Category Archives: Luanda

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.

Click.

Nunnsby

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

Click.

Nunnsby

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.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-76)

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

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life.

Living Luanda – Luanda

I’M BACK! 🙂 I have already added a few more posts since the last time, and prior to this one, which those of you with RSS would have already picked up.

Well, this is just a quick few lines to report on the a bit of nothing actually. Well, not really nothing. It is more of a general update on what life has been like here for the last few weeks that I have been here this “tour of duty”. And also to show off a few more pics! 🙂

2008-05 03. Luanda 01 2008-05 03. Luanda 02

2008-05 03. Luanda 03 2008-05 03. Luanda 04

1. The Marginal (Promenade) with the National Bank in the foreground on the left, and the brand new Torres Atlantico Building on the right! Our new premises at some stage.

2. The usual Petrol chaos at the garages. It is like this every day and night. And Fuel is R4 a litre. Read and Weep!!

3. The Angolan equivalent of Maccy D’s

4. Mobile Clinics and Chinese quality control for construction!

Today I saw my first stab victim first hand! It was pretty horrific I must say. Some dude staggering down the road being supported/led by two guys, one on either side of him. He had his hands on his stomach, and both hands were just covered in thick red blood. Pretty crazy actually.

2008-05 03. Luanda 05 2008-05 03. Luanda 06

5. Locksmith – Angolan Style

6. WTF??

We had our pantry door lock replaced the other day and had to get access to the room – Angolan Style (5).

I also arrived home 2 days ago to find that my light bulb in my room was LEAKING WATER (6)! I mean come on . . . WTF is that all about??? The water was actually running down the INSIDE of the electrical cabling to the light bulb! It’s a miracle it didn’t short the whole house when I flipped the switch!

I started gymming again this last week. At $100 a month I can tell you I will be going at least 6 days a week. It is nothing special, and is really small. Like really small, but has really good equipment, all the latest Technogym equipment, with a few pieces I haven’t even seen in SA too.

2 Xbox games have been already finished twice over by Warren,and I have a had a round or 2, but not much really. Been way to busy with work actually. Just got loads on at the mo, so it has been good.

Oh, and we finally got our power sorted issues sorted. Well, kind of.The guy came along one night and split the power loads that was on the breakers to balance it out a bit more. It has been stable since then,so we can only hope it is not sorted. They did it at night, and had to shut the power off, so he decided to wire a bulb directly to the city power coming in. As you can see in the picture below (7), it was another Angolan “job”. How he tested it was working? He licked his finger and briefly touched the contact to see if it “was alive”. I would have thought that he would have known by the massive spark that came off the contact when the connected it up.

2008-05 03. Luanda 07 2008-05 03. Luanda 08

7. Connecting a light bulb directly to the City Power.

8. The “fancy” underpass with the usual traffic queues trying to get into the city.

Monday is another  public holiday, we had one last week too. This Monday I think is definitely gonna be spent on the beach, or at least in the sun! Definitely gonna bring my beach bats up when I come back next time!

More to follow soon. Plus I’ll be updating y’all on my 2 weeks back in ZA recently.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

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Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) & a Sad Day for my Car! – Luanda

In order to get access to the FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) vessel, or any offshore rig/vessel, you have to complete at least Helicopter Underwater Escape Training, which is exactly what it says it is.

2008-05 02.HUET 01

The Simulated Helicopter Chassis, which they drop in the water and spin around!

The ESSA training facility is based at Cacuaco, just North of Luanda. 14 kms from the centre of town. That’s 1 hour to get there early in the morning, if you leave before 06h that is, and 2-and-a-half hours to get back at 16h30.

The facility itself is built on a hill overlooking the town of Cacuaco, right on the edge of the bay, with an am amazing view of the beach. The center is used for all forms of offshore training and can also cater for a full STCW95 course, along with fire fighting, and many other off-shore petroleum related courses. The ESSA facility is also home the largest number of cats I have seen since arriving in Angola. There were about 10 of them just around the breakfast deck alone.

