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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 16:12 GMT
An insider's view of rig life
A security alert onboard the 'flotel' Scandinavia in the North Sea has sparked a massive evacuation. Gary Hay has recently returned from the Britannia platform, which the construction workers staying on the Safe Scandinavia are servicing.

Oil worker Gary Hay
Mr Hay, in the orange overalls, working on location in Africa

Mr Hay, an offshore worker for seven years, said this was the first time he had heard of an incident like this in the North Sea.

The 26-year-old was back onshore last weekend, after spending 10 days on the Britannia platform, where he said the security was as tight as usual.

In addition to weekly evacuation drills, all baggage is checked thoroughly before anyone can set foot on the rigs. He said it was the equivalent of "flying through Heathrow".

"The check-in at the heliport is quite thorough," he said. "You get sent to a booth with a member of security and they will go through the bags."

He said the drill involved a head count and it usually "went off without a hitch".

He said he was "very surprised" by the security alert as workers had to undergo security checks before being allowed to work on rigs, which were deemed high-risk areas.

Contingency plans

"I'm surprised if something does happen out there that the government or someone would not have seen it coming because of the screening," he said.

"The backgrounds of everyone offshore are known. After Piper Alpha, the safety element was stepped up and then with the kidnap issues in Nigeria, there are contingency plans for all events."

There's no real acrimony or pent-up aggression... Because everyone is living in close quarters, you have to learn to give and take
Oil rig worker Gary Hay

Mr Hay, from Aberdeen, is a metering technician, which in layman's terms involves making sure the amount of oil produced on the platform conforms to standard measurements.

Referring to it as the "Scandy", he said the floating hotel housed more than 500 workers and equipment, and was moored temporarily alongside the platform, which was undergoing a refit to increase production.

A 23-year-old woman is being taken onshore after the security alert and Mr Hay said in some roles, women now outnumbered men.

"A lot of women work offshore these days, a lot more than there used to be," he said.

"They do tend to work in the support services, such as catering and housekeeping, and as the Scandy is an accommodation platform, they are likely to outnumber the men there.

"There is never a problem with it, never a sexist attitude... everyone is very genial to each other."

'Close quarters'

The Safe Scandinavia is attached to the Britannia platform by a bridge and although Mr Hay has never stayed there, he says it has all the facilities to create a "home from home".

Oil worker Gary Hay
Mr Hay has worked in the industry for 10 years, seven offshore

"It will have a big galley, recreation room, television room, gym, telephone booths, and the dorms will usually sleep two or four but they are rarely at full capacity," he said.

He admitted working two weeks on, two weeks off was difficult and did create a bit of a pressure cooker, as well as putting a strain on relationships.

"Being separated from your family can be quite stressful and a lot of marriages break down but it's part and parcel of the work.

"Everyone is usually very professional. There are no arguments, just banter... having fun and games, bit of a joke.

"There's no real acrimony or pent-up aggression. Because everyone is living in close quarters, you have to learn to give and take."

The Britannia platform, he says, produces about 25,000 barrels of oil a day, adding that shutting it down because of the security alert would have been a very costly affair for the company, especially considering the current price of oil.

"But it will be Joe Public who will pick up the cost of the evacuation operation," he added.

Woman is detained on oil platform
10 Feb 08 |  North East/N Isles

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