Monthly Archives: June 2008

Back on Land – Launda

Bummed! 🙁

Well here I am back on dry land. The flight back from the Rig was fine, and direct, which made a change to having to route via Soyo. This we were told when the pilots arrived on board with the inbound flight. They said the Wind was good and they still had enough fuel, so it was good to go. Great. Just a quick 1h30 flight, and we were back in Luanda.

2008-06 04 - Lunch CGI

My R 135.00 Lunch!

Got take-aways today, we do this every now and again. I just couldn’t resist this though. This was lunch from a few days ago. There is some steak, chips, and egg, rice and a bit of coleslaw, along with a Sprite, and 2 x Pastis de Nata. Nice. All this for a mere 135 Bucks, and I am talking South African Rands! Yeah 1350 Kwanzas. Okay, fair play that is one of the more expensive meals, but that is the general quantity and quality of food you get over here. Pretty mental huh?

Weather has been cooler now, but I have also been told that apparently this is their dry season.  Winter the dry season, so more in line with JHB weather. Which kinda makes sense I guess.

Hopefully getting out another rig next week for another site visit. The Sedco Express, which is more of a platform than a rig vessel, though it does move around. Do a  search on Google Images for pictures of it.

Hopefully that means I get to do a bit of the living large bit, travelling by chopper and all, otherwise, I guess I will have to hang around here with the rest of the landlubbers and minions.



Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

Offshore 2 – GSF Explorer – Luanda

After arriving back in Luanda from my quick excursion to the FPSO, I was immediately bundled into a little 12 seater twin prop and was flown off to the GSF Explorer.

2008-06 03 - GSF CGI

A CGI of the GSF Explorer – for size compare the height of the Derrick to the size of the Heli deck. It is massive.

So I arrived back at the Sonair Charter Terminal,and was required to check in again for my next flight. Destination: Soyo, a little town right on the northern border of Angola, just below Congo. This time round however the passport emigration official decided that my visa wasn’t good enough to allow me to fly to Soyo. This after I had just seen him write down that an American was a South African in his passport register. And they wonder why we call it Africa? So, after a brief discussion with the man, to the amusement of the 6 or so yanks that were all going to be my travelling companions, he decided to hold my passport and continue with the rest, as he wasn’t happy. I spoke to the check in official, who came and had words, and the next thing I knew I was being very unhappily waved through the door, with passport in hand. It still hadn’t been registered in the Register, but hey, that wasn’t my problem.

I managed to get a cake out of the food counter, before we headed off to the plane. Twice! The first time we stopped, got out and started offloading our things from the bus, when the guy hastily rushed back and told us to get back on. 2 planes down, we got out again. It was a tiny craft, you could probably squeeze 3 economy seats in it in a row side to side and that would be it. There were 2 rows of seats on either side, with a very restrictive aisle in the middle. I landed up next to an emergency exit, but default, but was happy with arrangement, as the aisle wasn’t going to be serving anyone in an accident!

We landed at Soyo, after circling for a few minutes, another plane was landing,so we had to wait. We were met on the tarmac by a slick looking gent in half a fancy suit who took our passports whilst another dude herded us through passport control and out to the bus. On the bus he told us he would take care of our passports, and that he would bring them to us at the base, as we needed to watch the safety video. My 4th in 4 days. Nice! There is a bit of a funny procedure when entering Kwanza base. The bus stops at the entrance, you get out and walk past barriers, whilst the bus drives through, and then you get back in on the other side, with no intervention at all. The base is huge and the choppers are housed in just a massive warehouse, and it doesn’t appear that BP actually has a presence there. It is mainly only a chopper terminal/hanger where we went. I befriended a stocky looking chap on the way to the chopper. He was from Louisiana, and had pretty much worked everywhere, except here in Africa. All the guys in fact besides myself were Yanks, and they were all returning, apart from Kirk, the Louisiana dude, who was here for his first time. The flight out was good, in a different chopper this time, but still pleasant, and I actually got a few mins dos time on this one. Our pilots were Saffas and they were really good. Touch down was pretty good I must say.