2008-05 02.HUET 02 2008-05 02.HUET 03

1. Cacuaco  from Essa. 2. An underwater wellhead/”Christmas Tree” unit.

The training session starts with a breakfast, which if had known, I wouldn’t have had breakfast at home, so only grabbed a drink. From there we attended a theory session which lasted the morning, and then lunch, followed by the issuing of overalls and water shoes, and then off to the pool. We had our heart rate tested and given the signature of approval, issued with helmets, and the training begins.

The HUET training uses a simulated Helicopter module, which is attached to a pulley system that drops you into the water. It also has a rotation motor on it so it can spin you once in the water.

Before starting the training you are split into groups for 4 people per group. The module contains 6 seats, 2 for the pilots right in the front, and then 4 for the passengers at the back. The passenger seats are 2 in front, right next to the open doors, and the 2 at the back, next to portholes, which are the equivalent of windows. Each seat has the standard airplane buckle seatbelt. The front doors are primarily for those students who can’t swim. Oh, what, I forgot to mention that there are people on the course who can’t swim?? Yeah, that’s right, people are put through this who can’t swim. Now that is pretty mental I must say, as I was even nervous beginning this, but for them . . . it must be really scary.

The testing procedure is thus: You swim to the module, which has been positioned just on the water line in the pool, climb in and secure yourself with you seatbelt. If you can’t swim,you are escorted out there by the divers. The module is raised, then slowly lowered into the pool, whilst the trainer calls May Day, May Day, May Day, then Brace. You brace yourself, protecting you head with your had that is closet to the exit, and the other hand grabs the seat to steady yourself.  He then bangs his hand on the side to signify the crash. Once you hear that, you grab the exit, in this case a rail, or the window frame, but in real life the window lever, or door lever. and look towards it. The water rises, and just as it is below your head, you take a deep breath, and begin counting to 15, after fifteen, you release your belt, and exit via the door, or window, pulling yourself through, out and up. Very straight forward. The 15 second wait is to allow the blades, in a real-life situation, to stop spinning.

You are not even 1 metre below the water at any time, but it is the feeling of being in a “confined” space that is disturbing. There are 2 divers just outside the module under the water at all times. So, there really is nothing that can go wrong. Except for PANIC itself! And PANIC was a big one that day.

We were all given a dry run for practice in the module on the ground still. That was very basic. Then the guys climbed into the pool and had to submerge their heads for 15 seconds to experience the sensation, whilst holding onto the side. This was also so the guys who can’t swim could see what it feels like. After that, group 1 was off. I was in group 2. The guys ran through their paces and the module submerged. It hadn’t been underwater 5 seconds when 2 very frightened guys breached the surface, and doggy paddled like hell to get the edge of the pool. It was quite amusing to watch I must admit. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am not making fools of them at all. I think they must be seriously brave to get through that without freaking completely. However, it was early days yet. The trainer, Joao, or John in English, was very cool, and very, very good. Great guy,and he handled the students fine!

Then it was my turn. I hadn’t mentioned to anyone yet that I used to be a Scuba Diving Instructor in a previous life, about 4 years ago, and decided not to either, as it wouldn’t look very good if the Scuba Diver Dude with over 500 dives landed up losing it!! 🙂 There is only thing that pretty much stresses me out,and that is water up my nose. I don’t know why. It is just one of things. Otherwise, I am rock solid under the water. No worries with anything . . . except water in my nose. Once I spend a bit of time in the water, then I’m sorted. So this was gonna be interesting. The last time I had been in the water was in Cape Town on our lovely 8 degree dive, about 2 weeks previous to this. So, at least I should be okay. The first “landing” was fine. Nothing to worry about at all. You just hold your breath, wait a bit, release your belt, pull yourself out of the hole. I was at the back left. Being a pool, you have the benefit of being able to open your eyes, which if you think about is kinda cheating, as you probably won’t in the ocean. But hey, why the hell not. So I waxed the first attempt. I must have been down for about 20 – 25 secs before coming out,which means I am theoretically alive still! Yay!! 🙂 Piece of cake.

