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Presently the UK offshore industry is mainly located off the East coast of England and Scotland but exploration is also being carried out in the Western approaches, the Irish Sea and West of the Shetland Islands.
The industry currently employs about 28,000 core workers (those working over 100 nights a year offshore) including those working or engaged in:
- drilling and production operations
- construction of mobile drilling rigs and oil production platforms
- pipe laying and support vessel activities
- terminals where oil and gas pipelines come ashore
Types of offshore company
- Operating companies (usually major oil companies) which hold the exploration and production licences and operate the production platforms.
- Drilling companies which are contracted to undertake the drilling work.
- Service companies which provide specialist assistance to both operating and drilling companies e.g. seismic firms, diving companies, drilling mud suppliers, cementing companies, well testing specialists, caterers etc.
Working hours are normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off continuously for two weeks followed by a two/three week rest period ashore. So home life is very disrupted. However, pay is good and there is usually a travel allowance provided for the journey to and from home. Those involved in offshore drilling are exposed to tough and demanding work often in dirty, wet and noisy conditions. Production Operators spend most of their time in a Control Room similar to that found in a refinery. Previous experience living in harsh conditions away from home is an obvious advantage. Ex-members of the forces, especially those with marine backgrounds, are particularly attractive to many drilling companies.
The minimum age for working offshore is 18 but in practice workers are usually 21 or over. The long working day and the harsh weather conditions can be a test of ambition and many have started full of enthusiasm only to give up. Those who are over 28 years should have a relevant work history which has enabled them to develop useful transferable skills.