The 35 Year Shift

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Tea Shack News sat down with Harry Toan, a true North Sea Tiger, who has spent the last 35 years working on the Ninian Platform.  He told us about what's changed in the industry, and gives some trusted advice to those starting their offshore careers...


Hi Harry, can you describe your time offshore?  "I first went out in 1977 as a rigger.  I was 29 and have only just retired at 66.  I worked on the Ninian Central Platform for most of my career, although I changed companies a few times."

So you must have seen some massive changes in the last 35 years?  "When I started, we were only allowed one phone-call home a week.  Can you imagine that?  If you phoned at the wrong time, you could go an entire tour without speaking to loved ones.  My family was in Northern Ireland during The Troubles so I was hearing reports of bombs but couldn't find out how they were coping.  But now, home is only a second away.  You just need to find your phone and you're instantly connected.  This has been a huge step forward for safety, because people aren't distracted and worrying about what's going on at home."

What advice would you give to people just starting out?  "Be prepared for it to be difficult when you're working on rotations.  Sure, the money is great and you get regular time off, but you become a part-time husband, partner, family member and friend.  It takes a certain type of woman to be left behind so regularly; my wife had to be a mother and father to our three kids.  So be ready for a tricky road."

Do you think there's still a sense of cameraderie offshore?  "In our spare time, we used to watch a film together, or big sporting matches. There was a huge sense of cameraderie which has been lost a little because of TVs in rooms and internet access.  But if people want to spend time on their own, you can't stop them.  It's sometimes good to break away from others when you can; it can re-focus you in an environment where you never really switch off."

What about safety?  "When I started, our survival suits were practically non-existent, and we certainly weren't wearing safety goggles.  People wanted to stay safe, but we weren't aware of risks and didn't have nearly as many regulations to comply with.  Now, there's a tremendous respect towards safety, and people are always ready to point out hazards to others."