Rig Mechanics are a key crew member on offshore drilling rigs. Their main function is to maintain and repair the controls and mechanical equipment on the rig. This can include working on the likes of pumps, drilling equipment and compressors. But what does a typical day as a rig mechanic look like?
Drilling rigs operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Therefore, as a drilling rig mechanic you will work to an offshore shift pattern. For example, 3 weeks working offshore then 3 weeks back home and off work. Everybody offshore works a 12 hour shift every day, and you will either be working a day or night shift.
We spoke to Jack*, one of our Offshore Rig Mechanics at Global Resources Network, to find out a bit more about life offshore.
The morning consists of a handover in the office or work site, depending if there is an ongoing downtime issue across both shifts or a technical task that needs discussion at the work site. We usually discuss what has been happening on the shift that has just ended. The maintenance supervisor would then have a pre-shift meeting with us. This covers points such as safety issues or ongoing operations and changes to the planned work scope for the shift about to commence.
After that we look at paperwork for the task such as work permits, safety, and booking parts from the store.
The day can change quite quickly, meaning the plan also needs changing. For example, a bit of equipment might become available to work on due to changes in the drilling program so it’s best to look at this while we have the chance. Sometimes you’ll also get called away from a job to help out a service partner.
Usually, I stop at some point to have a tea break with the motorman and sparky. Lunch is then planned; usually the motorman goes first. This leaves me to stop what I am doing outside and monitor the engine room and alarms while he eats. I usually use this time to do some more admin based tasks and planning for the next shift.
After lunch it’s back to work. Following another tea break, the afternoon usually consists of a quick type up of the hand over and time to check emails. Jobs for the next shift are planned and then sent to the maintenance supervisor for discussion at the control of work meeting with the rest of the supervisors. I then get back to the jobs and tidy up the workshop and tools so they’re ready for the next shift.
Finally, it’s hand over and it all starts again.
The rig mechanic will mostly take care of the drilling package, but often will help the motorman below deck with some more technical equipment repairs.
Week to week tasks as a rig mechanic include:
The work is varied. Some days you’ll get a call out to a burst hydraulic hose or a leak that needs sorting out on the top drive. Other days you’ll need to help the motorman with blocked sewage lines, or get a call to the galley about a broken dishwasher. There’s really not a set schedule - one minute you’ll be up the Derrick and then the next minute you can be shouted down to the laundry room because there’s a washing machine flooding the place!
I have always enjoyed mechanical equipment from a young age as there was a car garage not far from the family home. I spent a lot of time watching the guys working on cars as a child and remember being fascinated by how everything worked.
The best bit of the job is having a real head-scratcher of a breakdown, or a damaged bit of equipment vital to the operation and being able to fix it. Sometimes there’s a call out to the rig floor and all three departments muck in to sort it. Having everyone work together is rewarding.
Winter time in the North Sea ain’t great I suppose… that’s a down side to the job!
Being away from home never really bothered me so much when I was younger but as I’ve gotten older, and recently had our first child, I find it harder to be away and miss home more.
I’ve now been offshore for 15 years. I worked back at home through Covid-19 and the last big downturn, but found I never had any time to myself. Working away definitely has its ups and downs. At the end of the day, it’s my choice to be offshore and it’s all I really know now! However, the time at home to do as I please makes it worthwhile.
I gained entry into the maintenance side of drilling when I was a roustabout. I began working offshore at the age of 21 but after a year with one company I got paid off. I then spent a while doing agency work until I ended up with a steady job.
After a year or so of working the deck, an opportunity opened up to move across to the engine room. I began to spend time with the motorman in my own time, learning the check rounds and equipment. A few months later, the chance to look after the the engine room while in ship yard came up and I jumped at it. Months later, a position became available as motorman and I was given a chance at the job. I’ve never looked back!
Thank you to Jack* for answering some of our questions about life as a rig mechanic!
A typical day as a drilling rig mechanic may also vary depending on whether you are working on an oil platform or mobile rig.
Oil platforms are fixed in a permanent position. They have 3 main elements: the jacket (or legs) which are secured to the ocean floor, a deck which is a large flat surface, and modules that are attached to the deck platform such as drilling apparatus, storage containers and crew accommodation. The rig mechanic jobs based on a platform rig will generally be more steady, and crew often have access to better facilities.
On the other hand, mobile rigs are moveable so can be towed into place and then fixed to the ocean floor. The platform is then stable but only temporary, meaning the work carried out on a mobile rig is generally more project-based. This is likely to involve deadlines and can feel less steady. However, the pay of a rig mechanic can be higher on a mobile rig.
Working as an offshore rig mechanic can be hard work with long shifts, but the job is also very rewarding. At Global Resources Network, we regularly have vacancies for offshore rig mechanics on drilling rigs.
*Name has been changed for anonymity