An Interview with Aiden Mitchelson – Ship Repair Superintendent
In addition to its Shipyard services Dormac also offers its clients the services of highly competent riding squads. Skilled Riding squads are allocated to accomplish specific work scopes the Client may require to be executed en route or on location whether mechanical, steel, piping or electrical.
Aiden Mitchelson is a Superintendent who has been an employee of Dormac for 6 years and recently he led a riding squad. This is his first experience of working offshore and we have asked him a bit about his experience.
Aiden, tell us about your history at Dormac.
I started working for Dormac in 2008. Initially I started as a boilermaker then in 2009 I was promoted to welding chargehand specifically for the Escravos job (10 week project with over 800 000 manhours for a SPS and refurbishment of a LPG FSO vessel in Cape Town). I continued working as boilermaker chargehand on several projects thereafter and was in charge of the night shift on the Celtic Sea Project in 2011 (18 week project of major SPS and upgrade/ refurbishment of a semi-submersible rig in Saldanha Bay). In 2012 I was promoted to foreman and was the ship repair foreman on the 2012 Polaris SPS Dry Docking in Cape Town as well as several a large projects thereafter. In early 2014 I was promoted to ship repair superintendent.
You have been working offshore a lot lately. Tell us about this project.
I have been working on a semi-submersible production rig, stationed offshore Mossel Bay, on and off for the past five months. In July 2014 the initial scope of work came through which was to fabricate and install approximately 240m of well test piping. Additional works included the installation of a boundary wall cooling system, fabrication and installation of the flare boom platform and the incorporation of a skid arrangement for the Christmas tree to reach over the moon pool area. We are currently working on the rig performing small additional jobs.
How big is the team that is doing this offshore work?
We are a squad of 27 people on the Rig at any one time, but as we are required to rotate the people over an extended period, the total complement is much larger.
Tell us a bit about life on board the Rig.
It is actually very nice! There are 2-man and 4-man cabins each with their own bathroom and there is a communal shower block as well. For entertainment there is a gym, computer room and even a cinema. Buffet meals are served altogether in the cafeteria and the food is really good.
Would you say that you enjoy working offshore?
I do. It is interesting and challenging and I am learning a lot. But I do miss my family when away for long stretches.
In order for you to work offshore you had to complete a Survival at Sea Course and undergo an extensive medical fitness check by a doctor. Why is this?
To get to and from the rig we fly via helicopter. Part of the Survival at Sea Course is the HUET (Helicopter Underwater Emergency Training) which teaches you what to do in the event of the helicopter going down in the water. We also learn a lot about fire-fighting at sea and first aid at sea. It takes 40 minutes for the helicopter to get from shore to the rig and up to 7 hours for the supply vessel, maybe less for a high speed emergency boat, but nevertheless in the event of an emergency the crew on board need to know what to do and cannot just wait for help or evacuation. It is for this same reason that you have to pass a medical fitness assessment. If you have a condition that might require you to get to emergency care quickly it is risky to have you on board.
What are the main challenges of working offshore?
Weather is the biggest challenge. There is no shelter from the elements and rough seas and high wind speeds often stop you from working. You have to factor this in on your planning for completion of work. The second big challenge is the accessibility of materials. Materials we order get delivered by road from Cape Town (if not available in Mossel Bay) and then to the rig on the supply vessel. Receiving materials on board can be a lengthy process and poor weather can delay the supply vessel schedule, which you have to factor into your planning.