We watched the next 2 groups go after us, and there was a White, French dude – a chef apparently – who was one of the non-swimmers. He just managed with the first “drop”. Everyone else was pretty cool with it. Some guys popped out early, within a few secs, the rest were fine.

So, onto round 2. This was going to get a bit more interesting. In this round we were to be spun around. virtually 180 degrees. So the module is lowered into the pool, and then spun thru 180 degrees whilst it is still sinking, to simulate the helicopter flipping. This is apparently what happens in about 90% of all helicopter water landings, so it must be done. Especially when the rigs here, are all at sea! So, we get back in and the the sequence starts again. we start rotating whilst sinking this time, and as it flipped to the left first, I had to hold my breath longer than the required 15 sec, as it only really stabilised and stopped moving after 25 secs. It was a bit weird being upside down I must admit, and I didn’t really have any issues with water up my nose either. I had just exited the module and was surfacing, when I suddenly felt a guy behind me. What the hell? He had touched my shoe and had come through the same window I had. That was just weird. The trainer told me I had gone out the wrong window, which I thought was wrong, as that would have meant that I had swum across the module, not far, but still just strange, as I remember myself exiting the window right by me. I watched the next dump and noticed that I had come out the right window. The muppet who had been sitting next to me on the other side of the module had actually swum out my window after me! I told him and the trainer, and then he realised that that was correct. Sweet, so I had been right. I had been wondering about it. The cook made this one too, but he was mega stressed after it, and it looked like he was close to cracking.

Round 3 was exactly the same, just we went the other way round,so I only had to grab my breath at the end, just before I dipped under the water, and I was only under for a secs before it stopped and I could “escape”. By this time we were all pretty much old hands at it, and I was tempted to muck about on the last go, as Blythe had done when he did his HUET. The last round they had swum to the Cockpit and stayed there for like a few secs longer, taunting the divers by hanging around under water longer than required. 🙂 At this stage I decided to just complete the training and chill. Also the chlorine was seriously killing my eyes. So I just did the usual escape and got out. I was also at this stage intrigued to see how the Frenchman coped. Well, he didn’t. I think this third time was just too much for him, and PANIC set in in a big way. Shame. Poor dude. I really felt for him.It is one hell of a thing to be thrown in a pool, and then told you have to do it whilst tied up under the water. Man, no way. I would’ve gone to find a different career.

After the HUET stuff we did a bit of basic sea survival on a raft, and practiced dragging and huddling. Basic stuff.Then they elected me as leader for the raft evacuation, which was cool. It meant I was the first one out. Sweet. Cheers Suckers, I am getting the helicopter outta here!!! haha 🙂

So, that was pretty much the HUET in a day, and I had to admit to the trainer at the end that I used to be a Dive Instructor, whereby he said he wasn’t surprised as I looked very calm underwater. This was surprising, as even I thought I was a bit panicked at times. God, would have been great to see the faces of the others then! The day ended on a good note for all, including the Chef, as he wasn’t going to be doing that again in a hurry, and to date there has never been a ditching of a Helicopter off Angolan Waters. Let’s keep it that way.

UPDATE: ESSA, the HUET Training Agency in Luanda, can be contacted here: http://www.essa.co.ao/contacts_en.shtml

I was called at lunchtime by my mom to inform me that the guy who had taken my car for a test drive the day before I left, had decided he was dead keen and was taking it. Great news . . . but at the same time, I was a bit bummed. I absolutely my loved my little gas guzzling Jetta 2.3l V5.

image

My Baby! 🙁

It was a really sweet machine, and had gotten me out of a lot of sh!t in the past. Okay, it had also gotten me into loads too. 😮 haha It is gonna be sorely missed, and I wish it the best of care in the hands of it’s new owner. Lucky guy!! But,time to move on I guess. Now to start saving for that RS4!!  🙂

Well, it was a great day, and fun was had by all.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Written on the 31st May ’08

Avoid the Cops – Luanda

So, I got back to Luanda around 13h in the afternoon to find everyone at the house fast asleep. I was also knackered from my really late night the night before, like 2 hours sleep or something stupid . . . my fault, so I hit the bed too the minute I arrived. This was after about 2-and-a-half hours of on-off sleep on the 2 flights up.

