Offshore oil rigs can mean a profitable career path to anyone who’s ready and willing to take on the adventure. Currently, there are nearly 1,500 rigs around the world.
They stand off the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the Middle East, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other locations. If you’re thinking about an offshore oil rig career, your life will change dramatically if you pursue this line of work.
Be prepared for your new job: arm yourself with knowledge. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Maritime Law Applies
The laws you have observed all your life on land don’t apply on an offshore oil rig. These rigs operate under maritime law, which applies to vessels that are out to sea.
Because there’s no clear distinction of land ownership in the oceans, maritime law was created to cover the gap. Many maritime laws are similar to the ones you’re used to, but some will be very different.
For example, if you were to be injured while working offshore, different worker’s compensation and insurance laws and regulations may apply. You might require the assistance of an attorney who specializes in maritime law to help you through the recovery process.
2. Your Living Quarters Will Be Small
Living conditions on an offshore oil rig have improved from a few decades ago, so the horror stories you may have heard about bunking with dozens of people in a tiny room are no longer accurate.
Your room will still be small, though, and you might bunk with one or more roommates. It’s possible that your room will lack a window.
Unless you’re a high-ranking official, you probably will have to share showers and a bathroom as well. There should be a washbasin and television in every room, so that can help to make the space feel a little more comfortable.
3. The Pay Is Fabulous
One of the most appealing facets of offshore oil rig work is the salary. Without any training or specialization, you can enter the industry and make anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most oil rigs offer on-the-job training for drill deck workers and drillers. If you stick with the career and get promoted to supervisor, drill leader, or toolpusher, you’re looking at an annual salary of $75,000 to $100,000.
Employees who have earned a degree and work in a specialized trade can receive incredible pay of up to $220,000. The work isn’t easy, of course, but the financial perks make it attractive for many trade workers.
4. There’s Plenty of Off Time
You might have imagined that working on an oil rig is a 24/7 job of backbreaking labor. Although the labor can be intense, there’s usually plenty of off-time for most workers.
It varies based on the rig you work for and your position, but many companies operate under a one-two weeks on, one-two weeks off schedule. In other words, you might work for 12 to 14 hours a day for two weeks, then get two weeks off, which allows you to enjoy the onboard amenities and even explore nearby ports.
Many workers love this schedule because it enables them to travel and explore while getting paid.
5. You’ll Be Away from Home for Extended Periods
If you have a family, this work can be tough. You’ll be away from home for weeks or months at a time.
Well operation and maintenance workers try to overcome this problem by moving their families to a port that’s close to their rig. They can work at that rig as long as they wish while enjoying opportunities to visit their families during off time.
Specialized workers such as drillers, exploration field personnel, and other trade workers, however, will more likely get moved from one rig to another. It’s a lot more difficult for them to visit home because of their uncompromising schedule.
6. It’s Dangerous
According to Time Magazine, offshore drilling is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Workers deal 24/7 with highly combustible materials and heavy equipment. They’re also surrounded by water, and though the rig is anchored to the ocean bed, a severe storm can be deadly.
Safety precautions have been taken to minimize casualties from an accident on oil rigs, including watertight and fireproof escape pods and precise and detailed safety procedures. Accidents happen, however, and you need to accept that one might.
If an oil rig explodes, the results can be catastrophic, as in the case of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010. Fortunately, 115 employees made it to safety, but 11 workers are unaccounted for and presumed dead, and dozens of others suffered injury.
The pay is undeniably enticing, and for many that makes this job well worth doing, but it’s understandable if you should decide the risks are not worth the rewards.