used for spotting chemical tanks.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

I Want My Sky TV...or where's Kammy?

Well, shutdown season gallops on apace but I feel that I'm being left behind somewhat.  I'm sure over on the Elgin they're working like troopers but over here on the Franklin side of things my heels are becoming blue with being kicked.  We had a visit by a supply boat today but that was merely a false dawn.  Yes it was crammed full of our test gear but it was test gear for somewhere else and certainly not the droids I was looking for.

   This has given me some time to catch up with the ever-more unreal unfolding of the new football season however and it grew even more surreal yesterday as I turned on 'Soccer Saturday' expecting to see the same old jolly boys club and was greeted to an unending parade of new boys and summer transfers (most looked like they'd been promoted from the youth team).  Now, we hear lots at this time of year about how the 'New boys will need time to bed in' or 'Get used to their new team mates and surroundings' but this lot looked as out of place as when Gareth Southgate got the Middlesborough job (although you had to admire the way he persisted with the 'Head Boy' tie-and-jumper-under-the-suit ensemble).

  Who are all these shiny new people staring wide-eyed into the camera like a rabbit in the headlights or an Ashes batsman?  Surely BTSport hasn't poached ALL the best talent?  I want the fake camaraderie of Le Tissier and Merson, the gentle ribbing of Thompson as Liverpool let in ANOTHER bloody goal!!  Where, for example, was the huge gurning visage of Bryn Law?

   Oh well, I was going to say that we could have found out for the Charity Shield (yes, I'm that old, I still call it that and shall remain calling it that until they do away with either it or me) but then I see that it was on ITV, which is a whole other kind of wrong (with the ever more menacing passive-aggressive presence of Roy Keane).  So perhaps we'll wait for next week as we do not have BTSport on board here.  I seem to have played Sky contract Bingo and lost...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The not-so-divine ponytail...

Well, shutdown season has finally decided to visit its unique brand of misery open me.  I must say, almost mid-August is something of a record for me.  By this time of year I am usually fed up to the backermost of my wisdom teeth with checking in, checking out, getting delayed, hearing the words 'Technical Difficulties', hearing the words 'Operational Difficulties', hearing the words 'you're not important enough to be on the first flight you contracting scum!', hearing the words...well, you get the idea.

  This year has been different so far, I did manage to get holiday time booked for the summer period, I even managed to get away for a few days (although it was in Scotland. Still counts as a holiday, no matter what my kids keep saying).  Apart from a 7 to 10 day job that stretched out to a three weeker followed by another week separated by only 6 days at home (what is the bloody point of the Vantage system?!) I've had a pretty easy introduction to the holiday-camp scramble of this most busy time of the year.

  Now however it is time to put away such childish things (I always pack my work teddy) and get ready for my first Shutdown related trip...The Elgin/Franklin is calling me and I am contractually obliged to say that I cannot resist its siren song.  I'm not even going for the 'real' shutdown part of it, I'm just going to be kicking my heels on the Franklin waiting for our test gear to head on over from the big boy, Elgin shutdown.  I've never been to the Franklin and have to say that I'm rather looking forward to it (I am one of the world's leading heel kicking exponents after all).

  I do look forward to new experiences, sampling new mess areas and the new types of mess they serve,  seeing exactly HOW underwhelming the Gym is, wondering if the staff on this rig are gits or not, you know, the usual...

  These 'Shutdowns' are quite different from the sort you get in Factories or works near you, when the entire staff decamp to the nearest seaside resort and try to catch as many STD's as it's possible to contract in a limited amount of time.  No, these are perhaps the polar opposite, we actually flock TO these places because they need strangers to sort out the problems it's taken the normal staff a year or two to notice and schedule repairs for.  As a result you can get a lot of confused people wandering round (usually looking up) and going in the wrong doors.

It's gonna be great, I cannot wait!!!!  My taxi's here, see ya...


A quick note on the imminent return of the football season.  As a Liverpool fan I am steadfastly refusing to get over optimistic about the prospect of fighting for 4th to 7th this season.  In part this is due to Luis Suarez's continued campaign to be hated by EVERYONE in Britain but that sordid episode is only a reflection of what Messers Rooney and Bale are trying to engineer (they should all be rounded up and...not shot exactly...SLAPPED!  That's it, slapped to within an inch of their lives).

