How do offshore oil rigs work

how do offshore oil rigs work

Now for the bad news, the easiest way of getting a job offshore is to have previously been offshore! So how do people get out there in the first place? Many have used a personal contact, someone they know puts in a recommendation for them with their own company's onshore personnel department. This is especially useful when the industry is going through a lull, as companies tend to be more careful who they employ.

Don't worry if you don't have any contacts though, most offshore workers were once in the same boat as you and couldn't use this route to get their jobs either.

They weren't lucky enough to have the internet to search for information like this site offers either, so you're already one step ahead of some others.

A lot of the personnel in the industry have started work way back in the capacity of a Roustabout. This is the bottom rung of a long and diversified ladder that is the oil industry. It's the offshore equivalent of an onshore labourer but with more specialised skills like banking and slinging which you can learn on the job, or as is getting more common, in specialised schools teaching these skills to green hands to improve their chances of getting employment in the first place.

If you are a university graduate or have skills or a trade that will be of particular interest to offshore companies, you should mention these in your CV, covering letter and telephone discussions with personnel departments.

If you are reading the contents of this site with the intention of getting straight offshore as say an electrician (if that happens to be your trade), then you may be in for a shock, no pun intended :-)

In the past it was possible and in isolated cases it still happens today. However, you may spend years trying in vain to get in as a tradesman, especially if you do not get a personal recommendation from someone already employed offshore, who has worked with you in the past.

There are others who have your trade and offshore experience to boot. Companies are unlikely to choose you before them. They don't know how good you are, whether you are a hard worker or if you can stand being away from your family and friends.

A faster way is to get in at the bottom. Some companies initially employ 'green hands' as Maintenance Roustabouts. This post is not present on every rig. Being outside is better for trades people like electricians, mechanics and welders to get a job in their trade.

They will be in regular contact with employees in those departments. However, if you can not get a start as a Roustabout then try as a Catering Assistant. After you have been on the rig for a couple of 'trips' and become familiar with people, you can enquire about getting a job outside. They would be much more interested in a person that is keen enough to start in a lower position. That will allow them to pay you less money and find out if you are

good enough in your trade and can put up with being away from home and dry land for two or three weeks.

If you don't have a trade, don't worry, as you are not really at a big disadvantage. There are just slightly fewer offshore career options open to you as you climb the ladder, e.g. electrician. If you show you are keen you have the same chance of getting a start as someone with a trade has, sometimes even higher. Many companies are keen to employ people as Roustabouts who they can train their own way and will possibly go into a drilling career. Rowan Drilling, my first offshore employer were a classic example of this type of company in the 80's & 90's.

Regardless of qualifications, you will have a far better chance of getting offshore if you have taken a Basic Offshore Survival & Firefighting course. It is nigh impossible (certainly in the UK) to get a job offshore without one.

The good news is that if you are a graduate or have skills or qualifications that are in great demand, a prospective employer might well pay for you to complete this course. Otherwise, if you are serious about an offshore career it is an essential investment in the hunt for a job. A medical is not as necessary because most companies will insist that you get an examination with their own doctor before you become an employee anyway.

Employment agencies, as opposed to oil and drilling companies mostly only employ people who have offshore experience, unless they are very busy. However you should definitely send them a CV and phone them as some are more flexible than others about this rule.


If you are looking for a job in the UK North Sea oil industry then the course for you is Basic Offshore Survival & Firefighting. It is 2Ѕ days long and the certificate is valid for four years, after which you will have to sit a refresher course of half a day.

The survival course is quite physical, playing around in lifeboats, pool work, climbing rope ladders, descending knotted ropes, jumping from height into water, all of these whilst kitted up in survival suit and lifejacket. Also of course there is the infamous helicopter simulator underwater escape. This is nowhere near as scary the second time you do it but still quite daunting for most people the first time. Suffice to say it is all done under strict supervision with underwater divers equipped with SCUBA standing by.

Your employer will usually pay for the refresher. Doing the offshore survival course in no way guarantees you work. There are other courses that may be of interest, such as the comprehensive Europe wide course, allowing you to work in any sector of the North Sea, Dedicated Firefighting, Drilling School and Lifting and Handling certification may also enhance your chances of getting work. The following organizations will be able to assist you to your exact requirements.

Following is a list of companies offering Offshore Survival Courses. Some of these companies also offer other courses.


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