2008-05 01.Wimpy

Yes that is a Wimpy. The “Best” of South Africa! 🙂 Taken whilst travelling, so a bit blurred.

So the flights were interesting. I got the Emergency Exit seat, not that I would have been any good in the case of an emergency, as I was really exhausted from the night before. Got to bed around 03 I think, and had to get up around 05h for my flight. And I wasn’t even out partying.That would have been explainable at least! 🙂 But it was a good evening, regardless. So I literally passed out in my seat. I woke up about 20 mins before we landed and saw the guy next to me had a whole of papers out on his tray. I happened to notice the logo at the top, as one does . . . and said:

“Quinton or Sigi?”

He looked at me and said “Quentin”. My my, what a small world. I had just been on the phone to Quinton from Unison in Cape Town about 2 days earlier regarding a BP installation in Luanda, but we had never met. He was on his way to Windhoek for a business trip. Not going to Luanda. Lucky for him! So weird man, what a small world huh!!

The flight from Windhoek to Luanda was different. We were on a much bigger plane this time, something in the upper 737 range, a really big one, with 4 seats in the middle.Luckily I got stuck next to my favourite type of passenger, a young Portuguese Angolan Family, consisting of a mother, who didn’t give a toss about anything else, and 2 young kids who were an absolute nightmare, and kept kicking and knocking me, and hitting my leg with her hand, the little bitch, whilst I tried to sleep. And the plane was RAMMED, so there was no escape for me! 🙁

I arrived and cleared customs, which was a primary concern, considering I had our new House Asset in my laptop bag, along with 3 x controllers, and about 8 games . . . the asset is the new XBox 360!! Something to keep the kids happy. And I was worried as I don’t speak Portuguese and decided not to use the services of our protocol man, as he is just a waste of money in my opinion. So,I was nipping a bit. But cleared without having my normal bag scanned. Sweet!

So, got home and slept for 2 hours. The guys were chuffed when they found out about he XBox. That’s cool. After the last “tour of duty” I really needed something to keep the guys happy and busy at night.

Sly and PG told me their rather “hectic” & funny story about the night before. They had gone to a club called the Da Pub, know to be rather dodgy apparently, and as they were leaving, they had organised for Jeje  the Driver to meet them outside as they didn’t have their phones with them, they walked out meet him. They spotted him across the road, and they were just about to cross, when a Police Van pulled up, and bundled them onto the back. The Police vans here are all pretty much open-top Landcruiser bakkies. Pickups for you foreigners. With a bench on the back that the cops sit on, facing outwards towards the sides. So Sly and PG get hauled onto it, and Jeje decides to follow. The cops drive them around a bit, and then decide that they’ve spent enough fuel, and now need to make their costs back, so they have a feel,of their trousers, remove their wallets, and lighten their load by about $120 between the 2 of them. Oi. They got dropped off on the wrong side of town. Luckily Jeje had seen them and had been following otherwise they’d be stuffed. They started arguing with the one guy, who realises that they may have made a mistake when they find out they don’t speak any Porra, and he has a chat to them. Their money however is not returned. They returned to the house, considerably poorer!

The following week they logged it with BP’s Alpha Zero, security department, and told another guy who works there. His old man managed to track down the vehicle and occupants from that night, as they had gotten the vehicle number. To date nothing has come of it I don’t think.

Well, its been a fun return to Luanda!! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Written on the 30th May 2008.

LiveJournal Tags: ,,

My Week of Hell – Luanda!!