  No, the main reason is we've been down the 'promising pre-season' route before.  I remember a few years back when I was in Aberdeen engineering leak test packs for a Shutdown that never actually happened, Liverpool were on TV a few times in pre-season and looked pretty good.  A large part of this was the form of one Andriy Voronin (remember him? The Not-so divine ponytail. Me neither, I had to look him up), he looked like an absolute world beater, form he carried well into mid-August.  And that was October I was thinking that 5th isn't all that bad.  So despite Aspas, Alberto, even Henderson playing well currently I will reserve judgement until, let's say, September 1st.  Let's face it, Suarez is off and all the best replacements have been taken.

  We don't want a repeat of the Andy Carroll incident now do we?  Do we?!

Neil Hannon rocks!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A Useful Glossary of terms

From time to time I will be using work-related terminology and this may require a 'print out and keep' guide so that you can keep up...So here goes...

Annulus - The space between 2 concentric circles...Basically if you think of a dartboard then the outer bull forms an annulus around the inner bull, that's how I remember it anyway.

AOV - 'Actuator Operated Valve'  Basically means that if the air system fails, all hell breaks loose.  As a leak tester, these are the bane of my existence.

Bawbag - term of "endearment" possibly originating from the west coast of Scotland. 

Normally reserved for the less competent of co-workers and the socially impotent. 

Bund - a self-contained area designed to catch any spills, usually used for spotting chemical tanks.  These should be built by the time we get offshore but a lot of the time we end up building them ourselves (Oh, the joys!).

Camp Boss - Not, as you might expect, an OIM (see below) in make up but this is the guy in charge of the short, a very good man to get in with.

CCR - 'Central Control Room' A place where all the AOV's are operated from.  Usually situated on the bottom floor of the accommodation block.  The place where the 'CRO's drink tea, I mean surf Facebook, I mean eBay, I mean work...

'Chopper Eve' - The day all offshore personnel long for more than any other.  The day/evening before you travel home or to put it another way, the only thing you think about from the moment you arrive at the Heliport to travel offshore.

Covvies - Short for coveralls, we all need em but it doesn't say we have to like em!  There is a very small window in a pair's life during which they actually fit you, usually 1 or 2 trips.  After that they will be too small - 'ONE SIZE FITS NOBODY'.

CRO - 'Control Room Operator'  Very important people that occasionally may need 'turning' so that they don't get bedsores.

Day Rater - Agency person paid daily - It's a lottery whether good/bad/totally useless(I used to be a painter before I came here!!!!!!). With thanks to 'Bumpy' Rhodes...

Deadliest Catch - A TV show about fishing that is always on...EVERY telly FOREVER! (See Sky News).

FPSO - Strictly speaking this stands for 'Floating Production Storage & Offload', to us it means an oil tanker with a load of Process and pipes stuck on the deck.  All this tends to mean is you have an oil rig but stretched out and only on 2 levels (Yay! Fewer stairs!!).  In reality it means that the treadmill in the Gym will move around more than usual.

FPV/Semi-Sub - 'Floating Production Vessel' or 'Semi-Submersible'  A rig that will move about in rough weather (See FPSO).

Galley - Place where, depending on the location, either decent or decidedly sub-par food is left under hot lamps for an extended period of time.

Grey - The colour of Aberdeen...All of it!

The Gym - In the normal world, these are places where you can exercise, socialise and possibly ogle yourself into an early grave but offshore they are quite a different proposition.  Mostly they are filled with scaffolders and over-compensating  operators 'spotting each other' - or whatever the current gay slang is...and the music is TERRIBLE!!

Holes - Things that start to appear in your clothes when you wear (or more particularly wash) them offshore.  This is due to the process of ramming a big-ass needle through your entire laundry bag.  I still don't know why they do this when you consider all your clothes are tied up in a bag together as it is...

Inbetweeny - the unofficial pre- and post- break breaks. Some colleagues can tell just

by looking at the floor that it's "Inbetweeny time" Very much the preserve of the leak tester

Induction Video - A cure for insomnia (See Site Induction).

