It's been a pretty dark time over the last few days. Myself and The Mountie went offshore with the full expectation that we'd be done in no time, as for once matters were fair cracking on and moving speedily. But things went wrong.
There was a fatality, plus two serious injuries, on board during a crane accident. A crane was load-testing, which basically involves dunking a large bag in the water, and the calculated extra weight tests the crane. Except this time it failed catastrophically. The crane basically snapped and threw three men in the water. Two were saved and flown to Johannesberg for treatment, the other wasn't found.
For myself and The Mountie, it started literally with a jolt. We were in our cabin, on our laptops, when we felt the drillship jerk slightly. I dismissed it rather casually as a large wave, The Mountie thought something large might have been dropped. A few minutes later the rig alarm went off, saying "Man Overboard" and informing us all to muster. This very simply involves going to the lifeboat and standing next to it. A straightforward operation, but the most chaotic muster I've ever been part of, as it took over 45 minutes to get even a remotely accurate headcount. It was only after this period, and after some increasingly plaintive PAs requesting the guy phoned the bridge, that it transpired that there was a man missing. It was thought only two men had gone overboard. In fact, there had been three. Despite boat and helicopter search-and-rescue operations, he hasn't been found, and I presume was dead within minutes of hitting the water.
As far as my own safety went, I was never in any danger, and the work I do offshore doesn't really expose me to too much. Nonetheless, it's very sobering to be on a rig when there's such an accident. I saw the guy who died at the morning meeting, and by the afternoon he was dead. I'm sure he just expected it to be a routine day, just as I had, and just as we all do most days.
The upshot of it all is that operations have been suspended. The crane is hanging off the side of the rig and needs to be recovered before they can recommence. There has to be a full investigation into the entire incident. Also, separate to all this, another piece of equipment needs repaired that could take some time. This means that after a few days offshore, myself and The Mountie are back in the Novotel, waiting indefinitely for things to restart. We are occupying our time with football, Football Manager, gin and chess, cards, anticipation of the "day's special", and occasional dips in the pool. But no table tennis - the table is still broken, and bats missing.
I've deliberately kept all names of the rig, rig operator and oil company out of this blog, as I don't want people accidentally stumbling upon it. Everything I've said here is unofficial, as there were no rig meetings about it, and therefore only rig rumour to go by, but I think it was mostly reliable. From the internet I've found the following:
and also (copy and pasted):
the rig i am on in Nigeria the xxxx xxxx today just had a major disaster i was watching as it happened, they were load testing the port aft crane when the fu..... crane boom snapped!!!!!!! also ripping the crane cab to bits throwing the crane op and the ET around a 100ft to the sea below seen the poor buggers falling they were lucky it wasnt the deck cause it was close............also the lad who was supervising the load testing is missing i.e dead, the ET is in a serious state the crane op is hurt but looks like he will make it. IT TOOK xxxxxxxxxxxx 15 MIN TO LAUNCH THE FRC BOAT THE SMALL CRANE/HOIST WAS SPEWING OIL AND WOULDNT LOWER!!!!!!WTF!!!! AND OVER AN HOUR TO GET A FULL MUSTER....................... be safe lads cause disaster is never far away offshore specialy down here