I haven’t updated this in a while and I suppose it comes down to the last week I was there. My week of Hell. The last week of my last tour of duty was hell! Absolute Hell! And I’ll explain why.

We had 3 project guys arrive on the Sunday before I left, along with our new engineer, PG. Another Zimbo. He seemed really cool, and pretty chilled too.

Water Truck

A water truck, delivery water to “The Hole!!” Basically the reservoir. This is across the road from us.

Things started going wrong from the minute they arrived. I hadn’t prepared their rooms as well as I should have I will admit, not that there was much to prepare. Their Aircons weren’t working, purely because things in Angola take sooo long to organise, they had been on order for about 3 weeks, and I hadn’t put the Moz Nets up. That was purely because BP didn’t have, so I hadn’t gotten around to getting them. So, I landed up giving the one guy mine, cause I wasn’t using mine anymore. I just sleep with the fan on now, and don’t worry about the mozzies, as they don’t seem to bother me much. I also went out purchased 3 fans for the rooms they were in. Do you know how hard it was to get fans? We landed up going to one of the local markets with the driver and Warren and his Girlfriend, Raquel, who is Angolan,so she knows the lingo and the deal. Thank goodness.

The one project engineer had an absolute sense of humour failure as it was, and was not at all pleased with the situation. I don’t blame him now that I think about it. He just hadn’t been prepped enough about the set-up.That and the fact that the aircon and nets weren’t up. The others climbed onto the bandwagon from there.

Well, things went from bad to worse that week. I had bought a gas stove/electric oven unit for the guys, as we were cooking off 2 useless hotplates and they were crap. So it was a long time coming. That set us back a fair sum, but was worth it. It was delivered on the Monday, but I then found out it didn’t come with a plug, and we didn’t have sufficient cables to connect it up. The aircon guys arrived on Monday night and hooked up the aircons. Thank God!

Monday afternoon we found out the water had run out. The driver called the water guy and he tried to organise delivery. At 17h30 I found out that ther was no water still, and the guy couldn’t deliver. He didn’t have, so I called another guy and he said he would deliver later that night. Well, at 22h he still hadn’t delivered, and we realised that we weren’t getting any water that evening.

Tuesday: The next morning I headed off to Sonnills base early, with only having had a bottled water quick shower. Mental. Tuesday morning the water was at least delivered, in the late afternoon. Tuesday night the power in the house blew. The generator was on, but the main circuit kept tripping. We obviously didn’t have candles – who needs candles when you have the biggest generator in the world? Well, we did apparently. The wiring was getting hot, and then the whole main circuit breaker would trip, wiping out the entire house, both upstairs and downstairs. This must be due to excess load on the circuits! Crazy.

Wednesday, was more house power issues, then the guys laid into me about the house and how bad everything was, and I suppose they needed an outlet, so it was me, as I represented the company. What pissed me off though was teh lack of support I was getting from the Project Manager. He was supposed to be handling his guys, and he was on their side. Just a bit unfair. I took it personally,as I hate to disappoint in everything I do, and I then landed up just hating it, and wanting to get the f#ck out! REALLY BADLY!

Thursday: The water went down again, but this time there tank was full, so what was the issue? I landed up stripping the water pump. YES, ME, STRIPPING A WATER PUMP! It had been making a weird noise on Tuesday when the water ran out. The guys had left the pump running, there was obviously no auto cut-out for it, so it just ran and ran the whole time. I think it had stuffed something inside. So, I stripped it and found the issue. The impeller had broken off inside, so the pump was spinning and running, but the impeller wasn’t sucking water up! Thank goodness I did, as the guys could only make it that afternoon. At least now they could come with a spare, as opposed to only checking the problem then. They only actually arrived that evening with the new one! More bottled water showers. Happyness all round!! NOT! Then, still that morning, Jeje, the idiot driver, went and locked the keys in the car, whilst it was on in the driveway. Don’t ask, I just don’t know!! So we had to wait 3 hours for a spare key to arrive. I was so tempted to just break the window and tell him to pay for it!