So once again, I arrived on yet another really imposing vessel. The Derrick  (lifting tower) sticks out meters above the deck and on this vessel is particularly huge. I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t know much about the oil industry at all, especially the drilling side. The only thing I know is Oil Strike on Discovery Channel,and even then I’ve only seen a bit. I know they drill into the ground using the Derrick to guide pipes and push the drill bit down, but I don’t know much else. Well, we had another safety briefing, this time far more focused on Fire and Escape plans, and especially alarm signals. We got another tour of the vessel, and it was immediately apparent that this was definitely an older, working vessel. There was no lift, the stairwell is the backbone of the vessel, the cabins are older in appearance, with communal bathroom areas – we were advised to wear towels as there was a woman on board, I’m guessing the medic – and the vessel itself was much more worn and used.

Once you are on the deck you suddenly begin to realise just how huge the Derrick is. We were shown where all the life rafts and emergency muster points were and once again had the alarm signals and the drills reinforced.

After the tour I returned to my room, then went for supper, and then off to do some work and find out if I could actually fix the problem, as at this stage I wasn’t sure if I was the man for the job, or of I could actually do what was required of me! Supper was pretty good, but very much boarding house/canteen food. But the vessel was predominantly American, funny that considering it belonged to Transocean, which is a giant Rigging company out of the States, so it makes sense that the food is American style. They have syrup on the tables, with all sorts of other American things, including a Hurricane Watch board for the Caribbean.

So, the number one phrase on the vessel: “What’s going on?” This however has to be pronounced “Watts goin ahhhhnnnn?” in a thick Southern American accent. Then you fit right in.

I got down to work and managed to fix the problem in about 2 hours, which was pretty good for me, considering I had to reconfigure a switch from scratch, and I haven’t been on a switch in a long time! 🙂 The guys were happy that I sorted them out and I was pretty chuffed myself too. The old bugger still has it in him. I do enjoy the techy stuff! I retired to the bedroom,which I then discovered was mine as the other occupant was off rotation at them moment, so I watched half a DVD on my laptop before going to sleep with one hell of a headache, that I can only think must have been caused by either dehydration, or possibly the motion of the vessel. Just weird that. At one stage before I fell asleep it was so bad I actually considered going to the Medic for paracetamol, but it was alright and I eventually fell asleep.

Day 2 saw me getting out with the one BP guy Iain, who gave me a full tour of the vessel with all the explanations, and answered all my questions, very patiently I might add, and I am now a pro on this drilling thing. For laymen only that is! I even got to go across the drilling deck, which is just amazing to be there, having seen it so many times on TV and documentaries. I got to the control room too, and watched the operations as they continue, and it is quite an experience, coming from a completely external outside environment. All I can say is the Oil Industry, specifically the exploration side, like this, is just mind-blowing.

This vessel the GSF (Global Sante Fe) Explorer was originally built as a submarine retriever for the CIA, for project Jennifer,  by Howard Hughes, from Avaitor Fame in 1973, and was later retrofitted to be used for drilling purposes. I have included a few links at the bottom of this page, for those interested, and it is pretty interesting actually. This is a deep water rig,mening that they typically only start drilling a deep depths. Anywhere between 500 and 2500 metres down. Which is pretty amazing if you think of it, and is really incredible for me who has come from a diving background too. So once again I can’t say much about what goes on, only that this is a seriously advanced vessel, and to me makes the FPSO look pale in comparison, but I suppose I didn’t really get a technical low-down on how that vessel operated. Plus this to me is far more technical oriented, as you actually get to “see” what you are doing, or at least “see” the things happening!

Anyway, I am due to be off here tomorrow, was supposed to be off today, but there was no flight, so no doubt I will have a few more stories then. Bed time now, and hopefully a lot more sleep.

Info on the GSF:

GSF Transocean Page

The Cold War of Terror

US Hands over Info on Sunken Soviet Sub

Wikipedia – USNS Glomar Explorer (T-AG-193)

Wikipedia – Project Jennifer



Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life.

Offshore – FPSO – Luanda

I managed to get scheduled for a trip to the BP Greater Plutonio FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading) vessel just offshore from Luanda. At this stage I unfortunately don’t have any pics, as I wasn’t sure what the procedure for pics was, and I know they are pretty tight about it, but I have asked the Telecoms guy there to send me a few, so hopefully I’ll be able to update this a bit later with some then.

