Friday, October 23, 2009

Offshore Career Guide UK North Sea

By Jack Kane

Offshore Career Guide - UK North Sea

If you are interested in working in the North Sea here is our useful guide.

As there are so many different types of jobs and career paths to follow it's hard to know where to start!

The phrase I hear all too often is;

'Offshore workers make a packet, I want to be one of them'.

Working offshore is by no means and easy job, safety is always the top priority. The offshore environment is a challenging and hostile place in which to work and those personnel who play their part in operating and maintaining it, are each highly skilled. All offshore workers must pass intensive training and are frequently assessed to maintain their qualifications and certificates. Okay, so now we've cleared that up, let's take a closer look at what we needed.

Two things which are essential to working offshore are:

A survival certificate for the Offshore environment.

An Offshore medical certificate.


The offshore survival certificate for UK waters is referred to as a BOSIET.

(Basic Safety Offshore Induction and Emergency Training).

The BOSIET includes Safety; Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting, First Aid and Hypothermia, Helicopter Safety and Escape, and Survival at Sea.

Courses are very popular and there can be a waiting list of a couple of weeks - though gone are the days of a single provider for the UK. BOSIET course are usually 2 to 3 days and vary in length between providers, some companies now allow the theory parts to be completed via the internet. The BOSIET is commonly known as the 'Offshore Survival Certificate' or 'Survival Ticket'. It is valid for four years, and refresher must be undertaken before your old certificate expires. Failing to do this means the whole 3 day course must be re-taken. There are apparently no exceptions to this rule. Cost of the basic course is around 600 GBP, plus accommodation costs.

'Extras' can be requested when doing your survival which can be bolted on to the BOSIET. 'Additional Safety Training' is an example which counts for the Norwegian sector and which is essentially extra helicopter escape training.

Some countries across the world have different requirements, some more stringent than those in the UK. One example; the BOSIET course is not enough to work in the North Sea Norwegian sector. The Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) course is a 5 day affair and a lot more demanding than that required in the UK. Most offshore training companies in the UK run courses allowing you to work in other sectors. These are often run as additions to the BOSIET course.


To be fit to work offshore, each and every worker must pass a medical examination which declares them medically fit and healthy to work offshore.

Different offshore authorities have different requirements. For UK waters only physicians who are approved by the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) Health Advisory Committee should carry out the examination and issue certificates.

The medical ticket which it is commonly referred to is only valid for a set time frame. This is determined by your age and the authority or body who controls the asset on which you work. You will have to have it renewed every so often in order to continue working offshore.

For UK waters, all assets are controlled by UKOOA and renewals are necessary 2-yearly, with effect from 1 Jan 2007, irrespective of the age of the offshore person.

The typical medical examination will entail a physical examination and you will be required to complete an extensive form on your medical history and lifestyle, e.g. exercise and alcohol consumption.

- Urine check (for protein and sugar)

- Height, weight and resultant Body Mass Index calculation

- Blood pressure and pulse

- Basic eye sight test including colour vision

-A Check on your lung capacity

-Test of Hearing

-The physical examination by a qualified doctor. Checking stature, breathing, reflexes, etc.

- The doctor will also discuss the form you filled in, and carry out any additional checks they think necessary.

An employer who is paying for your examination may request additional checks such as a drug test.

The Next Step

Don't rush out the door and get you survival and medical ticket just yet! These are just the two essentials you are required to have to enable you to work offshore. Now you have made the decision what exactly you want to do on the rig. Perhaps you already have some skills you could develop further. For example if you are chef or an electrician, you could simply develop the job you already and adapt your skills to work offshore. This may mean additional training or qualifications. Do your research, investigate everything further. Find out what skills are in demand at the moment and the costs involved in becoming qualified. Research who runs the course and the governing body who oversee it. Listed below is a short list of the many job categories to investigate further.






N.D.T. & Rope access personnel

Specialized trades & Riggers

Health & Safety

Geologists & Geosciences

Working Offshore

Working offshore on an oil platform is very different from working in an on shore office! Some find it a challenging but refreshing environment, quite different from the nine-to-five routine and the rush-hour commute. The long working day (12 hours), the harsh weather conditions, especially in the North Sea, the remoteness, and the reliance on helicopter travel do not suit everyone.

What To Expect

A lot depends on the installation. It could be a production platform or drilling rig, or an FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel) each one is different! Their size is a factor. Some are huge other very small. As a result facilities on offer vary greatly. As a general rule of thumb a typical North Sea production platform will boast a crew of between 50 and 100 men and women. Living quarters are usually small but comfortable, typically en-suite, with 2 or more to a cabin. Food is good and plentiful, although do not expect a beer with your meals - alcohol is strictly prohibited offshore.

Offshore crew usually work on a production platform for a period of two weeks before having a rest period onshore for two weeks - 2 weeks on 2 weeks off, though 2 weeks on and 3 weeks off is becoming increasingly common. Those in drilling and exploration can spend longer offshore. Offshore crew work 12 hours a day, including rest and meal breaks, and have 12 hours off. Off-shift, workers can choose to work out in the gym, watch a video or DVD or satellite TV, play snooker, play PC games, read or just hang out with their colleagues.


There are some downsides. You have to get on with your cabin mates. Living in such close spaces with work colleagues, means that an offshore worker has to be able to co-operate in a group. Missing loved ones at home can be a problem. Prolonged absence from home can indeed be a catalyst for divorce or family break up.


In addition to survival and medicals, there are a few other restrictions;

The minimum age for working offshore in the UK sector is 18.

- You are not allowed to travel offshore under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. This is strictly enforced at the heliport departure desk. It is not unknown for people to be denied travel offshore because their breath smells of alcohol. Additionally, some operators have provision for carrying out random drugs tests on potential travellers.

- There is a limit to how long you can spend offshore in any one trip. Most operators have a 21 day limit on this. After 21 days you must be onshore for 7 days before travelling offshore again.

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