Talk about the House from Hell!!! Everything that could go wrong pretty much was!!

I left the next day, on my way back to Cape Town, very much contemplating telling DD it wasn’t going to work. I actually didn’t have time to run the house to that level whilst still trying to keep a customer that was being very finicky and full of sh!t about small things happy! They would have to understand, it was the customer, or the house. I was the moer in. I was tired, exhausted, and pissed off. I had been crapped on, had worked my arse off to keep the guys in the house happy, had done my best, even stripped a pump to keep things going, and all I got was a “We’re definitely going to be taking this up with management in Cape Town” line! Well, they could go to hell for all I was concerned. It had been along tour, and I needed a break more than anyone else!

I arrived at the airport, having not organised protocol, as old Camilo was useless, and didn’t do much for us. But, guess who I bumped into at the airport??? Camilo. He was a little surprised that I wasn’t using them, maybe feeling a bit guilty about forgetting about me when I arrived a month earlier, and suddenly helped me through for free. Wow, well that was great.

The flight home was a little long, but it was a pleasure to land at Cape Town international, and not worry. I hit oblivion immediately, and met Dave there.

Great to be home! For 2 weeks!!!! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Field Support Vessel – Luanda!

Today we, Warren and I, got a chance to check out the super new FSV for the FPSO. It is a huge FSV and has recently been refitted in Norway, and is a stunning vessel. BP only have one room, the size of a pantry, with 4 desks, but that is all that matters I guess to get us onboard.

FSV - 01

FSV – Boubon Oceanteam 101

The FSV contains the ROV (Remotely-Operated-Vehicle) equipment that will monitor all the pipes and well heads, and providing assistance to the operation. We had our 15 minute Safety briefing, or however long it was once boarding the vessel, and then got the tour. We had been issued PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) from the base. We were given Steel Toe Boots, Helmets, and Clear Safety Glasses.

FSV - 02 FSV - 03

1) PPE – Sweet! 🙂 2) Nice Shoe Covers Buddy!

The cabins were amazing,and I reckon I could easily do 28 days at sea in those conditions. Not these small pokey little things, but actual decent room sized cabins. Nice beds, each room en-suite with shower, a separate desk, TV and Hi-Fi system. Pretty sweet.

We got to see the Bridge with a view that commanded respect. We were higher than all other vessels in the area, except for the container vessels. We saw the Helipad, a massive area on the front, and the rear deck, where the ROVs and all the rest of the kit belonged.

The crew seemed to be a mix of Norwegian, British, French and a Saffa (South African) that we met in the Galley.

The Galley was sweet, and the food really good. Man I could easily eat like that 28 days a month! 🙂 I had a burger with fries and salads, and then even had jelly and custard for dessert. Sweet!

It was a really cool trip and well worth it, and definitely what was needed after the weeks shite I had had to put up with.

This was organised through Sonills Port, the Harbour area, and we got a lift back to the BP Warehouse building with Tango Delta. Warren and I were crammed into tiny little seats in the back of a Hyundai for the trip back, and it was seriously cramped. I said we would not sit int he back on the trip back to DeBeers, as that could take hours, even though it is only like 3.5 kms, if that.

We got a new vehicle, luckily, and headed off back to DeBeers. This was about 13h15. We arrived . . . 16h25!!

Traffic - Sonills

Rammed! Even the Cop on the bike is struggling to get through!

3 Hours, 20 Mins to travel less than 4kms!! Why??? Because the harbour on a Friday and Thursday is an absolute f*ck-up!!! All the trucks pull in on those days, adn there is only one entrance and exit, the same as the entrance, to the harbour container depot. All this is via one road that also services the entrance to the actual port and relevant support bases. Obviously being African Portuguese the drivers of the respective vehicles don’t give a toss about anyone else, so they all just go at the same time. Each vying to get their own little bit of space in front of the other. Traffic control??? What traffic control. It doesn’t;t exist. SO at one stage we we literally parked in the same spot for 2 hours. We didn’t move an inch for 2 hours. Me, I slept! 🙂

I was woken when I heard my phone ringing. I was so tired from the weeks happenings that at first I didn’t realise it was mine, and almost missed answering it. Quality.