ISSOW - 'Integrated Safe System of Work'  The updated, ultra-modern, computer-based, supposedly paper-free, permit-to-work system.  This is how offshore work is controlled so that everyone doesn't try to do everything all at once.  As it's computer-based, people can sign-in remotely to sign-up their relevant parts and so the permit office is less busy/chaotic.  This DOES help to keep some sort of order.

Job Security - File not found

Ken - Short for Kenneth, sooner or later you WILL be called this by a Scotsman.

LN2 -  Abbrev. 'Liquid Nitrogen' Basically means 'Do Not Drink!'

MSV - 'Mobile Storage Vessel/Vehicle'  A totally onshore term that means a road tanker that could be filled with anything from acids to milk or water.  In my world these are usually filled with LN2.

OIM - 'Offshore Installation Manager'  The Boss, The Big Cheese...basically the guy in charge.  May sound like fun but if a chef burns himself in the kitchen, it's his responsibility.  They get paid the most but it is a LOT of responsibility (and you still have to travel on the same choppers as the Hoi Polloi).

Piece Time - Depending on the location (and the day) these can be great or distinctly disappointing.  I have had in my travels the good (Bacon Rolls, Sausage Rolls (both sandwich rolls and normal sausage rolls), Hot Dogs, Pizza, etc and the bad (Cheese on toasted buns. cheese and tomato on toasted buns) but the worst ever has to be Scones!  Plain Scones!  Not even warm!

Pig - A name for a variety of pipe-internal tools used for anything from drying (Foam Pigs), Flooding, de-watering, gauging (Gauge Pigs) to just plain old clearing crap out of the line.  They come in many different guises/shapes/sizes but the external shape is almost always round (square pipes never really caught on)...

Pig Launcher - An extra bit of pipe from which we 'Launch' 'Pigs' (It's not rocket science...Come On!)

PPE - Another TLA, Personal Protective Equipment. Anything you have to put on to protect yourself (gloves, eyewear, ear defenders, etc.).  Think cricketer's pads, box, gloves, helmet.  Very similar actually (apart from the box, I've never worn one of them offshore). 

PTW - 'Permit To Work' (See ISSOW).

Pump - Both a noun and a verb yet neither is in the least bit dirty - in a work context at least.

Shifter - Just an Ordinary adjustable spanner, although the singular/plural can cause some consternation eg: 'Hand me a pair of shifters...No! I only wanted one!'  OR  'Give me 2 pairs of shifters.'
'So 4 then?!
'No! Just 2 pairs! Idiot!!'

Site Induction - A very necessary action to familiarise oneself with all the vital emergency procedures on board (particularly break times)  (See 'Induction Video')

Sky News - A God awful, tawdry, propaganda machine staffed by some of the worst examples of what DNA can become...that is on every telly...ALWAYS!

Stilly - Short for 'Stilson', for normal people it is a 'Monkey Wrench'.  For when a 'shifter' just won't cut it!

Tallybook - Should be used to log ops details for your daily reports but they are mostly used to log days, pay totals, useful e-mail addresses to seek better employment, phone numbers and web addresses for porn sites.

Tea Shack - The natural habitat of the operator or leak tester.  These are usually too full at 0900Hrs and 1500Hrs mainly due to 'Piece Time'.

TLA - 'Three Letter Abbreviations' the scourge of the offshore industry (See WCC).

Tool Pusher - What IS a Tool Pusher?  I still don't know?!

Vantage System - A lot like the Metric system in that almost no-one understands it fully.  It is supposed to make life easier for us poor offshore slobs by limiting our days worked to a reasonable amount.  What actually happens is if you are working too much, the next time you go to check-in a message will flash up on the screen but will be cancelled with such speed by the person checking you in that no-one could possibly read it!  I've often wondered what these little missives might say, indeed, if I were in charge I'd add little things like: WARNING! This man is a pervert and should not be allowed in a confined area...or something else maybe?!

 WCC - 'Work Control Certificate'  Basically a 'PTW' (See ISSOW).

If I've missed anything off I'm sorry but don't panic as I will be adding to this list as I include more jargon.

Neil Hannon (and Ron Swanson) rocks!!