Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Without Space To Live

At 5am, the TV comes on...

And so I find myself in the midst of grim and noise. From promises early last week that my return home would imminent, instead I find myself again stranded offshore, this time on a candidate for the worst rig yet. The Petrobras-owned P5 represents its owner well - shoddy, scabby, inefficient and an ugly fuming brute of uselessness. Whoever built this rig, decades ago as it surely was, cannot have conceived that humans would have to live here. There really is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. No space to live or work, and nothing to do.

My six-man room exemplifies the worst of it. A cramped space smaller than my kitchen at home, there is no bathroom. Like some evil all-pervasive Goblin of Petulance, a TV hangs above the single desk and chair, shouting and screaming and flashing out bright lights. The other five in my room appear to work a 6am to 6pm shift, which apparently necessitates the TV being switched on at 5am to rouse them. After 6am, fortunately, there is a chance for peace, though by some magical force each time I wake I find the TV is back on, yet mysteriously no-one else in the room.

The toilets... oh God, the toilets. Downstairs, in the stuffy, stinking, claustrophobic locker room, three grimy swing-door toilets dwell. Their bins overflow. I see cleaners in the locker room sometimes, but some things cannot be scrubbed, and an air of abject filth hangs heavily. I avoid this room as much as possible, and try to grab the third-level toilet whenever possible; although still gloomy and with a broken seat, this does at least offer privacy, and is also my refuge for a shower too. But availability of this toilet is restricted, as heavy competition for its use exists.

Everything else is crowded and cramped. The mess room is tiny and always full, the gym consists of three runnings machine crammed into a shack, the TV room doubles as the check-in room and the meeting room, and only the third party offices suggest any generosity of space, being two shacks placed aloft the helideck; but then, being as there is nothing else to do, these shacks are always stuffed full of bored Brazilians, yelling at each other. Yes, it's so bad this rig that even the Brazilians, who in the past have seemed impervious to poor living conditions as long as there's a TV, find it claustrophobic. I've never seen the helideck in as much demand - last night, five guys were in a circle and chatting happily for hours. There was simply nowhere else for them to go.

So I'm none too enamoured with my living conditions right now, especially as I'm damn well wanting home. However, there is a few small mercies. The food is bearable, and sometimes ok. My room can be quiet for a few hours at a time. And best of all, I'm able to get internet on my laptop, which is the single saving mercy that perhaps rescues my situation from dire to survivable, and also elevates this rig to mere second-worst ever, just ahead on the rankings of the metal hell that was the Rani Woro in Oman.

I got here on Saturday (in somewhat controversial circumstances that I alas decline to go into here) and spent all of Sunday and Monday working. It's been clear since then, and the next few days will be likewise. The job is the standard two-man job we do in Brazil, and my second man is Nik, a very reliable and pleasant recruit from our Dubai office, from India. The carrier (i.e. the big piece of pipe that holds the electronics we send underground) we're using is a big beast, and the first time I've used the type, and although hard work physically, the whole process of programming the electronics, assembling the carrier, getting it torqued on the drillfloor and testing it all, went very smoothly indeed. Worryingly smoothly, you could argue, as usually you expect a few problems. Still, I got sent an angry email from base because I'd followed the "wrong" procedures. There were no right procedures! We never have procedures in my job, we always have to just hope for the best. I sent a strongly worded email back to this effect, and have been pursuing my right to go home and enjoy my life, the issue of which is continually being obfuscated.

Despite all of the above, I'm not quite as angry as I may seem. I'm in pretty good form. The Brazilian guys here are pretty friendly, and I'm also pleased that despite "wrong procedures", a tricky job has so far gone well. After a month of isolation, it's nice to be in company again and with stuff to do. The rig is awful, but manageable. But it's been seven weeks away now, in unusual circumstances, and home would definitely be welcome. Sooner rather than later.


Jenny said...

It really dumbfounds me why you do what you do.

Nev 360 said...

Beats 9 to 5.