Well, I won’t be going back there in a hurry that is for sure!

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

When you just CAN’T Win! – Luanda!

Well, this is more about work, and how sometimes you just can’t win at whatever you do. So, we have had a massive issue on the FPSO, network wise. We had a device failure, a router Supervisor blade failed. We do carry spares, and managed to get it up, eventually.

On that note, a couple of things to take note of

1) Always double check the IOS version of the replacement blade. This is to prevent about 2 hours of wasting time trying to figure out why routing is not working.

2) Always think logically! It helps! 🙂

3) Get to the source, and remove the obvious issues immediately!

So we had a router Supervisor failure around 08h00 in the morning. We replaced it, and got the box back after a bit of hacking! Shortly afterwards we were made aware of a desktop issue, with regards to the desktops not getting a DHCP address. To cut a very, very loooonng story short, and we all know how I love those, this issue resulted in us logging a P2 call with IBM/EDS which landed up in us being on a conference call at 23h00 that night.

Issue unresolved, but a temporary fix in place, we left work at around half-past-midnight. Pretty insane actually. It was one hell of a day, and I’ll get into the nitty-gritty later.

The next day we were back at work at 08h, and I was approached by one of the managers to find out if I had completed a change that was scheduled for 23h00 the previous night. This was the same night that the we were running with a P2 issue on the FPSO, that luckily to us we were able to prevent it from going to a P1, which basically means that it is a financially business impacting issue, which means that practically all business unit owners are made aware of the issue, and you start calling out the big boys. So basically we were pretty much doing everything in our control to prevent it from getting there.

And this manager proceeded to kak me out because we hadn’t implemented a change – to rectify the time displayed on the phones, it was fast by one hour and five minutes and pretty much all the users were already aware of the issue – because I was running with a P2 issue on a vessel that is solely responsible for recovering their close on $11 Billion investment in the country!!! When I explained that we were busy with the major issue at the time, he didn’t care. All he cared about was his bloody time change! Well, that just goes to show where their priorities lie, and what little they understand of their actual business. Unbelievable. I am actually still in disbelief over what happened that morning. And they wonder why they are no longer number 3!!

Helloooooo??? Here is your answer right here! Do I really give a sh!t?? Well, yes I do. Why??? Because I try my hardest, damndest and best to do what I do well. And, at the end of the day, to be treated like this . . . just shows complete ignorance, and is just plain discouraging and demoralising.

To top it off, a few days later I got a call from some w*nker at BP/EDS who thought that he was the absolute sh!t. Called me up and proceeded to crap on me about the fix we had put in place and who gave authorisation to do it, and how we must take it off immediately, regardless of the consequences – try the site being down for about 3 hours whilst changes are made to manually reconfigure all the devices – because they had control, and this was wrong. Well, I fought him on that one, even after being quizzed and spoken to like I was a little boy, and a level one desktop jockey! And I didn’t remove the fix, and wasn’t prepared to either, because we were being proactive and providing a working solution, and all you were doing was providing an administrative f*cking nightmare with all your processes, and procedures that were just plain crap! Bureaucracy 101! Mate if you ever want to see what a network looks like, and what providing service actually means, come on down to Luanda and I’ll happily give you the TOUR!! Then you’ll understand what you are supposed to be supporting. Mr Microsoft Active Directory Muppet! Once again . . . another reason why you are NOT number 3!

Well, this issue lasted about 6 days, and was finally fixed. It was a networking issue, but related to patching, not config, nor hardware.

It’s been a long few days, and probably the hardest on me yet. It has been demoralising, and just plain depressing. Doing what one does best, and getting no support, nor encouragement for what you do. Instead you get hassles, issues and some prick on the phone, who thinks he knows better, even though he is nowhere near your site, and hasn’t even had the courtesy to read the lengthy emails you have been sending regarding what troubleshooting steps you have taken to try resolve the issue.