2008-06 01 - FPSO CGI

A CGI picture of the FPSO – Looks small? It is 310m long, and 12 stories high!

Okay, I can’t really say much about the vessel itself, the layout, or operation, or any of that – NDA stuff, but what I can say is it is pretty amazing! (I have included several links at the bottom of the blog for those interested in knowing more). It is 310 Metres long, and 12 stories high. It has a lift inside that services 7 floors. It can accommodate approx 140 people. The accommodation section is the big white building at the rear, and this is split from the “plant” area by a fire break/safety “air area” – the gap just in front of the accommodation block. We arrived by chopper, and what an experience.

So the flight was from the Sonair charter “terminal” at the airport and was scheduled for around 14h. We checked in at 12h30 and everything went fine. I only had my laptop bag, with my laptop, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – you are required to take as much of your own PPE with you as they can’t provide everything for everyone –  overalls, gloves and goggles in my bag, along with 3 shirts, 3 boxers and 3 socks inside it. My boots and helmet were separate in a plastic packet. Well, that got turfed. You are not allowed to take any plastic on board, so they gave me a mail bag, with Explorer written on it (BP use a drill rig called GSF Explorer in another area further out to sea), that I put my helmet and boots in. We then waited for the flight to be ready.

After the bus ride through the airport tarmacs, we arrived at a Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter that was to be our ride.

2008-06 02 Sikorsky Chopper

A picture of a Sikorsky S-76C+ chopper. Similar to the SonAir ones.


This was pretty much my first time in a chopper, though I do think I have been in one  before, in fact, yes, I have been in a chopper before, but this was great. It actually taxis down onto the runway,and you pretty much expect it to travel down the runway on the wheels before taking off, but whilst you are in place, it just lifts up straight up, leans forward and flies off. Pretty strange feeling. The noise as the engines power up for the lift is pretty nerve wracking, and the whole heli shakes quite a bit. Next thing you are airborne and flying out past the Ilha and soon the coast is behind you.

The one thing they teach you in the HUET course, or advise you against, is sleeping in the chopper, yet within 5 minutes virtually everyone on board is asleep. This is due to the very monotonous and soothing vibrations that he flight produces. As it was my first offshore flight I remained awake the entire time. Though I don’t know if I’ll be doing that again on the rest of the flights. Soon we were above a cloud base that had appeared offshore, and about 30 mins later we descended through this to see the ocean once again. As we cleared the cloud base, everything around us was pure white, and you couldn’t see anything. I was watching the guy opposite me, and it was obviously his first flight as I could see the entire white of his eyes. He was nervous as hell. However, once we cleared the clouds, he was cool.

We soon arrived at our destination, and the pilot informs you of this before you arrive. This according to statistics is the highest risk time for accidents – Landings. I once again checked my exit strategy, luckily being right next to the door you kinda have THE exit strategy. 🙂 The vessel looks small at first, but the closer you get to it the larger it gets, until you soon realise that this thing is friggin massive! The flame was burning a bright orange colour from the top of gas flare, the long tower at the front of the vessel, and that was an incredible site to see it so close.  There was virtually no smoke coming from the vessel at all, and it was just gigantic when you finally arrived. The landing was great and we waited for the signal from the HLO’s (Helicopter Landing Officers), before removing our earphones, unbuckling and exiting, just ducking as you reach the rim of the rotor reach. Once inside we removed our foam inner ear plugs, and started to take in our surroundings. I noticed my mailbag being carted off to the admin section, and quickly retrieved it.

