BRUNEI Darussalam is blessed with large oil and gas reserves and indeed the oil and gas industry is the backbone of the nation’s economy, contributing significantly to the national GDP.
Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), a joint venture between the Government of Brunei (50 per cent) and a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc (50 per cent), is the largest oil and gas company in Brunei.
BSP explores, develops and produces crude oil and natural gas from two offshore assets and one onshore asset and on average, produces 300,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (crude oil and natural gas combined).
But behind the numbers and the big machines, lies the heart of this industry and BSP – the people. BSP is a 24-hour, 365-day operation and requires skilled, competent and dedicated people to operate and produce oil and gas safely.
One group of important people, who are rarely seen, are those who work offshore.
Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, leave their family for an average of two weeks each month, some for months at a time, to man the offshore platforms and make sure Brunei’s national assets are taken care of.
On a personal note, this means that special times with family will inevitably be missed – birthdays, Ramadhan and even Hari Raya.
What does this mean for the people offshore and why do they do it?
The men and women who work offshore, 365 days a year, do so because it is their responsibility, it is what they are paid to do and because they take pride in doing their job well to contribute to the nation. And their work needs to be done to ensure that Brunei’s oil and gas are safely and reliably produced.
It takes a special kind of person to be able to work in this industry and we salute BSP’s staff offshore for their dedication. Because, no matter the time of year, especially during festivities, those on duty have to be out there operating the platforms, to continue fuelling Brunei’s future.
And so, with this is mind, we wanted to know more about what life offshore is like on BSP’s three key offshore facilities (Champion 7, Fairley 4 and Ampa 9) during Ramadhan for both BSP staff and contractor staff.
For caterers preparing meals for Sahur, their day starts as early as 2am to cater to the residents at their mess rooms or individual resting rooms.
Daily toolbox talks are held either the night before or after Subuh prayer depending on the urgency and the type of work to be carried out.
Rain or shine, they carry out the work that needs to be done because it is their responsibility. The days are long and hard but they continue despite the thirst and hunger because of their dedication to deliver their work safely, for their families and for the country.
Morning shift hours are from 6am to 6pm but flexibility is available during Ramadhan, allowing individuals to take common breaks to rest when tired.
For those working night shifts (6pm to 6am), all residents still break their fast in the mess room with off shift crews. The exception is for those in the control room, as they are required to man their stations 24/7.
Food is provided separately for those in the control room.
Sunnat Tarawikh prayers are also conducted daily at 8pm in their respective Suraus followed by Sunnat Witir prayer and Tedarus. These prayers are usually led by the junior guidance counsellors, affectionately called the “Young Imams”, who joined BSP in 2013 to lead any religious activities within BSP and to provide counselling services to individuals or groups.
BSP’s recruitment of these guidance counsellors from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), is a sound initiative and ensures that the staff’s time offshore is value added.
The guidance counsellors conduct Al-Quran reading classes and sessions to help improve the way of praying.
With Brunei being a Zikir Nation, it is important that as we undertake our work, we are also grateful towards Allah the Almighty and seek His continuous blessings and guidance.
After prayers, some residents choose to either rest after, continue their work or even exercise at the gym. It almost sounds normal, except that they are on a metal platform in the middle of the sea!
Currently, on the Ampa 9 platform, there has been an increase of critical activity due to the inspections and construction work ongoing to ensure asset integrity and process safety.
“This work is complex and requires extreme focus and commitment. And thankfully to date, all work undertaken has been done safely with goal zero achieved; meaning no harm to people, the environment or assets. I am really impressed with the way all the different teams have pulled together and I am really proud of all our staff working offshore,” remarked Yap Sin Fah, the West Asset Manager, BSP.
“During the holy month of Ramadhan, specific attention is also being paid to the welfare of everyone offshore and onshore and I truly respect those who work in the field while observing the fast and those who are on duty running our operations during festivities and public holidays while others are having time off celebrating with friends and family. I wholeheartedly thank and salute these colleagues.”
Paul van den Hemel, East Asset Manager, added that, “BSP is committed to keeping everyone safe and ensuring everyone will go home safely every day.”
Farhaanah Sarabaya, a field operator on Fairley 4 shared that this is her first time working offshore during Ramadhan and will be her first Hari Raya away from her family. Asked how she feels about it, she said, “It’s awesome! It’s quiet but breaking fast with friends and colleagues makes it less lonely. Working offshore, one needs to be ready to take challenges and enjoy the opportunity given to experience life offshore.”
Pengiran Jafarodin bin Pengiran Rahman who works on Champion 7 has been working offshore during Ramadhan for 23 years and has missed 20 years of Raya away from his family.
“It is indeed sad but this is our responsibility to the country and company to deliver. For those thinking about working offshore – it is a commitment. It is different from working onshore. We don’t have days off for public holidays as we are committed to carry out our responsibilities every day for the sake of our beloved country, Brunei Darussalam.”
Ja’afaruddin bin Haji Abdul Latif, Production Lead at Fairley 4, has been working offshore during Ramadhan for the past 21 years.
“It does get sad and lonely being away from family and children. However, I remain patient, tough and am always ready for a challenge because this is for them and this is my responsibility.”
Nurhazidah binti Zakaria who also works on Champion 7 has been working offshore for three years and has experienced both Ramadhan and Hari Raya away from family.
“I feel sad being away from family. I miss them especially during the night of 1st of Syawal. I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone Ramadhan Kareem and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin to my family and colleagues. Do drive safe.”
Haji Mohd Isramady bin Haji Mohd Ismail who works as a C&A Champion 7 Supervisor has 19 years of work experience offshore.
“Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin. Drive safe and pray for our safety here offshore,” said Haji Mohd Isramady.
When asked about his favourite part of Ramadhan offshore, he shared, “Performing the Sunnat Tarawikh prayers, because I don’t need to drive to the mosque; I just go upstairs to the Surau.”
Ramadhan offshore is something truly special; despite being away from family, their favourite part of Ramadhan offshore is being able to Sungkai and Sahur with friends and colleagues, who are all part of one big family. Together, they live and work for the sake of their family and in some very real way, for the sake of all our families.
May the people working offshore during Ramadhan be safe from harm and may their good deeds be accepted by Allah the Almighty.
As Hari Raya Aidilfitri is just around the corner, people both onshore and offshore will have started thinking about the festivities. Have you ever wondered what life during Hari Raya is like offshore?
A follow-up article will be published on how staff members celebrate Hari Raya away from family while working on the offshore platforms.