A Sneak Peek At the Life Of An Offshore Service Technician

Working offshore comes with additional hurdles for tasks that we take for granted when working onshore. You can't make a quick run to the store during lunch to grab something you forgot. You don't get to spend your weekends having fun at a baseball game. And when something stops working, the service technician can't hop in his truck and take off to your location.

Service calls to offshore installations take a coordinated effort on the part of the service company and the client. Armoda has helped service our client's offshore installations around the world, from platforms to SPARS to vessels and more. What a lot of people might not know is how those issues that pop up offshore get resolved. To shed some light on how these issues get fixed, we spoke with our offshore technicians. The following is an overview of how our technicians would handle an offshore service call.

Getting the Service Call

A phone rings at the operations office for Armoda. Somewhere on an offshore installation in the Gulf of Mexico, a client is having an issue that requires technical support.

Our service team discusses the problem with the client to determine what actions to take. Because of the additional expense of sending a service technician to an offshore location, the team will try and troubleshoot to provide as much remote help as possible. If the issue can't be fixed remotely, then a service technician will be dispatched to the location.

The service team will then gather the essential information from the client, including:

  • Where is the offshore installation located?
  • How will the technician travel to the site?
  • How will the technician's equipment be shipped?
  • When does the technician need to be on location?
  • What are the necessary safety certifications required to work onsite?

With this information, our service team and client work together to coordinate a logistics plan to get a technician on site. Once both sides agree on a plan, the service team begins preparing for the service call.

Certifications for offshore work

There are many hazards that come with working offshore. Because of these potential dangers, there are many safety regulations to meet. For a service technician to be able to work offshore, they must obtain various safety certifications.

The type of certifications required can vary depending upon the type of location, fixed platform, vessel, etc. They also vary depending upon the waters the worksite is located. Warm tropical waters have different safety concerns than the cold waters of the North Sea.

The main certifications that offshore technicians obtain are:

  • First aid first responder
  • Helicopter underwater egress training (HUET)
  • SafeGulf
  • SEMS
  • Cold water survival
  • Fire response

Getting to an offshore service call location

Getting to the location is generally separated into two tasks:

  • Getting the tools to the location, and
  • Getting the technician to the location.

Transporting Toolboxes Offshore 

Based on the identified problem, the technician will determine what equipment and materials will be necessary to complete the repairs. Armoda technicians pack their tools in a DNV 2.7-1 certified toolbox. Along with the certified toolbox, they will include documentation for any hazardous materials in the box. This could include cleaners, lubricants, or even gases to test safety systems. All the safety data sheets (SDS) would also be included. The toolbox is double-checked to account for all the necessary equipment and documentation.

The toolbox is usually shipped to the site before the technician since its weight often requires it to be transported by vessel instead of helicopter. The toolbox is sent a day or two prior, to provide a buffer in case there are delays in shipping due to the weather.

The Service Technician's Offshore Commute

A helicopter flight is the typical way a service technician gets to the location, though they can sometimes hop a ride on a vessel. For a site in the Gulf of Mexico, this means flying out of a heliport in Houma, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas; Port Aransas, Texas; or Lafayette, Louisiana, depending on the site's location in the Gulf.

For most flights, the report time is 5:00 a.m., which doesn't account for the early morning drive to get to the point of departure. The flight may not take off at 5:00 a.m. The tech may end up waiting for a seat for a couple of hours or they may even need to wait until the next day. This delay can be caused by weather or the limited seating of the helicopter. Once in the air, a flight averages around an hour to the location.

Arriving at the Offshore Service Location

Once the helicopter lands, the installation's helicopter landing officer instructs everyone where they are to report. Upon arrival, there is usually a two-part process that the technician follows:

1. Orientation & Safety Walk-Through:

Service technicians are generally taken through an onsite orientation when they arrive. The orientation can vary depending upon the site and if the technician has been there before. During the orientation, the technician is given a general tour of the site. This will typically include where they will be sleeping, where the galley and dining areas are, the location of their muster area, their assigned lifeboat, and the location of the service call.

2. Completion of Permitting Paperwork:

Then comes the paperwork. When doing work on an offshore installation, the site will have permits that are required to be filled out before any work can be done. The permit describes the work that the technician is doing. This description includes what they are fixing, if they need to turn the power off, if hazardous materials will be used, and if any hot work (Ex. welding) will be done.

During this process, the technician will also complete their job safety analysis (JSA) so that they have identified the scope of work and any hazards for the work being done. The permits also explain why the technician is working in that area. Offshore locations are run in shifts. The permits also inform the next crew of what the technician is doing and why.

Completing Offshore Work

After getting a work permit approved, the technician's schedule is dependent on the other work happening on the site. Depending upon the location and type of work, the technician may have to wait before they can start.

Armoda technicians like to stay around the area where their work will be performed while they wait for the go-ahead to start. This allows them to monitor the equipment and catch any small issues that may pop up. If they do see something, they will let the crew know and then fix it. This can potentially save the client from having to make another service call in the future.

Once the technician has the go-ahead to begin, they move as efficiently as possible to make the repairs. The less time that an area is down for the service call, the better.

Once the issue is repaired, the client will inspect the work to ensure that everything is completed to their satisfaction. All the work permits are then closed out, and the client then signs the ticket confirming the repairs have been made. Next, the completed ticket is turned in to the person in charge of the installation. From there, the technician goes to logistics to see when the next open seat is available to head home.

Getting home from an Offshore Worksite 

Just like getting to the location, the technician is at the mercy of the weather and the schedule of the helicopters. This means they could fly in on a Monday, make their repairs on Tuesday, but must wait until Friday for the next flight home. It can vary, but generally, the installations have scheduled flights to the offshore location on Monday and a return flight on Friday. Experienced technicians always pack for extended stays on location.

While waiting for a flight home, the Armoda's service technicians use this time to function test and inspect the equipment they have onsite. They fix any issues that they may find and perform preventative maintenance to ensure the equipment continues to perform correctly.

In their downtime, they operate as one of the crew on the host installation. This includes occupying sleeping quarters and utilizing available amenities, depending on the type of facility. These may include galleys, diners, laundry, recreation rooms, and gyms.

When the technician is scheduled to leave, they repack their toolbox and make arrangements with logistics to ship the box back to the dock. The flight home can take around an hour, and depending on the location of the airport, the technician can still have several hours of travel left before they make it home. A typical offshore issue may take a few hours to repair, but the entire service call can take several days.

We hope this overview of a typical service call gives you insight into the intricacies of what happens between scheduling offshore service, to arrival and departure.

Armoda's service team has helped keep offshore installations up and running around the world. If you need help with any problems at your location, our service team is ready to help get your location back up and running.