We were met by Steve our Telecoms man on board, and first thing had to attend a Safety briefing. After that we were shown to our cabins, and given a tour of the vessel in full PPE, as you are required to wear it every time you are outside. The vessel’s structure is quite amazing, and what is even more amazing to me is that there are people out there who thought this up! How to build something like this and how to put it together! That blows my mind more than anything else. This module to that module to there and there, and then eventually to the tanker waiting for the oil. So, as you can all read, this puppy can produce up to 200 000 barrels of oil A DAY, with storage capacity for 1.7 million barrels, and exports of 1 million barrels per cargo, every 5 days. Now you have to admit that that is seriously impressive. You do  the math,using an approximate oil price of $130 per barrel. Ouch!! 😮

On our tour around, I got to put my hands on the oil pipeline that comes in from the sea, and the most interesting thing is . . . it is warm. Apparently the oil comes in at around 50-60 degrees centigrade. Now, it is not something that I had ever thought about, the temperature of oil, but I was surprised to find that it is warm. We were also shown the sun deck, the most important part of the vessel, and the only part you can go without PPE gear. I also happened to see a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea quite close by. The vis out here is awesome . . . and that’s not due to it being cold! 🙂

I fixed the issue we were sent out for, and also had a really good site visit of what is onboard, and what is fully expected of us in a support role.

The vessel is stationary – fixed in place, yet at times I could definitely feel it move. Not a lot, but ever so slightly. Steve reckons I am mad, but I tell, I could feel it moving. Whether it was rolling or just rising in the swell, not a lot of that either, I couldn’t tell. But, it definitely moves.

I got a wee bit of time in on the sundeck the one day. Half an hour in the sun before lunch, and I now know why a lot of the guys have such dark tans, for blokes that spend their entire time indoors or in PPE kit. They don’t! There were quite a few chaps outside on the sun deck, and it is like a magnet I am told – sun. Especially since it is overcast quite a bit apparently.

The accommodation was okay, apart from the fact that I think a tank had slept in my bed before, as the mattress was squashed flat on the one side! Other than that is was okay, and each cabin has it’s own bathroom with a shower with great pressure in it, which makes a change from the Luanda Res! Our pressure is crap! The food was decent too, as ship food goes I guess, though I still must say the FSV Bourbon Oceanteam 101 had the best food I have yet had offshore.

There is a gym onboard, I never got to use it as I wasn’t feeling great, and a little cinema too. The one lounge also has table tennis. 3 or 4 TV rooms litter the vessel, with each cabin also having it’s own TV. And overnight/same day laundry.

Outside the heliport entrace door is a big sign bolted onto the side of the wall: HYUNDAI. They apparently built this vessel. Ummm, okay, that is a change from the crappy cars we get back home!! 🙂

The one thing I must say, is that it appears to be very well organised and everything is in it’s place. Very “Prim and Proper”, in typical Brit style.

Thursday I was contacted by the offshore network manager and told that we needed to send someone to the GSF Explorer – an offshore rig, as they required someone for an installation/support issue there too. I offered myself as it was Francisco’s 30th Birthday on Sunday, and his wife had plans for him already. Friday morning I suddenly find out all hell has broken loose as there was now a chopper coming out to get me specifically for the trip to GSF and it has caused absolute chaos as it hasn’t been properly approved, or the correct channels haven’t been used. Classic! Eventually that was straightened out and I was scheduled to head out Saturday morning via chopper to Kwanza base in Soyo, up North on the Congo border to refuel and then fly from there to the GSF. Cool,  I haven’t been there yet. 🙂

I arrived in the departure “lounge” at 08h Saturday morning, watched the safety video – another one again – and pull out my laptop to do a bit of last minute work. A while later, I realise it is past 09h. Hold on, my flight is supposed to be at 09h. I check with the guy to be told that everything has changed. I am now going to be flying back to Luanda with the Sedco Express guys (a rig close by) and then heading by fixed wing to Soyo on a plane, and then to the GSF by chopper from there. Cool, even more travelling, and experiences. Throw it at me. I reckon this travelling is costing them a small fortune, like my entire yearly salary (haha), but that is the nature of the beast I guess. 🙂

The flight eventually arrived around 11h or so, and I was gone. Grabbing my bag on exit, I once gain noticed EXPLORER on the side of the mail bag . . . Coincidence? I think not! Once again a quick look at the incredible structure before it slips out of view, and we ascend to the heavens again.

Interested in the BP FPSO – Greater Plutonio? Read more:

Production Begins at Greater Plutonio

Plutonio – Transportation and trade



Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life.