Nick Cregan said he is happy with his relationships with colleagues over the past two decades working on an offshore oil rig in the South China Sea.
The Australian engineer is now an ROV (remotely operating vehicle) superintendent at the Liuhua oilfield of State-owned company China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC)’s Shenzhen branch.
He first came to Shenzhen in 2001 and has since worked in the city’s oil production industry except for a year and nine months when he was away on other assignments.
It is uncommon to find an expat who holds onto a job position in a foreign country long-term. Cregan attributed it to the good working relationships he had on the offshore oil rig.
“Working on an offshore platform or a vessel is very different from working on land, where you can go back home after your working day,” said Cregan. He said that for a job like his, which involves working away from home for long periods, usually four weeks on an isolated platform and four weeks off, the people you work with are very important.
“The people you work with offshore become a small community and they are sort of your family away from home,” he said, adding that it is important that he gets along and works well together with these people. “I really appreciate it here.”
Cregan said the biggest changes he has witnessed over the past years is how the Chinese engineers in the industry have grown in terms of individual competence and the number of qualified engineers through cooperation with foreign oil companies.
He said that back in the late 1990s, almost half of the crew at the Liuhua oilfield were expats. Now, there are only four expats, all of whom are working in the ROV department. “CNOOC has become fully competent in the offshore production of oil and gas, with the skill level and experience of my Chinese peers having gone up.”
He said he was also very impressed with Shenzhen’s urban construction and development where he and his family lived from 2006 to 2013. The construction of the subway network greatly helps people get around, Cregan said.
A few years ago, Cregan’s family relocated to western Australia where his two children attend school. So he now would usually go straight home after getting off the oil rig.
Returning to Shenzhen from his Australian home in April, Cregan spent the required centralized quarantine in Shekou before setting off to the offshore platform. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Cregan and his colleagues’ work shifts have changed, with longer time at work and longer breaks, as extra precaution is needed to ensure a virus-free environment on the isolated platform.
Cregan said he enjoys the current job on the Liuhua oil rig as it is possible for him to plan months ahead for school or holidays with his family. “Most ROV jobs are not like that. You may not know how long you will be gone for the job, where you will be going and when you’ll be back home. But this one is different.”