Amazingly enough the only support I seem to get is from the expat (UK-based) staff who come out for a few weeks at a time to manage certain arenas. So, why is it that they seem to understand and the locals, with a few exceptions – as there are few good guys – don’t?? I call it Attitude. The only thing that makes you in life.

At this stage, for the first time ever, I am counting down the days till I go home! Right now, I just can’t bloody wait! I need a holiday and a refresh and it’s only been 3 weeks! 🙁

Enough.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life – kinda

Warren, Another Braai, Bellas – Luanda!

So, weekend has finally arrived. Thank goodness! The last 2 days have been seriously long and hectic with this bloody FPSO network DHCP issue! 2 Long Nights, and long day on Saturday! 🙁

Rubbish - 01

A typical roadside scene of rubbish everywhere.

Warren, a new engineer arrived on Saturday, and I went straight from work to pick him up. Sly and I were still dealing with this DHCP issue. After two 16 hour days, we found ourselves back at work at 09h on Sat! Not fun!

Warren is from Namibia, though previously from Cape Town. He has worked in Zambia, Mauritania and a few other countries in Africa, so should handle Angola just fine. He seems like a nice dude, having met him briefly at DD in CPT when I was there. He has just been on IPT training, so hopefully he can add some more support to our environment, though he is actually here for another project. An IPT project. Surprise, Surprise!

We celebrated with another braai, of which Blythe pulled in with another dude Bradley, who is managing the cabling of the new BP building. Also a fellow Capetonian. Cool!

More good meat, and more G&T’s! 🙂

Another late night followed by an early morning. We were planning on getting out to Mussulo, but it didn’t happen due to the rain. It had been raining the entire night before, on and off of course, and Blythe cancelled the trip due the chaos that would ultimately ensue on the roads.

We (Sly, Warren and myself) headed out to Bellas to go shopping, and do a bit of looking and grab a late-ish lunch. We headed through to Shoprite to change a bit of cash. However Shoprite Cambio was closed. Man, this was bad, as we had a sum total of about  4000 Kz between us for lunch, as the chick there did say that if the Cambio was closed, they would take Dollars at the checkout counter. R400?? Man, that’s plenty! Wrong! That’ll get like 3 of us a roll and a coke each! We checked out the prices at Portugalia, and figured we could get 3 burgers, and 3 drinks and have about 400kz left over. Yeah, 1000kz per burger and about 200kz per soft drink. Uh, yes, that is R100 per burger!!! 🙁

So I ordered, which once again was a bit of a farce as the dude didn’t speak English, and had to get the chick doing the drinks to help him out. After waiting at our table for about 30 mins for our food, we were now really, really impatient. I had already checked about 4 times for our food. As I was bored I checked through the receipt again, and noticed that we had only been charged 500kz per burger. “Hang on a sec, that doesn’t make sense!”

I went back to the counter and checked out the menu again. We had “Burger no Pao” printed on our receipt. What the f#ck?? Burger NO roll!! How the hell do you have a burger with no roll?? Haha. Quality. Only in Luanda I guess. Or maybe it is a Porra thing. Anyway, it took about 10 minutes to explain the issue, and eventually I got it sorted. Our food however had still not arrived. Ten minutes later it, the burgers arrived. Sonder “Pao”!! Man, this was a joke. It took me another 10 minutes to of waiting at the counter to get our rolls. Man, what a joke. I won’t be back here on a Sunday!! Carnage!

We got back to Shoprite, to find the Cambio open again. Obviously the chick had gone for lunch. I was seriously miffed, as had we had more cash, we could have gone elsewhere for lunch. Bummed! Well,the burger did the trick anyway, and we did a big shop and bought a tub of ice cream, at R79 a small tub. It’s just wrong!

Chilled that eve and got to bed fairly early. In preparation for another long week, still trying to fix the DHCP issue.

Bummed.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life