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05 Aug - Demobilization Week

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200:  Alongside the Regent Quay, Aberdeen Harbour, ABERDEEN.

Conditions:Wind SSW x 10 kts; Barometer 1010.0mb Steady; Air Temperature 16.2°C; Sea Temperature 13.1°C; Partly cloudy and clear, Occasional heavy rain and showers.

Asset Map

Demobilization Week on <i>RRS Ernest Shackleton Castle View from the Regent Quay

Demobilization Week on
RRS Ernest Shackleton

A Castle View from
the Regent Quay

Click on the images to Enlarge

The facts Ma'am, only the facts.

Last Sunday we were still gainfully employed in the inspection and survey of the Forties Charlie legs and risers for BP.Amoco (BP), by subcontractors Stolt Offshore (STOLT), in an operation by Polar Ship Management (PSM) subcontracting the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Vessel which is a part of the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC)... who do I work for ??? I once worked on an oil rig where there were no less than 72 employees on board working for as many as 48 different employers ! Simply not everyone is payed by the same employer. There are so many contracts and sub-contracts offshore, it is tantamount to 'confusing'.

Meanwhile the Lynx and Tiger ROV's were still rov'ing and life onboard carried on apace in the 24-hours-a-day system. The weather outside was overcast but still fine, and thoughts were turning towards Aberdeen, towards the end of the Stolt Charter period in the North Sea, and the possibility of our next job in the Dutch sector.

Monday morning saw the ship move away from the Forties Field to the Miller Platform some 6 hours steaming away. The Miller work scope was estimated to last just 12 hours, and so we were only on location here from lunchtime 'til Midnight and then ready to move away again by the very early hours of Tuesday morning. From the Miller it was only another 5 hours steaming to our last location on the Bruce Field. We arrived on the Bruce by 0730 hours on Tuesday, started working the ROV's by 0930 hours, completed all our work there by 1700 hours, and STILL no word as to where to go after Aberdeen by the close of business on that day. Rumours were flying around the vessel as to where we would be going next, but nothing concrete was known on board as to our future movements. We just recovered the ROV's, the reference systems and pointed the vessel towards the shore, and Aberdeen, as the weather continued overcast but fine.

By Wednesday morning we got confirmation that our demobilization port was alternatively going to be Hull, in Yorkshire. This is where Stolt were under contract to redeliver the vessel once they had finished with it, and although it would make the Stolt demobilization more involved, we nevertheless pointed the vessel south and sailed past Aberdeen at some miles distant. The weather continued fair and the passage was very comfortable. It was a nice day to be at sea, and in the labs and the offices, the Stolt crew were packing and preparing to get off. We bypassed Aberdeen by 0900 hours and by 1045 hours, the Master received a telephone call to say that the vessel had future work that required us to demobilize now in Aberdeen. All change. The Chief Officer, Antonio, executed a 180 degree turn and RRS Ernest Shackleton completed the 3 hour journey back to Aberdeen by 1400 hours. The Aberdeen Pilot came onboard, and the vessel was fast alongside the Atlantic Wharf by 1430 hours just as the weather turned and a light fall of drizzle developed.

However, demobilization started almost immediately the gangway was in place. The demobilization team hit the ship like a plague of locusts and removed all the 'good stuff' from the decks and offices - stripping out cables, computers, the ROV's and the containers in the space of a matter of hours.


Before and After. The aft of the ship looking forward.

Before - Aft looking Forward After - Aft looking Forward
Before - Forward looking Aft After - Forward looking Aft

Before and After. The forward of the ship looking aft.

Click on the images to enlarge.

Work carried on throughout the drizzle-soaked afternoon, through the evening and on into the night. At the top of this week's pages, you can see the welders lighting up the evening sky with their busy industry. By the morning all that was left on the decks was the 'sweeping ups'. The company man over-saw the last of the removals and by noon on Thursday, was able to 'sign over' the ship and marched off down the gangway to his next job. So that is the end of our work with Stolt Offshore until next year when we will hopefully be working with them again in the North Sea.

Once the ship was signed back to PSM at noon, there only remained the 23 crew onboard. The other 27 client and contractors having disappeared shortly after coming alongside. However, by Thursday evening, the future work for the Ernest Shackleton in the Dutch sector was unconfirmed, leaving the ship and it's company at 1 hours notice to depart for any other mobilization port. This did not stop the crew getting ashore at the end of the working day to discover the delights of Aberdeen. The shopping, the bars, and even the museums in one case ! Aberdeen is a grey city, being constructed primarily from granite, but it is a colourful city in atmosphere and population, and moreover allowed the crew the chance to unwind before our next stint offshore.

Unfortunately, Friday brought a weekend of uncertainty. PSM had still not obtained any confirmed work for the vessel which meant we would probably be alongside in harbour over the weekend. The Atlantic Wharf where we were berthed is a 'working berth' and so the vessel had to move elsewhere for the 'lay over' period. The agent was contacted and was successful in securing us a berth alongside at Regent Quay - which is geographically nearer the town centre. Unlike many harbours and ports, Aberdeen harbour is only a short walk away from the town centre and Regent Quay is the closest you can get to 'downtown'. This is good news for those crewmembers who wish to wander ashore for shopping and exploring. No 20 minute taxi rides for us !

Saturday, like the rest of the UK was under a cloud of rain and drizzle, but it did not stop many a hardy soul from wandering ashore to sample the nightlife. But Sunday morning alongside, dawned dry and clear with the promise of another good day in town. We all anxiously await the dawn of Monday, of the start of the business week, and the prospect of another contract at sea before the end of August signals the end of North Sea operations and thoughts will then return to Hull, and to preparations for another Antarctic season.

An Artist in our Midst

Following on from last week's feature, we have been lucky enough to procure 4 excellent samples of the work of Barry Pearson and his offshore artistry. These 4 samples were drawn onboard the Ernest Shackleton whilst working in the field and again, provide an excellent insight into the work that is performed alongside the rigs and platforms in the North Sea.

Drawing by Barry Pearson Drawing by Barry Pearson
Drawing by Barry Pearson Drawing by Barry Pearson

Drawings by Barry Pearson
Click on images to enlarge

The underside of RRS Ernest Shackleton even features in one of these drawings although the 'underwater junkyard' featured in another, might be put down to 'professional license'. Thanks to Barry for the excellent drawings.

Forthcoming events: Awaiting the start of the week to confirm future movements for RRS Ernest Shackleton, otherwise to remain alongside and complete lots of outstanding jobs on the ship - including a nice new coat of paint for the decks.

Contributors this week: Barry Pearson of Stolt ROV for letting us include some of his excellent work.

North Sea Diary 13 will be written on 12th August 2001 and should be published on Monday 13th August 2001.